The defending Channel League-champion Santa Barbara High boys cross country team opened the season with a second-place finish at the UCSB Gaucho Invitational on the university’s lagoon course.

The Dons scored 94 points and finished behind Ventura (34) and just ahead of Harvard Westlake (106) and Concord-De La Salle (111).

Santa Barbara’s five runners finished within 13 seconds of each other in a good demonstration of pack running.

Cainan Birchan led the pack with a 5k time of 17.05, good for 17th place. Drew DeLozier was 19th in 17.13, Blaise Snow 23rd (17.18), Andreas Dybdahl 24th (17.18) and Oliver Levine 25th (17:18).

“The name of the game today was for those boys to pack together and run even tempo,” said coach Olivia Perdices. “They did exactly that. We’re in a good place for this early in the year.

“Cainan is a sophomore in his first high school race, leading us across the line, which is pretty exciting.”

Ventura took both the boys and girls team titles. Micha Grossman of the Cougars won the boys race in 15.27

The Santa Barbara girls finished fifth and got to run with reigning CIF 1600-meter champion, Nike national mile champion and Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the Year, Sadie Engelhart of Ventura. She won the 5k race in 16.57.

“It’s fun when a local meet gets to see a kid of Sadie’s caliber. She’s one of, if not the top girl in the nation,” said Perdices of the sophomore.

Santa Barbara had a team score of 159, finishing behind Ventura (24), Harvard Westlake (44), Canyon (72) and Foothill (156). 

Scorers for the Dons included Ridley DeSoto (23rd in 21.25), Mackenna Show (38th, 22.29), Belen Catalan Jaimes (50th, 23.15), Maia Show (53rd, 23.27) and Tiffany Ball (54th, 23.33).

“I’m really happy with how the girls competed today,” said Perdices. “We held our own out there with some good programs. That’s the first cross country meet ever for Maia and Tiffany,  so we’ve got a lot to keep building on.”

Perdices added that “it was nice to open up locally with some quality programs and great weather. This meet hasn’t happened the last couple of years and I love having it back.”

The Dons are back in action Friday at the Moorpark Invitational. 

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.