(Richard Gonzalez assisted with statistics,
Doug Speck was responsible for editorial comments)
-by Doug Speck
The 1999 State Cross-Country was another tremendously exciting close to the Golden State harrier campaign, with tons of thrills (and not too many spills), but a few upsets of the form charts along the way to make the day quite interesting. Amazing is the ability of young people to week after week pound the three mile/five thousand meter distance with real quality performances. Some found it tough to go to the well after a couple of straight weeks of top-flight performances, but there was some super running as the best from ten sections came togther. By the day's close, California's top nationally ranked teams, Don Lugo (Chino) Boys, and San Lorenzo Valley (Felton) Girls emerged with the best team times, with some good individual racing described below but a group that will help the Western Foot Locker team in the next two weekends with the year ending for a lucky few at Orlando the second weekend in December. Girls Division II The day started with Girls Division II action, featuring the athlete many think is the best in the country in Sara Bei (Montgomery, Santa Rosa). Back at third from last year's Foot Locker Nationals (with winner Erin Sullivan and runner-up Lauren Fleshman leading Stanford in the NCAA's), Sara has had a great Fall season. The team contest had Foothill (Santa Ana), a program jerked up by the bootstraps over the last year by Coach Jeff Farr, emerging early with a national top twenty-five and top ranking at this level statwide, the favorite over good Santa Margarita, Brea, Antioch, and Vacaville teams. Santa Margarita and Brea were coming on strong, with Antioch and Vacaville developing nicely in their areas. Some good individuals would try to keep Queen Sara company up front. The day broke quite chilly, with quite overcast skies that later in the day gave way to sunny and pleasant conditions. Sara Bei broke on top, coming by the mile the first time in view by the public at 5:23. The team race seemed quite tight, with Foothill, Santa Margarita, and Antioch looking good in the early running. Janie Nolan, who runs kind of like Gerry Lindgren used to with kind of a loose forearm driven arm action,settled into second some 21 seconds behind Sara at 11:51 with a mile to go in the race. The Foothill crew seemed to hold on to a narrow lead as the event came into the finish, with the final score 92 (Foothill) - 95 (Santa Margarita) - 111 Antioch, with Bei the sinner 17:25. After the event Sara was talkative, stating that it was "cold out there, and I kind of tightened up during the race because of that. I was out at the mile at a perfect pace, and had a good rhythm, but the last mile was not as fast as I wanted." She said, "I really feel good going into the next couple of weeks for Foot Locker." Sara today joined Deena Drossin (Agoura) as the only girl ever to win three State titles, with obviously a fourth possibility next Fall. With constant talk this year of her attempts to time her seasonal peaks more carefully, the next couple of weekends could be interesting. Sara was four seconds off of the Mt. SAC Course Record last year (16:59) on the way to her Western Regional win there, with some interesting comparisons coming up this next week. Felicia Guiliford (New Mexico), a very hot Great All-American Cross-Country Classic winner in September in North Carolina, and others (Sara Gorton, Arizonan who was the Junior National 3000 meter champ last spring after not making the Foot Locker Nationals last year, among others) will be gunning in the wings! Girls Division III Coach Rob Collins, formerly the mentor of a fine program in Sandy, Oregon, had dropped into the Felton, California area in the grocery story business, and luckily for the running world, wandered down the local high school to do a bit of running with the team. His first year project was Alejandra Barrientos, who went from the 2:30's as a half miler to a super fall Cross- Country season, then a 4:45.02 1600m that had her win state, and during the summer win the National Junior 1500 meter title. Coach Collins indicated he had some good girls moving up from the middle school, including Alejandra's sister, with some others who could develop. In probably the best ever one year improvement in California High School history with a team, Coach Collins and San Lorenzo Valley squad this year was about 10-12 minutes better as a team time top five group! They expressed, behind Alejandra's leadership, an impressive willingness to get out after it in each of their big races, with huge, impressive wins at Stanford and Mt. SAC against some good competition. They were ranked inside the nation's top ten, and were a big favorite here. Granada (Livermore) was super from the North Coast, with South Hills a big southern winner over defending champs La Canada, with Foothill (Redding) a fine group from the North. Jenny