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Cross Country Program Overcomes Opponents and Elements at Laguna Hills Invitational

Weather and stiff competition challenged the Tartans in their second event of the season.
The 39th Annual Laguna Hills Invitational presented the unique opportunity for both Tartan cross country teams to race in grade-specific divisions over a challenging course in the rolling hills of the Laguna Hills campus. The weather presented an additional challenge as the temperatures rose to the low 90s by the midway point of the event.
"The coaching staff was really proud of how the team responded to being on a difficult course in unfavorable weather conditions. We pride ourselves on being tough, and it was fun to watch our runners attack their respective race fields on the most inhospitable portions of the course," said head coach Patrick Bendzick. "When nobody else wanted to go, they took advantage and went on the offensive."

The junior girls team, led by race winner Sarah Bendzick, pulled off a narrow one-point victory over Harvard Westlake. Bendzick went wire to wire after making a move around the mile mark that no one responded to. She gapped the field by approximately 15 meters heading into the first significant hill and extended that lead into a 40-second win. Harvard Westlake would take the next three spots, but Kate Carr sealed the victory by finishing in front of the Wolverines' 4th and 5th runners.
The boys side was highlighted by a second-place finish in the sophomore division and another dominant performance by Everett Capelle in the senior race. Capelle had to track down a handful of runners that got out quickly, but nobody could keep up with him once he gained control of the field after the mile mark. A strong move heading into the 2-mile mark essentially ended the race, and he cruised to a 22-second victory.
"For the second week in a row, I was truly impressed with our new runners," said coach Bendzick. "Their work ethic is outstanding, and they have been able to implement complex race tactics quickly. In particular, Zach Causee is quickly becoming a standout. You do not often see his poise and tenacity from a freshman just two races into the season."
The Tartans will race again this Friday, September 15, in the Woodbridge Invitational at the Great Park in Irvine before taking the week off from racing to prepare for the first Orange Coast League Meet on September 27.
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