For a runner whose only competition is usually herself, Saturday night was another opportunity to make history – and that’s exactly what Sadie Engelhardt did. The Ventura High junior broke her own record in the girls Bob Day Sweepstakes at the 42nd Woodbridge Cross-Country Classic.
Only this time her best wasn’t quite good enough to win. In fact, she only got third place. Engelhardt clocked 15 minutes, 37.4 seconds on a flat 3.022-mile course at Great Park in Irvine, beating her winning mark of 15:42.6 at the same location last year, which was then the fastest three-mile cross-country Country time was, many times over, schoolgirls in the history of the United States.
Junior Jane Hedengren of Provo (Utah) Timpview set a new national prep standard of 15:32.5, edging sophomore champion Elizabeth Leachman of Boerne by a tenth of a second in a monumental battle to the finish in the varsity girls championship race (Texas) by .
“I didn’t run this race last year, but my coach talked me into it and it was fun,” said Leachman, who took the lead in the first mile and held it until he was caught at the end. “I only took it out so quickly because I was pushed at the beginning and thought I might trip.”
Engelhardt had a smile on her face as she accepted her award at the post-competition ceremony after becoming the first woman to run multiple times under 16 minutes at Woodbridge. She almost did it in 2021 when she clocked 16:04.6 as a first-grader at SilverLakes Sports Complex – still the fastest time by a ninth-grader.
“I think I knew the record would be broken given the talent in the field,” Engelhardt said. “This pace was crazy and never let up. I usually have a comfortable lead about halfway through and was feeling pretty relaxed in the first mile here, but seeing that the other girls didn’t want to slow down I had to shift into a higher gear sooner than I wanted. Still, I’m happy with it. I couldn’t wish for anything other than victory.”
Junior Rylee Blade of Corona Santiago took fourth place with a time of 15:42.0, also beating Engelhardt’s winning time from last year.
JSerra finished second in the team standings with 146 points. Air Academy of Colorado Springs, the reigning 5A state champions, took first place with a score of 77, posting the second-fastest team time in the meet’s history (82:50), second only to Buchanan’s 82:33 last fall.
In the final race of the two-day event, Dana Hills junior Evan Noonan won the Doug Speck boys’ sweepstakes race in 13:41.3, using a late kick to pull away from runner-up and friend Anthony Fast Horse of Ventura (13:48, 1), who himself fended off a late attack on third-place Emmanuel Perez (13:50.7) of LA Cathedral.
“This is my first race of the season, so I’m super happy,” said Noonan, who placed 20th in the mile and fifth after two miles before finishing with a win. “Anthony and I are in the same house [CIF] Division, so we have often competed against each other in track and field. There’s no sound behind you, I was just hoping Anthony wouldn’t come.”
It was a stunning debut for Noonan, who won the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter titles twice as a sophomore last spring at the Southern Section Division 2 finals in Moorpark.
“Evan is beating me faster and faster, so it wasn’t a surprise when I saw him come by in the last 600 meters, but Manny [Perez] “I was a demon today and I had to give it my all to make sure he didn’t overtake me,” said Fast Horse, a senior of Lakota descent and from the same tribe as Billy Mills, a 10,000-meter gold medalist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics .
Herriman (Utah) won the boys team crown with a score of 93, followed by Southlake (Texas) Carroll (142) and Great Oak (155).
One of the most surprising results of the day came from South Pasadena junior Abigail Errington, who shaved 37 seconds off her time from last year, winning in 16:45.2 and leading the Tigers to first place out of 31 teams.
“My previous best time was 17:22 here at the same meet last year, so it’s come full circle for me,” Errington said. “I started my freshman year, so I’m still early in my running career, but with experience I’ve started to figure things out like trusting my training, trusting my coach and eliminating distractions. My attitude was good today. I hate being outsmarted and I was ahead, but I was 100% ready to make a big move when I needed it.”
Perhaps no one built a bigger lead all weekend than Granada Hills second-grader Samantha Pacheco, who opened a 12-second lead over the other 199 runners a mile into the Blue Varsity B race, and Millikan 10th-grader Nadia Mejia beat seconds by almost four seconds in 17:43.4.
“I arrived really late…my dad dropped me off just in time for me to warm up and get to the start line,” said 15-year-old Pacheco, who set a personal best of 17:26 a week earlier at Rosemead. “I didn’t realize I was that far ahead, but when I looked back after the first mile I saw the next girl was a little further back. I was worried someone would catch me, but I’m thrilled I won.”
Pacheco didn’t have the grades to compete in the postseason last year, but has since gotten a tutor and improved not only in the classroom but also on the course. Granada Hills and Palisades have been competing for the City Section title for several years and both schools were in the running. The Highlanders finished four spots lower, but Pacheco was well ahead of the Dolphins’ top two runners, Louisa Mammen (18:32.5) and Kyra Morris (18:37.2), who finished 17th and 18th, respectively .
“That was a big motivator,” Pacheco said. “I knew they were in the running and it was good to show that Granada Hills is still the competition for Palisades.”
Oak Park junior Katarina Modrzejewski, who started running her freshman year while practicing for the soccer team, held off Audrey Thiel of Littleton (Colo.) Arapahoe to win the Gold Varsity A race by three-tenths of a second in 17 :42.4.
“I didn’t want to get kicked out [the soccer team] So I tried to improve my conditioning and that’s when I fell in love with running,” said Modrzejewski, who ran the Woodbridge race last year and finished 49th in 18:10.7. “I did the circuit and was confused because the first mile is completely different than last year. My coach wanted me to stay in the first group – at first I held back because I didn’t know the route was going well. “Sometimes I get too stressed, but my coach said, ‘Let’s go!’ and I sprinted to the end.”