Aldridge (Maria Carrillo, Santa Rosa) was reported the early leader, with the pack having Alejandra Barrientos slightly ahead as they came past spectators near the mile. San Lorenzo Valley, in typical style, had thrown down the gauntlet, with all their scorers in the top twenty-five, with the dark-clad Granada team also out quickly. San Lorenzo Valley ran tough the entire way, with Alejandra Barrientos winning comfortably at 17:37, with Lauren Gustafson (Mills) moving up to second at 18:00 over Aldridge at 18:13. Raquel Barrientos backed up her sister with second in the team scoring at fourth overall at 18:45, with Coach Collins' winning crew scoring 43 points. Granada finished out a super year with 66 in second, with Foothill (Redding) surprising the Southerners with a good race and 99 in third. San Lorenzo Valley's top six are all underclass, with theirs the top team time of the day from all divisions. Alejandra Barrientos felt that she had run a good race, and she knew that Jenny Aldridge would be tough competition. The winner stated that she, "threw in a move at the base of the hill on the course," that Aldridge did not answer, and that was where she broke free. She had some cramping in her back as the race went along, but tried to keep it out of her mind. A goal today was 17:00, but she was happy with the win. Barrientos indicated that she is really looking forward to next week to try to qualify for the Foot Locker Nationals. With a win over two- time Nationals Qualifier Abby Miller (Nevada) on the tough Mt. SAC course in a fine time in October, the SLV flash will be tough to keep off the team. Boys Division II Eureka had emerged at the North Coast Section Meet with a super tight gap and 19 points! Santiago (Garden Grove) had their top three in the 15:40's on the tough Mt. SAC course in the South, with La Jolla strong from San Diego. Talented Augie Escobar (Villa Park), an 8:56 3200m runner in track, was the favorite, with early season burner Matt McInvale (Ramona) held back lately with injury. Puneet Mahan (Norwalk) had pushed Escobar the last two weekends. Eureka, with an interesting white, green, and red outfit would be easy to spot in the race! Stuart Eastman (Placer, Auburn), green-haired to match the school colors, raced along slightly ahead of Escobar early in the running, with Eureka looking very strong right from the start with all of their scorers inside the top thirty-five of the race when the field came by the spectators at the mile mark. When the field next came back past viewers at a bit past two miles it was a pack of Eastman, Escobar, and Girmay Guangul of Santa Clara, with Eureka still looking very strong. Santiago had its top three in good position, but Eureka's scorers at that point had the event swamped! Escobar, very talented, powered in to the win at 15:27, with Eastman 15:29 and Gualgul 15:32. The very visible Eureka squad (I guess those red shorts make you more visible on a wet, dreary north coast day!) poured in with its top five inside of the top thirty-five undisplaced, with its fifth runner in before Santiago's fourth, seemly assuring victory. It turned out a 56- 119 win for Eureka. Lehrin Morey, number two today for Eureka, spoke for the team, stating, "Individually, I was not happy with my race, but I am very happy for the team today. I was gone for the first couple of weeks of the season, and when I returned I jumped right in and we were racing strong. This is the first ever state title for Eureka HS in any sport!!" Coach Robert Bode indicated that the special characteristics of this team that helped them achieve their ultimate success was the comraderie between team members and the love that developed between the group as they built towards the end of the season. Boys Division III The Boys Division III contest had a strong group with some impressive Section Finals peaks back a week or so. South Hills had won over rival Don Bosco Tech in the South with a super team time in the 79:30's at Mt. SAC, with Los Gatos very strong with a seemingly controlled CCS win, while Granada nipped a strong Redwood (Larkspur) team in the NCS. A good group of individuals from the leading teams would be joined by Eric Chavez (St. Francis, Mountain View) up front. Right from the start this day it was Don Bosco Tech, who scribe Richard Gonzalez stated had not really seemed to put it all together so far this season, out strong and looking determined. Los Gatos also seemed tough early on, with South Hills and leader Jesse Hodges (15:20 at Mt. SAC to win the Southern Section) back a bit. South El Monte's Daniel Rojas and Matt Sartor (Enterprise, Redding) battled with Eric Chavez up front through two miles. Rojas, tough, but with the strong competition in his area not used to winning big races, was toughest over the final half mile to win over Matt Sartor 15:45- 47, with Chavez finishing tenth. Don Bosco was tough through the finish, with Granada having three in before