Vista girls ranked nationally

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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With their top-four runners returning from the team which placed second in Division III at the state meet, Vista del Lago’s cross country team has high hopes for 2012. Starting the year ranked 15th nationally by certainly has expectations at an all-time high. With senior Madeleine Ankhelyi and junior Clare Carroll leading the way, the Eagles expect to be one of the best teams in the state and are aiming for a state championship. "The team looks really strong at this point with Madeleine and Clare being our front runners," Vista coach Robert Grove said. "Sierra is obviously stronger heading into her sophomore year. Michaela (Reynolds), Jennifer (Morgan) or Alayna (Gocke) will likely be in the number four, five and six positions." Ankhelyi has had a stellar career and a state championship would be the icing on the cake. She’s a three-time top-10 finisher in the state meet, placing tenth as a freshman, ninth as a sophomore and third last year in 17 minutes, 34 seconds. As a team Vista placed 13th in 2009 and 2010 before moving up to second last year. Ankhelyi has never placed worst than third at the Sac-Joaquin Section meet, placing third as a freshman, first as a sophomore and second last year in 18:01. She’s led the Eagles to back-to-back section titles after the team placed second in 2009. Carroll placed seventh in the state a year ago in 17:56, a year after taking second in 17:24 when she ran for Granite Bay in Division I. She’s been on section championship teams in each of her two years, helping Vista to a title last year with a third-place individual finish in 18:18, while helping Granite Bay to a title in 2010 as a freshman when she won the section race in 17:55. Behind Ankhelyi and Carroll, Vista returns sophomore Sierra Jaeger and senior Jennifer Morgan. Jaeger ran third on the team last year at the state meet, placing 42nd in 19:10, while Morgan placed 54th in 19:28. Juniors Megan Howell and Nicole Cooper round out the varsity roster. Last year the Eagles easily won the section title, as Del Oro finished 44 points behind and Oakmont 55. Del Oro only loses one senior from its top-five from a year ago, while Oakmont loses two. Rio Americano, who placed fourth 74 points behind, also loses one runner. At the state level, Palos Verdes is the defending champion, beating Vista by 40 points. They graduated their top runner and fourth-place finisher, but return their other four scorers. Third-place finisher Aptos only loses its fifth runner, while fourth-place finisher Campolindo loses their first and fifth runners, including state champ Carrie Verdon. "Being ranked nationally is an honor," Grove said. "Our goals are to stay healthy and improve and if we do that the girls will be working toward being on that podium at the state meet, which would be an honor. We can't control what the other schools are doing. We just want to have fun and improve throughout the season." Vista will see where they stand early in the season, as the prestigious Stanford Invitational will be held Sept. 29.