With the graduation of Daren and Kirk Stonerock from Saugus High, there doesn't appear to be a dominant boys cross-country team or individual in the Valley-area this season.
But there are a number of talented athletes and strong teams.
Doug Fairman of Thousand Oaks, Ian Alsen of Granada Hills, Mike Rattary of Canyon and Bryan Dameworth of Agoura all turned in outstanding performances during the summer.
Fairman, a senior, ran 15:30 for 5,000 meters in a Westlake road race Labor Day weekend. He also finished fourth in the Large Schools Division of the Royal Invitational on Saturday, running 15:13. He has run 800 meters in 1:58.5.
"He looks great in workouts and his time at Westlake indicates that he's in shape," said Jack Farrell, coach at Thousand Oaks. He's capable of finishing in the top 10 in the 4-A."
Although Alsen will be running in his first cross-country season in 1986, no one doubts his ability after a superb track season. As a sophomore, he ran 4:21.98 for 1,600 meters and finished fourth in the City championships.
He continued to race well over the summer, running a personal best of 8:47.68 in the 3,000 meters.
Granada Hills Coach Bob Augello said Alsen has an excellent chance of winning the City title. "He is capable of running under 15 minutes at Pierce. And that should put him in the thick of things at the City meet."
Although he is only a sophomore, Rattary ran 15:40 for 5,000 meters this summer in addition to setting a high school course record of 17:11 on the hilly 5,000-meter course at College of the Canyons. He ran 15:21 in the Large Schools race at Moorpark, finishing eighth.
Canyon Coach Ed Chaidez, a Division II All-American at Cal State Northridge in the mid-70's, said Rattary could dominate. "He's strong, he's healthy and he had a good summer of training. He's ready to go."
Dameworth could possess the greatest potential of any high school runner in the area.
He has run 4:09.1 in the 1,500 meters and 8:48.8 in the 3,000. He also holds the national age-group record of 6:09.1 in the 2,000-meter steeplechase.
The freshman ran 15:38 in the Westlake 5,000 and set a course record of 17:05 on the hilly Paramount Ranch three-mile course two weeks ago. His best performance of the young season, however, came Saturday at Moorpark.
He dominated a good field in the Medium Schools race, winning by 100 meters and recording the second-fastest time (14:57) of the meet.
Although Fairman, Alsen, Rattary and Dameworth have grabbed a lot of attention this summer, there are other outstanding runners in the area.
Paul McCarter and John Rogers, teammates of Fairman, ran stride for stride with him at the Royal Invitational.
McCarter, a junior, finished third in 15:11. Rogers finished fifth, three seconds behind Fairman, in 15:16.
Granada Hills' Todd Lytle also has been overshadowed by a teammate. The senior has run 9:50 for two miles. Augello ranks him in the same class as Alsen.
With Alsen and Lytle at the helm, Granada Hills expects to make a strong run at the City title in December.
Frank Flores will lead a strong Hart contingent. He placed 12th in the Southern Section 3-A championships last season as a junior and has run 9:36.3 for two miles. His second-place finish (15:13) at Moopark led Hart to an easy victory in the Medium Schools race.
"He's not the most talented kid I've coached," Hart Coach Gene Blankenship said, "but I've never coached a kid who is as mentally tough as he is."
Javier Primera of Burroughs finished 15th in the 3-A cross-country finals last year and fourth in the 1,600 meters at the 4-A track championships.
He has bests of 1:58.60 for 800 meters and 4:19.20 for 1,600 meters.
Burroughs Coach Dave Delong feels that an improved mental attitude will make him a more consistent competitor this season. "In his junior year, Javier had a tendency to view every race as a life-or-death situation," he said.
"He put too much pressure on himself. Now, his attitude is to just go out and run the best race he's capable of running. If he gets beat, it's not the end of the world."
Juan Perez of Rio Mesa is expected to lead a strong Spartan team. The senior ran 4:19.49 for 1,600 meters and placed sixth in the 4-A championships.
He has been slowed by tendinitis in the right knee in recent weeks, but still finished sixth in the Medium Schools race at the Royal Invitational. He ran 15:35.
Jose Haro of Alemany finished 10th in the 2-A championships as a junior and ran 4:24 for 1,600 meters in track. Alemany Coach Randy Smith said he is capable of finishing in the top five in the 3-A this year. He finished third in the Medium Schools race at Moorpark, running 15:29.
