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By Zach Cavanagh

After many delays, wading through California’s coronavirus monitoring tier system and outlasting a regional stay-at-home order, high school sports competition made its long-awaited return on Saturday, Feb. 6.

For the first time in nearly 11 full months, San Juan Hills and St. Margaret’s took part in competitive athletic events, as the Stallions and Tartans boys and girls cross country teams opened their seasons. San Juan Hills’ boys hosted Tesoro, and the Stallions girls raced at Aliso Niguel. Both St. Margaret’s teams raced against Laguna Beach at Crean Lutheran in Irvine.

JSerra will join the fray on Saturday, Feb. 13, when the Lions host a Trinity League multi-dual and take on Mater Dei. Servite and Orange Lutheran will also compete against each other.

San Juan Hills will next race on Feb. 20, with the boys at Capistrano Valley and the girls hosting the Cougars.

As the only fall sport allowed in the purple “widespread” risk tier, cross country was the first sport to return to action on the state’s Jan. 25 date for the start of competition. That date was only applicable if the regional stay-at-home order had been lifted, which it was on the morning of Jan. 25, luckily for cross country teams across the state.

Unlike the usual long grind of invitationals far and wide, league meets and a championship-event season in the fall, the new 2021 season is a condensed five-week schedule of dual meets pitting two schools against each other on on-campus courses. For San Juan Hills in the Sea View League, there is the possibility for a league-finals meet at the end of the schedule, but it still needs approval of the district and health officials because of the multiple schools that would be participating.

Of all of the San Juan Capistrano-based runners who kicked things off on Saturday, St. Margaret’s senior Jackson Adelman had the top performance of the day.

Adelman, who signed with Williams College in Massachusetts on National Signing Day, posted a time of 15:36 to win the dual race against Laguna Beach and pace the Tartans to a team victory.

St. Margaret’s Calvin Capelle (16:00) and Everett Capelle (16:16) finished second and third, respectively. St. Margaret’s beat Laguna Beach, 20-35.

On the girls side, St. Margaret’s had a rougher time, with the results flipped. Laguna Beach took the top three spots and beat the Tartans, 25-30. Claire Mullen (18:40) was the top finisher for St. Margaret’s in fourth, and Kat Collier (18:42) finished right behind in fifth. The Tartans’ scorers finished fourth through eighth.

For San Juan Hills, junior Taylor Samerdyke had a dynamite debut at Aliso Niguel. In her first race ever after trying out only a few weeks ago, Samerdyke ran away from the field for the win at 21:23. The Orange County Register reported that no other runners were even on the track at Aliso Niguel when she crossed the finish line.

The San Juan Hills boys had a tough home opener, as all seven Tesoro runners finished ahead of every Stallions runner. San Juan Hills’ top performer was senior Chance Waller, who finished eighth at 17:14.

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