It took nearly 40 years after Jeff Nelson left his footprint at Burbank High as arguably the greatest American high school distance runner ever to have a race named in his honor.
Saturday, Nelson as well as his high school coaches, Dave Kemp and Frank Kallem were on hand for the first Jeff Nelson Cross Country Invitational on a newly created 3-mile course at Griffith Park.
The host Bulldogs didn’t disappoint in front of Nelson, who is close to the program since his wife, Kathryn, is one of the Bulldogs’ coaches.
“Jeff is super close to us, so to have a meet hosted in his name and for us to do that well in our first impression for the season, I feel it is a great start for us to get motivated. Our main goal this year is to get a league title and then move up to postseason stuff,” Burbank’s top runner, Victor Goli, said.
Burbank finished second in both the boys and girls competitions, losing only to former Foothill League rival Saugus. Saugus has been one of the top programs in California over the past decade.
Saugus won with a score of 25 points. Burbank was second with 36 points. Burroughs, which kept its elite frosh-soph runners down in a race of that grade level, finished 6th with 147.
Jacob Kaufmann of Saugus won the race in 16 minutes, 3 seconds. Goli was second in 16:16.
Burbank sophomore Andres Leon was fifth in 16:20. Juniors Tadeh Shanazari (eighth, 16:42), Dayne Ellis (14th, 17:04) and Anthony Chiaravalle (16th, 17:09) round out the top five. Senior Jahir Olvera was 20th in 17:22 and junior Steven Wright (30th, 17:45).
Burroughs was led by senior Carlos Ponce (19th, 17:13). He was followed by juniors Robert McGraham (26th, 17:41) and Logan Berger (29th, 17:46). Seniors Patrick Suarez (54th, 18:59) and Peter Lainson (61st, 19:10) round out the top five for the Indians.
The girls’ varsity race was won by Mia Barnett of Village Christian in 19:12. Saugus won the team competition with 33 points. Burbank was second with 64. Burroughs did not field a full team as many top runners ran in the lower level divisions.
Burbank senior Shalom Mejia was second in 19:44.
“It is amazing how the invitational was named after Jeff Nelson and he is really inspirational to all of us. I’m glad we were able to have our own invitational here,” Mejia said. “I personally like this course. When I was racing I knew when to speed up, when to slow down.”
Also for Burbank were junior Sol Fernandez (13th, 20:17), sophomore Noela Kim (18th, 20:56), senior Natalie Danao (20th, 20:58), sophomore Mckynzee Kelley (21st, 21:00), senior Jamie Levin (22nd, 21:02), sophomores Megan LaCamera (24th, 21:16) and Elin Markarian (25th, 21:20).
Burroughs was led by junior Ceci Whitney (11th, 20:15). Seniors Julianna Navarro (17th, 20:49) and Lakely Nealis (30th, 21:58) were also impressive.
Burroughs showed it is still very strong by its performance in the frosh-soph boys’ race with sophomore Jimmy Nealis taking second (17:49).
Freshmen Jalen Leighton (third, 17:49) and Mason Ortega (fourth, 17:50) were right behind. Xander Penaflor, another freshman, was ninth in 18:22. Tyler Jenkins (10th, 18:23) was Burbank’s top runner in the race.
In the frosh-soph girls’ race, Burroughs was led by freshman Sophia Navarro (third, 21:31). Alongside her in fourth (21:31) was sophomore Jordan Guzman.
Burbank sophomore Gabrianna Bass was fifth (21:31), and fellow Bulldog sophomore Zoe Zeron was seventh (21:23).
Full meet results can be seen at finishedresults.com