FALL SPORTS NOTEBOOK : Sutton's Season Hurt by a Catch

Times Staff Writer

Al Davis would love Melissa Sutton.

The managing general partner of the Los Angeles Raiders and the Newbury Park cross-country runner have the same simple philosophy: Just win, baby.

"I don't set any goals for certain times I'd like to hit when I'm running," said Sutton, who is preparing herself for the Southern Section cross-country finals Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. "I just concentrate on winning."

Before the season began, Sutton was a favorite to easily defend the Southern Section 4-A cross-country and two-mile titles she won last year as a sophomore.

It hasn't turned out that way.

In October, Sutton contracted a viral infection that put a season-long cramp in her performance. She missed just one meet while recovering from the virus, but the long road back to full strength was tougher than any of the courses she once blitzed.

"It's been frustrating," Sutton said. "I had a few good races at the beginning of the season. Then we had a dual race against Thousand Oaks and I just started to feel weak.

"All season, I was aiming to achieve the types of performances I had in the past," she recalled. "I was putting forth just as much effort as I always had, but I wasn't going anywhere."

The low point of the season for Sutton came in October at the Ventura County Cross-Country Championships, where she finished 13th.

"I had beaten all those people before and that's why it was so frustrating," Sutton said. "I talked with my parents a lot and they encouraged me to keep a positive outlook and to keep trying."

Newbury Park co-Coach Mike Stewart also tried to keep Sutton's spirits up.

"This season has been a learning experience for Melissa," Stewart said. "She showed herself she can come back."

Sutton ran 18:23 at the Southern Section preliminaries last Saturday and was the third-fastest qualifier in the 4-A Division. She is primed to challenge Newport Harbor's Buffy Rabbitt and Buena's Michelle Lewis as she attempts to defend her title.

Asked if she could better the time she ran last week, Sutton said it wouldn't matter if she beat the nearest competitor by one second or one minute. Her plan is simple:

"Just win."

Four Crespi cross-country runners have been invited to England to ring in the new year.

Don Moser, Bryan McCanna, Tom Ryan and Mike Wood will travel to London during the Christmas break to participate in an eight-mile road race that will begin Dec. 31 at 11:45 p.m. and end early New Year's Day.

Runners from California, Georgia and Connecticut will leave Dec. 26 for England and tour Paris for a few days after participating in the race.

Two Valley area schools play separate matches tonight, and if both teams win they will compete against each other in the Southern Section 2-A girls volleyball final Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Marina High in Huntington Beach.

Westlake and Royal both play semifinal matches at 7:30 p.m. They are one win away from making it an all-Marmonte League affair in the Southern Section 2-A girls volleyball finals.

Westlake plays Magnolia, the champion of the Orange League, at Agoura High.

Royal will travel to Ventura High to play defending 2-A champion Nordhoff.

Southern Section girls tennis playoffs begin today with Valley area teams seeded in two divisions.

In the 3-A Division, Marmonte League champion Thousand Oaks and runner-up Westlake are seeded third and fourth, respectively, behind top-seeded Mater Dei and San Marino.

Westlake and Thousand Oaks will both be at home for first-round matches. Westlake plays Paramount, the second-place team from the San Gabriel Valley League. Thousand Oaks plays Schurr, the third-place team from the Foothill League.

In the 2-A Division, San Fernando Valley League champion Chaminade is seeded third and will play host to Palmdale.

The Grant C and B boys basketball teams both finished 14-0 to win East Valley League championships.

Grant has traditionally had strong lower-level teams, but this is the first year that a B team has gone undefeated.

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