After running 2.91 miles on the hilly course at Pierce College, Palisades High School’s girls team won its fourth consecutive City Section Division 1 cross-country title on Nov. 19. The Dolphins also qualified for the State meet at Fresno on Nov. 26.
Pali freshman Lila Copland won in 18:45.88, followed by teammate Kimia Smanadi (19:03.35). Brittany Darrow (19:16.27) took seventh, Sarah Bentley (19:18.84) was eighth and Elisa Kim (19:24.21) finished ninth in a field of 78 girls.
Copeland, who started the school year at Wildwood in the Southern Section, competed in only her third meet for Palisades. “I’m happy with my time,” the 14-year-old said. “I expected to run slower, but I felt really strong today.
“This was tough, but I think the speed work we did during the week helped,” Copeland said, noting they had worked on 800- and 1,200-yard sprints on the track. She expressed confidence in her team’s chance to win at state, too.
A graduate of Paul Revere Middle School, Copeland was asked the difference between middle and high school cross country. “There’s more pressure here to win and do well,” she said. “But, we’re all supportive of one another and it helps in our races.”
While at Revere, Copeland smashed all running records, including those held by Marissa Williams, who now competes at UC Berkeley. Williams consistently won the City cross-county finals, and as a senior in 2014 ran the course in 16:33.11.
Samandi, who placed tenth (19:48.02) last year as a sophomore, said “Last week I was more nervous, more negative. This week I told myself ‘I cannot be negative, I have to be positive and it helped me set a good pace.” Asked to compare this team to last year’s, she said “I love this team–Lila, Sarah, Brit, Elisa, Shannon, Ariel.”
“Every year, it’s different,” Samandi said. “This year we’re all strong and this is important for all of us.”
Joining Copeland and Samandi at State will be Bentley (freshman), Darrow (sophomore), Kim (freshman), Lee (senior) and Ariel Pollack (senior).
The PaliHi girls also won the team title in both the junior varsity and freshman/sophomore divisions. Palisades runners placed fourth, sixth and twelfth in the JV division, and second, fourth, fifth and eighth in fresh/soph.
Assistant coach Gwendolen Twist said she ran with the girls during practices. “I would get in the middle of them and we would chat. If someone was tired, I could find out if they were getting enough sleep or the proper nutrition.”
She praised head coach Bob Macias, who devised the training routes that his runners over different terrains around the Palisades. “Bob is good,” Twist said. “The boys just had a bad race.”
At the beginning of the season, the Daily News had picked Pali’s boys and girls teams to repeat as City champions.
Palisades finished third behind Granada Hills and El Camino Real. Sophomore Brent Smith was Pali’s top finisher, missing fourth place by just .08 hundredths of a second with a time of 15:33.25. The winner was El Camino junior Justin Hazell in 14:57.87.
“I went a minute faster than last week. It was so hot last week [in the City prelims],” Smith said. “[Today] I went out too hard in the beginning and died in the end.”
He was hoping the entire team would qualify for State. “I’d rather go as a team,” Smith said. “I love this team, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
He said they had put in a lot of miles this fall. “The training was way more physically demanding.”
“We didn’t peak at the right time with the boys,” Macias said. “We didn’t run well today.”
In addition to Smith, Ben Hamer was eighth (15:43.46) and Jakob Pollak was eleventh (16:56.79). Smith and Hamer, a junior, will run as individuals at state.
Pali’s JV boys took fourth and the fresh/soph team was fifth.