Birmingham's Sven Haug, another senior, finished 10th in the City cross-country championships and seventh in the 1,600 meters in the City track championships.
Joe Devine of Saugus was slowed by injuries during track season yet still ran 1:59 in the 800 and qualified for the 3-A championships. Under the guidance of Saugus Coach Steve Spraker, he is capable of doing well in the 4-A.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Thousand Oaks--Coach Farrell expects this year's team to be stronger than last year's, which placed sixth in the 4-A championships. . . . Three of their top six runners are back. . . . The Lancers are ranked second in the Southern Section poll. . . . The team gave top-ranked Palos Verdes all it could handle at the Royal Invitational before losing, 53-57. . . . Ward Ferguson and Bryan Gibby were the top two junior varsity runners in 1985 and should round out the top seven runners with junior Todd Bersley and sophomore Tim Farrell. Gibby and Farrell were the fourth and fifth runners at Moorpark.
Hart--The Indians have finished fourth in the 3-A championships last two years. . . . Five of their top seven runners are back. . . . The team is ranked third in the Southern Section poll. . . . Coach Blankenship said that talented freshman Stephen Lepken, along with seniors Kevin Fenenbock and Bobby Bans, should be the second, third and fourth runners. Lepken has personal bests of 4:18.0 in the 1,500 and 9:20.0 in the 3,000 meters. . . . Junior Don Patti, sophomore David Rizzo and senior Tony Berkquam should round out the top seven.
Rio Mesa--The Spartans are ranked sixth in the Southern Section poll. . . . Their No. 2 man should be Ed Trotter. He won the Channel League title as a junior. . . . Other top runners will be junior Gary Aanerud, who has run 1:57.5 for 800 meters; junior Travis Cooksey, who ran 1:58.5 in the 800 as a freshman; senior Scott Roberts and sophomore Darin Lasky. . . . Coach Brian Fitzgerald said, "We think we can finish in the top five in the southern section if we stay healthy."
Granada Hills--Junior Paul Klinedinst and sophomore Craig Lawson are expected to be the Highlander's third and fourth runners. . . . Junior Larry Klingman and sophomores Tim Ells and David Omar are expected to round out the top seven.
Birmingham--The Mid-Valley League champions in 1985, the Braves finished a disappointing seventh in the City championships. . . . Three of their top five runners are back. . . . Brothers Jeff and Rick Korn will give the Braves a strong second and third runner. Jeff Korn ran 9:30.99 to finish fourth in the 3,200 meters at the City championships. . . . Juniors Troy Fortney and Sabino Miranda should be solid fourth and fifth runners. Miranda has run 4:32 in the mile while Fortney, who recently moved from West Virginia, has reportedly run 4:35. . . . Birmingham is one of the preseason favorites for the City title, along with four-time defending champion Belmont and Granada Hills.
Simi Valley--The Pioneers are the defending 4-A champions. . . . They lost their top three runners to graduation. . . . Senior Travis Briggs is expected to be the No. 1 runner. . . . Steve Lund, Tom Bibbs and Roy Ballinger should give Simi Valley a solid second, third and fourth runner. . . . First-year coach Tom King feels that the key to their season will depend on whether or not they can develop a strong fifth runner.
Alemany--The Indians finished fifth in the 2-A meet last year. They have been moved up to the 3-A Division this year. . . . Eight of top nine runners return to the team. . . . Senior Greg Jones is expected to be the No. 2 man. . . . Mike Thomas, a junior, won the the Del Rey League title in the two mile and has run 9:45. . . . Coach Smith expected Louie Carmona, Peter Delacerda and Eddie Padilla to be the fourth, fifth and sixth runners; however, Delacerda and Carmona were the Indians' second and third scorers at the Royal Invitational. . . . Smith thinks they are capable of finishing in the top five in the Southern Section.
Burbank--A very young but talented team, the Bulldogs will challenge Hart for the Foothill League title. . . . They will be led by sophomores Todd Lewis and Robert Lopez. Lewis ran 10:08 for two miles and 4:35 for 1,600 meters in ninth grade. Lopez has run 2:03 for 800 meters. . . . Lewis' brother Al, a junior, is expected to be the No. 3 man. He has run 10:07 for two miles. . . . Coach Ed Lopez expects Mike Kemp and Mike Lee to give Burbank strong fourth and fifth runners.