the Southerner's second runner (Granada 2-4-9 displaced scoring), but Bosco's 35 second 1-5 gap was impossible to handle this day, as they won 75- 90 over Granada. South Hills was third at 106, with Los Gatos 116 in fourth. Girls Division IV This division was a showdown between two of the State's better programs, Corona del Mar (Newport Beach) and Nordhoff (Ojai). Coaches Bill Sumner (CdM) and Ken Reeves (Nordhoff) have rich traditions on both the Boys and Girls side, with CdM the loser here by one point last year to Nordhoff at this level. Corona del Mar had really come out charging in 1999, with huge wins all season long against top competition. Nordhoff is known for a steady build and frightening peaks the last couple of weeks of the season, so anything was always possible. Bridget Duffy, who led St. Mary's (Berkeley) to a section win over a strong Campolindo (Moraga) team had a super Section meet run, with fine frosh Christina Jiminez of new school, Granite Hills (Apple Valley), a determined and successful racing style. Nordhoff warmed up in blue uniforms, then switched to black just before the start, with Corona del Mar racing in their traditional black uniforms with a white CdM across the front. CdM was out quickly, definitely ahead of Nordhoff through the mile, where John Ortega of the LA Times had it 61-116 CdM with no displacement. Christina Jiminez, Bridget Duffy, and San Dieguito Academy star Jenna Timinsky rolled along out front, with Rae Stumbough of Norhdoff not far behind. Through two miles Nordhoff was creeping closer, with CdM faced with star Liz Morse slowly fading back from her usual position among the lead runners. Nordhoff continued to move, with Rae Stumbough eventually racing away to the win 18:25-18:35 over Bridget Duffy, but Corona del Mar did hang together strongly enough to win 42-55. Coach Bill Sumner, who has coached for eighteen years, the last eight with both the Boys and Girls at Corona del Mar. When asked the reasons for the success of this year's group he was quick to point out the team's great depth. Nine on the team have run under 19:38 at Mt. SAC, with frosh Jennifer Long stepping up today with a fourth place positioning on the team. Liz Morse had started out a bit quick on this day, but the rest of the team stepped up as they had all year. Each big race was approached a bit differently this year, with the squad taking aim at the best squad in their different big races. They set out to beat teams like San Lorenzo Valley and Woodbridge when they ran against them, a bit of a different approach than he had tried with previous squads. Team leader Liz Morse was gracious on a tough day. Feeling responsibility as the squad's leader in almost all their big races, she stated, "This was one of those 'off' days. But the team came along and picked it up so nicely. Frosh Jennifer Long has only run three varsity races and she was our fourth runner! This could not have been a better senior year. We accomplished all of our goals. We were ranked nationally, and won the Section and State Championships. Remember, we lost this meet by one point last year." It might have been a good experience for the team when a sick Morse had to drop out at the Mt. SAC Invitational, with Katie Quinlan taking over and leading the team's charge there also. Boys Division V The Boys Division V contest had Coach Ingrid Herskind, the Coach of last year's Flintridge Prep champs, trying to go for two in a row. Calvary Chapel (Downey), Calvin Christian (Escondido), and the great University (San Francisco) team threatened. Flintridge runs with a disciplined pack approach, leaving the front end to others. Tom Kubler (Viewpoint, Calabasas), a 9:17 3200m runner, generally shakes up that front end of the races at this level, with a sub 15:20 race at Mt. SAC during section action there! Frosh Tim Nelson (Liberty Christian, Redding) had won the Northern Section overall race, with soph Henry Hagenbuch (say it Hagenbush) (Cate, Carpinteria) impressing with a mid- 15:30's at Mt. SAC down South! Kubler was off to the races again, with the tall, purposeful striding star spreading things out early on. Tim Nelson led the second pack after the first mile, with Flintridge Prep spread a bit, but appearing in their blue uniforms ahead of others, with Calvary Chapel in an easily viewable maroon, and no one else really appearing strong as a group. University (SF) was strong up front, with Sean Drake and Ben Good in the top dozen. As usual, Kubler raced away from everyone, here a 15:51 winner. Flintridge steadily moves up through people, with here their pack four in front of anyone else's third on the way to a 69-100-108 win over Calvary Chapel and University. Flintridge returns four for next year with Calvary six and University six also. Girls Division I Some really great running would take place here. There were some great teams, led by Woodbridge (Irvine) running an amazing time in the 93:30's at the