Cross Country: Moore League Finals

Nov 1, 2017; Long Beach, CA, USA; Leslie Diaz of Poly (left) and Aliya Mesihovich of Wilson lead the girls race during the Moore League cross country finals at Heartwell Park. Diaz won in a course record 17:21 and Mesihovich was second in 17:58. Photo by Kirby Lee

It was a green and gold “celebration” at Heartwell Park on Wednesday as cool temperatures helped make for a record day and a Long Beach Poly sweep of the Moore League cross country finals. The Jackrabbits won the boys and girls league titles and saw Will Frankenfeld and Leslie Diaz claim the individual championships.

The Poly boys team is a top 10 program in the state and was expected to cruise to an 11th consecutive league title and 21st league title in the last 22 years, and the Jackrabbits did. Poly had five runners finish at 15:30 or better on the three-mile course including Frankenfeld, who ran a 14:55, the second-fastest time in course history.

“Normally we tell them to go out a little conservative but he was on a mission to break 15,” said Poly boys coach Mike FIllipow.

“I put in everything I had,” said Frankenfeld. “It felt great to break 15, too, that’s pretty good. We’re excited for CIF.”

Frankenfeld was followed in by teammates Jack Raymond (15:14), Henry Anderson (15:22), and Thomas Fleming (15:23) before Wilson super sophomore Caden Elsesser broke up the green line, finishing fifth in 15:27.

Daniel Bautista and Devin Koval were next in for Poly as the Jackrabbits had six of the top seven finishers. Sophomore Ronan McMahon-Staggs sat out league finals with an injury.

Poly’s team score was 16, with Millikan (75 points), Wilson (77 points), and Lakewood (99) all qualifying for CIF-SS prelims as well.

Fillipow has won a lot of league titles at Poly, but said the makeup of this year’s team made this one of his favorites.

“It’s such a great group of guys,” he said. “They’ve got great chemistry, they buy into the training, a coach couldn’t ask for a better group.”

The top finishers from the other schools were Joel Swiatkowski (Millikan, eighth, 15:43), Joseph Espinoza (Jordan, 10th, 16:07), Brett Young (Lakewood, 11th, 16:12), Oliver Scott (Cabrillo, 18th, 16:38), and Fernando Salgado (Compton, 33rd, 19:08).

On the girls side, Diaz blew away the course record by 24 seconds, finishing first in 17:21, 37 seconds faster than the second-place runner, Wilson’s Aliya Mesihovich, who ran the second-fastest Wilson time ever with a 17:58.

Diaz led a strong Poly effort that saw the Jackrabbits place four runners in the top seven to claim the school’s 14th consecutive league title. Poly lost the first league meet of the year to a talented, senior-laden Wilson group but rebounded to win at Signal Hill and to claim the league title at Heartwell. Poly’s team score of 29 bested Wilson (55), Millikan (56), and Lakewood (77), all of whom have also qualified for next weekend’s CIF-SS prelims.

“I told the girls before the race, ‘Let’s make today a celebration of your year and your work,’ and they ran it that way,” said Poly coach Nate Bershtel.

Diaz went out fast and kept the pace up, easily winning her first league title in her senior year. It was an emotional accomplishment for a runner who had considered quitting the sport after an injury her freshman season.

“This means a lot to me,” she said. “I’m not used to being the person in front getting the recognition. It’s great for our team to win, too, I think the league title has been taken for granted in the past but this year it really meant a lot to all of us.”

The other Poly runners who helped bring in the title were Fiona O’Leary (fourth, 18:32), Sydney Carlson (sixth, 19:06), Olivia Boyce (seventh, 19:17), Chelsea Crim (11th, 19:36), and Elizabeth Matos (14th, 19:45).

Millikan’s Tiana Prince continued to move up the leaderboard by finishing third in a time of 18:27. Sabrina Del Bello closed out an excellent league career that saw her earn all-league honors all four years by taking fifth in a time of 18:56 for Wilson.

The top finishers from the other schools were Evelyn Peralta (Lakewood, 10th, 19:36), Destini Jackson (Cabrillo, 29th, 22:24), Tiahnni Flowers (Jordan, 32nd, 23:16), and Yajira Lopez (Compton, 26th, 26:00).

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