Qualls leads High School runners to big L.A. win

It was sophomore Toby Qualls who shot to the front of the pack and stayed there to win the varsity race in the 37th Bellarmine Cross Country Invitational.

Qualls’ blistering time was as hot as the day’s temperatures: 15:46 for the three-mile hilly course. He was 14 seconds shy of breaking the all-time sophomore record set in 1989 at 15:32. He beat his closest competitor by 24 seconds. Had the temperature been lower, or Qualls been pushed, chances are he would have lowered the record said his coach Andrew Kastor.

More than 80 high schools and 1,823 runners met last Saturday, Sept. 25, in Griffith Park, in L.A.
Race day was brutally hot, and the high for the day at Griffith Park was 102 degrees. At race time, it was close to 95 degrees, not good for fast times.

The Huskies brought six runners to this huge event. Senior runners Kristin King and Fernando Ramirez, sophomore runners Qualls and Miguel Prieto, and freshman Hailey Hugelman. Freshman Phil Oxford rounded out the team.

Despite nervousness in facing some of California’s best runners, Mammoth rose to the occasion.
Hailey Hugelman started the official racing in a huge field of runners. Hugelman medaled in her third straight invitational, finishing 30th in a field of 171 runners, in the large school junior varsity division. The top 30 runners medal and Hugelman’s time in this three mile race was 22:32 minutes. Oxford finished strong with a time of 26:30.

King then ran in the girls’ varsity race. This was this senior’s second invitational, and her second medal. She finished 8th, and had to fight through the heat to do it, in 21:01.

Qualls and Miguel Prieto, both sophomores, could have signed up in the junior varsity division, but were instead entered in the varsity race with teammate Fernando Ramirez. This was Mammoth’s last race of the day, and temperatures were soaring. Mammoth runners ran against much larger schools.

At the starting gun, Qualls and Prieto raced to the top five at the head of the huge pack. Qualls led the race from the half-mile point. He ran all three miles at a pace of 5:15 each.

The surprise of this race was Miguel Prieto. He ran a 17:44 race, good enough for a medal and 22nd place. Prieto ran this race with little training. If Prieto trains hard, he and Qualls could be a huge one two punch in years to come, stated coach Rob Friedl. “Its going to be fun.”

Ramirez rounded out the day with a respectable time of 21:55, good enough for a 64th place finish in this very competitive race.