Southern Section meet at Mt. SAC, with Rancho Bernardo destroying teams in San Diego, and Peninsula also very strong. Anita Siraki had moved to an elite group (of only four with Julia Stamps, Kristen Gordon, and Sara Bei) in breaking 17:00 in the Southern Section Finals, with some here who would keep her effort honest. Rancho Bernardo has a dynamite foursome in Julie Manson, Allison Hall, Kaleena Yee, and Jamie Doyle, with Discus thrower, that is as good discus thrower, Section placer Mikaelyn Austin, the team's fifth runner. Peninsula was continuing a fine peak that had it average a tad over 19:00 at Mt. SAC a week ago, so it would be a race. A lead pack of Heather Hanson (Madera soph), Anita Siraki, Julie Allen (Fountain Valley), and Latesha Jones (Rialto) took off early. Rancho Bernardo had four in front of Woodbridge's second runner in the early going, so it certainly was a race! With Siraki eventually breaking away from the determined Allen up front to win 17:35-17:42, eyes were on the team contest! Julie Manson (7th overall) and Allison Hall (8th) were never caught by anyone from Woodbridge, with the San Diego power three in before Woodbridge's second runner. Woodbridge had its five inside the top forty of the race, with Rancho Bernardo's fourth in at 27th (Jamie Doyle). Through four the displaced total would be Rancho Bernardo 22 and Woodbridge 35, with Erin Kredel's 21st for Woodbridge's fifth (runner's displaced) taking Woodbridge to a 56-90 win when Mikaelyn Austin emerged 68th after displacement for RB's number five. Peninsula was 115 in third, with the top three here deserving ranking among the top fifty in the nation. Coach George Varvas indicated later that he knew his squad was in trouble early when he saw four Rancho Bernardo athletes in front of his second runner. He had faith in the strength of his team members and hoped they could rebound, which they all did. When asked why this team developed so very specially during the season, he replied, "This is the fourth year for a couple of the leaders of this team. They now know what Cross-Country is all about. They are motivated and very hard workers. This is the first year that when I called a workout everyone was there and they would do whatever I asked of them. This team was so very close, a truly special group." Boys Division IV The Boys Division IV had squads of strength from all corners of the State. McFarland had been strong all season long, with an 81:05 on this course the week previous in the Central Section Grand Master's meet. Nordhoff and Oak Park had dog-fights down South, with both steadily developing into teams that could challenge for the title. Central Valley (Shasta) and St. Augustine (San Diego) were good groups, with Riverbank out of the Sac Joaquin Section slowly building to a fine peak in their Section Finals, determined to make up for end of season 1998 difficulties. Ryan Hall of Big Bear had strengthened himself on Large Schools competition most of the Fall, racing under 15:00 during Southern Section action at Mt. SAC, with some other good athletes in the field. McFarland, in mostly white red uniforms trimmed with red, knows this course like the back of their hands. Behind leader Andres Gomez they were going after their seventh state title for Coach Jim White (with Nordhoff also hoping for the same number, a state record, for their Coach Ken Reeves). McFarland travels statewide to face the best, and they just were not to be denied this day. Up front Ryan Hall edged away from surprising Jesse McLeod (Lassen, Susanville) to win 15:24-15:31,with Mark Nevers (Oak Park) first of the favored teams in at third in 15:55. Roberto Contreras was eighth overall for Nordhoff, with Andres Gomez starting the McFarland charge at 10th (16:07). McFarland ended the suspense, with its top four in before through the other top team's number three runner, with Francisco Gonzalez 25th after displacement, also the top number five runner. McFarland totalled 68, with Nordhoff 102, Riverbank a pleasant 108 for the third plaque, with Oak Park 123 in fourth. Riverbank had stayed kind of close to home this Fall, with one good CCS Invite run over a short course, so they were a bit tough to gauge (excuse for non-inclusion in rankings?!?). Anyway, after what they went through last year, where after a number ranking early on they had a ton of things go wrong. It was nice to see them on the award stand this time around, even though if a fourth place plaque was ever deserved for a great season, it was Kevin Smith's Oak Park crew. Girls Division V Wow! Another great contest between a number of super programs! University (San Francisco) had won three consecutive state titles, and behind strong team leader Aliza Cohen, they were primed for a fourth. Chadwick, Northwood, and comer Maranatha were hot down South, with Chadwick led by strong Kriston Cohoon, and Maranatha undefeated frosh Laura Meyers. Clara Horowitz of Head Royce (NCS) was spoken highly of from her area off her end of season section running. Alle Porter (Dunsmuir) had been the overall champ of the Northern Section! The strong trio of Horowitz, Meyers, and Cohen led the race, with the contest very, very close among the top teams. Laura Meyers, who is was later determined suffered from dehydration, started to fade from the top group after the two mile, and eventually dropped out and need hospitalization, although she was soon okay. Horowitz, a soph, raced away to an 18:26 win over Cohen's 18:38, with Cohoon 18:50 on the team end in third. Wow, what a contest as the squads raced for the tape! Through three it was Chadwick 16, University 21, and Northwood 27, after four it was Chadwick 31, University 38, and Northwood 46. Northwood had the first fifth runner to total 66, with Unniversity's final scorer next with a 59 point team tally, with Chadwick the next scorer in to total 56 and the win! These are some super teams at this level! With Laura Meyers finishing up near the front Maranatha would have been a part of that great team contest. The folks from these small schools can really run!!! Boys Division I They saved the best for last on the Boys' side, with Don Lugo (Chino Hills) dynamite lately. Their Southern Section run averaged in the 15:30's on that tough course, with a respectable job here tough to catch. It was a great year in the sport at this level, with a number of teams at or under 80:00 on tough courses like this and Mt. SAC along the way. About six teams could finish in second and it would not be much of a surprise. It was sad that the division was the victim of the most off-handed and negative situation that this author has ever seen in the sport of High School Cross-Country. After a number of ties in the sport in San Diego at the large schools level (four through the Section meet involving highly ranked Mt. Carmel, Poway, and Vista) questions came up over a tie in the Section Finals that had Vista lose out on one of the two spots to the state meet on the sixth runner rule. It turned out that the State Advisory Committee on the sport had suggested taking ties to the State Meet, since the starting line at Fresno was never full. The motion was passed unanimously by that committee, with State entries official Dennis DeWitt of Madera stating he has a paper from then State official Margaret Davis from two years ago stating that the meet would accept all schools that tie for the final spot to go to state (with two such schools competing last year, DeWitt stated). One Coach indicated that the ruling did reach the paperwork for his Section meet a year ago. Anyway, officials involved with the CIF and Fresno State CC Meet first ruled that Vista would not be allowed to compete, then ruled it was okay (resulting in parents driving five hours on Friday with uniforms), only to be told no that they could not run, then the team was allowed at the starting line and pulled off fifteen seconds before the race started! We have never observed a stranger example of the inability of people to make a decision. The off and on-handed nature of the treatment of the Vista team was unbelievable, with a huge explanation necessary that will never begin to deal with the hurt of those involved. As a member of the State Track and Cross-Country Advisory Committee who typically travels to all State Championships at my own expense I was absolutely amazed at the seeming lack of investigative effort that went into this series of decisions. The CIF needs to take a look in the mirror and think about what they are doing to those involved. The Palomar League that Mt. Carmel, Poway, and Vista was a part of this year was the strongest group of schools in State History on the Boys' side. Those schools did not arrive at that level of success without years of sacrifice. To have the situation dealt with in a manner that can only be referred to as bizarre is kind of beyond belief! Anyway, without Vista, but team star Justin Neuroth who qualified individually (and with West Hills' Ben Aragon, who somehow through all of this should have been yanked at the same time as the Vista team), the race was off! Clovis High's JJ Duke, Travis Laird (San Marcos, who would end up as one of three Palomer League athletes in the top seven individually here!), and Oswaldo Pina (Lakewood) were the early leaders, with Don Lugo, in distinctive uniforms, in good shape teamwise. Up front it was the surprising and consistent Laird who pulled away for a relatively easy 15:21 win over Katella's Daniel Mejia (15:31). Lugo had four in the top twenty-five finishers with a respectable fifth to appear the winners. Poway had a flock in the top fifty, with Buchanan, with team leader Fernando Cabada only 17th, also very strong. Don Lugo totalled 67, with Buchanan a surprising second with 96, and Poway next at 108. This was a very solid division this Fall!
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