This was the girls’ year, virtually across the board on nearly every Rio Hondo League team. Starting with the league’s biggest team, South Pasadena, which sent 25 girls to CIF, where only 9 Tiger men made the trip. The league’s second power team, Monrovia, was more balanced. They sent 12 girls and 11 men. But then you have San Marino sending 6 girls and just 1 guy. Bottom line - all girls at the State Meet.
That is not to say that there weren’t big performances from the men. We’ll remember Paul Messana’s big season for a long time as well as Josh Wilson’s impressive 3200 performance at CIF Finals, where he led the race with 500 meters to go.
But, it will be Laura Anuakpado’s huge post-season run to the State Finals, in which she posted faster performances at each level, that will mark the season. And the Tiger girls’ 4x400, populated by individual CIF athletes, fought all the way to the State Finals, just slipping into Clovis. And just to show that the league is not all Tigers all the time, the Wildcats’ Sidney Mosley made it all the way to State as a sophomore.
To be sure, every season has it’s share of disappointments. While defending State high jump champion, Claire Keiffer-Wright, made it back to State, she had her difficulties starting with Masters. But, she has one more shot at it since she is only a junior. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the injury to Monrovia’s Amanda Mansoorbakht. In what was setting up to be a classic 3-way fight between Mansoorbakht, San Marino’s Alissa Barraza and SoPas’ Anika Renken in the 800 at League Finals, Mansoorbakht had to drop out of the race due to a high thigh injury. Since she is a senior, we will not get to see her run again at this level.
But, we will see Alissa Barraza, a junior, whose determined effort at CIF Finals almost netted her an invitation to Masters. Maybe in 2014. Unfortunately, we will not see the engaging Anika Renken, who has made her mark on this league. The same goes for Laura Anuakpado, who saved her best for last. We also say goodbye to Paul Messana, a class act all the way. But, we do get another year of Josh Wilson and are looking for him to make that jump to Masters.
Temple City’s trio of pole vaulting girls will be back. Junior Vivian Yu was particularly impressive as she bested San Marino’s Anya Kwan (senior) at the Finals. Kwan set the school record in the event this year.
Monrovia was absolutely dominant in the sprints for both genders. The few sprints they didn’t win (or sweep), they came awfully close. We say goodbye to the always cheerful and energetic Chasitty Fellows, our League Champion in the 100, runner-up in the 200 and a big part of both relay teams. On the men’s side, it was Cravon Gillespie everywhere - League Champ in the 100 and 200 and a member of the 4x100 team. Cravon is a junior so we will see him back next year.
In the distance events, Tiger junior Helena Van Loan took the gold after besting La Canada’s Sonja Cwik. Cwik, who has been a fixture of the Rio Hondo League in both track and cross country, graduated this year and we will miss her.
Fortunately, Temple City’s Austin Situ will be back. Austin is also a cross country fixture and as competitive as Josh Wilson is. We look forward to more great battles between those two next year.
Finally, the Editor’s Choice. This is the one race or event that defined the spirit of the league in my opinion. It was the men’s 4x400 relay at the League Finals. An epic battle between Monrovia and South Pasadena. A race that the Tigers were out of until Justin Fernandez took that baton on the second leg and closed a huge deficit. From there, it was a neck-and-neck battle to the finish with Paul Messana ripping the final 100 meters to take it for the Tigers. As if that weren’t enough, Temple City and San Marino battled to the last inch for third. Want to watch it again? Click here.
Goodbye to all our seniors. Thank you for being a part of our family.