The Linfield Christian girls had a historic cross country season, winning the school their first-ever CIF Southern Section cross country title, and by placed third at state. Valley News/Courtesy photo

WALNUT – Cross country teams from the Inland area recently competed in the CIF Southern Section Cross Country finals at Mt. San Antonio College with hopes of advancing to last week’s CIF State Championships at Woodward Park in Fresno.

In order to advance, here is how it works. The top seven teams in each division (six in some of the smaller divisions) and the first five individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the state championships. In all, 12 Inland teams and six individuals moved on.

The lone Inland team champion was Linfield Christian in Division 5, which secured a 14-point victory thanks to three top-10 individual finishes. Senior Ryley Burns (second with a time of 18:38.6), Emma Lakatos (8th), and Scarlett Welsome (10th) all set new personal records on the day. The Lady Lions defeated both St. Margaret’s and Viewpoint, two teams that entered the day ranked higher than that of Linfield, who won their school’s first-ever CIF Southern Section cross country title.

A few other prep teams that also had standout performances without claiming titles included the Great Oak boys and girls, as well as Vista Murrieta. Great Oak’s boys entered the finals having won five consecutive section championships, and the girls had won eight. But, back in top form was Newbury Park, who had some historically great performances this year. Newbury’s boys’ team had runners place 1-6, scoring 15 points to the Wolfpack’s 96; and Newbury’s girls outscored Great Oak, 43-110.

The Great Oak boys’ and girls’ cross country teams both placed at the CIF Southern Section finals and qualified for the state championships. Valley News/Courtesy photo

The boys were led by junior Ramses Cortes, who placed 13th in 15:11.6. Junior Kelli Gaffney led the girls, finishing third in 17:27.7. In Division 1, Vista Murrieta had a strong state-qualifying performance, finishing third, led by senior Isabella Smith, who placed fourth individually with a time of 17:31.1. Also moving on were the girls’ teams from Chino Hills, Santiago, and Claremont, while the boys’ teams from Woodcrest Christian, Claremont, and Vista Murrieta advanced to the CIF State Finals in Fresno last weekend.

At the state finals, the Great Oak boys’ team took their southern section loss to heart and ran all over Newbury Park in Division 1 where the Panthers scored an all-time low 16 points, but still finished second. Great Oak was again led by Cortes, who came in the No. 13 spot with a time of 15:30.9). The Wolfpack extended what is now the state’s longest streak of making the podium (top three teams) for seven years. The girls saw their run end at eight after the ladies, led again by Gaffney (ninth, 17:59.1), finished fifth in Division 1.

Both the boys’ and girls’ teams from Vista Murrieta finished ninth in Division 1 and Linfield Christian placed third in Division 5 (a program-best), led by Burns (eighth, 18:52.4).

JP Raineri can be reached by email at