PUBLISHED: March 13, 2021 at 2:35 p.m. | UPDATED: March 13, 2021 at 3:53 p.m.
MISSION VIEJO — Capistrano Valley High’s boys cross country team faced its challenge Saturday, March 13 with the same can-do attitude and execution it has used throughout the pandemic.
The Cougars adjusted their lineup and followed Coach Matt Soto’s race strategy to out-duel Tesoro and host Trabuco Hills to capture the Sea View League finals for its first league title since 1995.
Capistrano Valley posted a five-runner score of 36 to edge Tesoro (38) and handle Trabuco Hills (49) in a showdown among three squads ranked in the top-25 in the state by MileSplit.
“Our team really stepped it up today,” said Capistrano Valley senior Thomas Mordy, who finished second to individual league champion Landen Lee of Trabuco Hills.
Lee, an uncommitted senior with a long, easy stride, covered the 3.0 mile course around campus in 14 minutes, 50.6 seconds, about six seconds off his school record from earlier this season but well ahead of Mordy (15:03.8) and Dylan Manning of Tesoro (15:07.1).
“It’s a title worth earning,” Lee said of the Sea View. “I did what I wanted to do, so that was exciting.”
The meet received clearance, Soto said, from the county health department to conduct a traditional race format with runners from each school in the same heat. The league has been competing exclusively in dual meets.
The Cougars’ adjusted lineup featured Nathan Trueman, who made his varsity debut this spring after dealing with a nerve issue in his hip. The senior responded by forming a tight pack with sophomores Brandon Mordy and Jack Stevens.
The trio grabbed places fifth-sixth-seventh, respectively, with Mordy leading the way with a 15:22.3. The gap to Trueman in seventh was just six seconds. “He was our wild card,” Soto said of Trueman. “If he didn’t show up, we definitely don’t win today.”
Junior Diego Vergara, who has been dealing with a quad injury, finished as the Cougars’ vital fifth man with a 16:17.7. He finished just ahead of junior teammate Umer Warsi, who trained on his own, off-campus amid the pandemic.
“He earned a varsity spot just from the workouts he’s doing on his own,” Soto said. “That’s pretty inspiring to see that if you want it, you’ll find a way.”
The Cougars, and their league competitors, have been resilient. They’ve been training since the summer with just a few breaks and endured months of delay and uncertainty amid the pandemic.
“They’ve been running since June,” Tesoro coach Darren Phelps said of his squad. “We’re already in track mode so to come out and do this is absolutely amazing.”
In the girls final, Tesoro won the league title at Aliso Niguel behind a pack of Joy Yassa, Kate Benade, Talia Richland and Emily Mcgettigan that finished fifth through eighth. Aliso Niguel senior Emily Richards won the individual title in 17:16.6.