LA's cross-country team comes through in Clovis

Photo by Malcolm Slaney/
Special to the Town Crier Los Altos High’s Owen Mac-Kenzie, above, set a school record at the Clovis Invitational. Fellow Eagle Naomi Donovan ran the second-fastest time in school history there.

The Los Altos High cross-country team has to hope its strong showing at the recent Clovis Invitational – a major meet featuring more than 100 schools from throughout the state – is a sign of things to come.

The Los Altos boys placed second in their division, tying a school record in the process, and the girls finished 19th Oct. 7 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

“Clovis was a nice test for both the boys and girls,” elated Eagles coach Abe Galvan said.

Owen MacKenzie led the boys, winning the Medium Schools Division with a time of 15 minutes, 31 seconds. That’s not only a personal record – by 42 seconds – but also a school record for the course.

Fellow junior Naomi Donovan paced the girls by placing ninth in her division with an 18:42; only one girl in school history has run the course faster.

“Owen MacKenzie and Naomi Donovan have learned to trust their fitness – not lead off the front – and finish stronger than the majority of the field,” said Galvan, in his first year as coach. “Owen literally ran away from the field to win his race in a school-record time at Clovis, which motivated the rest of the boys team to follow suit and tie the record for a Los Altos High School boys team run at Woodward Park.”

The boys put up a team time of 81:54 (calculated by combining the times of its top five finishers), tying the school record set in 2012. Adam Sage came in 18th with a time of 16:11, the best effort among sophomores in the division. Kevin Andrews – who Galvan said “continues to shine and learn, race by race” – took 34th with a 16:26, the fastest time among freshmen. Junior Rian Lawlor placed 68th (16:50) and sophomore Luke Sage was 72nd (16:54).

“It’s a young team with all these boys back next year, so look for this and many more records to fall,” assistant coach Steph MacKenzie said.

The girls team is young as well, with only two seniors onboard. The Eagles’ top five finishers at Clovis, who combined for a time of 1:05.34, are all underclassmen. Galvan said junior Donovan “strongly moved up the whole field throughout the race” on the way to her top-10 performance. Sophomore Kat Nasif was next with a 100th-place time of 20:57, a personal record by 36 seconds. A pair of freshmen followed – Lizbeth Lara (126th, 21:31) and Suzanne Guo (134th, 21:42) – then sophomore Sachi Ottoes (161st, 22:39).

Galvan said Los Altos has “one of the strongest teams I’ve ever coached.” He credits the Eagles’ devotion to the sport as one of the main reasons for their success.

“The kids put in so much work during the summer, and it shows in the results,” Galvan said. “Although injuries always nag every team, we’ve managed to keep most of our core together. And the momentum hasn’t stopped.”

The coach hopes that momentum leads Los Altos back to Woodward Park Nov. 25 for the state championships. The Eagles will have to excel at the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League championships (Oct. 31 at Crystal Springs in Belmont), then the Central Coast Section championships (Nov. 11 at Toro Park in Salinas) to get there.

“Will I be disappointed if the boys don’t qualify for the state meet as a team? Of course,” Galvan said. “But I know that with Naomi and Owen, the foundation is there again. And that means it’s something we can build off of in the years to come.”

Los Altos’ top seven boys and top seven girls are slated to race in the Mt. SAC Invitational Saturday morning in Walnut.

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