In 1985, the Marmonte League, led by individual champion Melissa Sutton of Newbury Park, dominated the girls Southern Section 4-A cross-country championships.
Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park and Westlake finished second, fourth and fifth in the team standings, and five Marmonte League runners were among the top 12 individual finishers.
The league appears to be even stronger in 1986.
Sutton, Christy Farrell of Thousand Oaks and Westlake's Jennifer Feller will lead their teams this season.
Sutton is the two-time defending 4-A champion. At last year's championships, she beat second-place finisher Buffy Rabbitt of Newport Harbor by 34 seconds.
Later, she finished second at the Kinney West Regionals in Fresno and sixth at the Kinney national championships in San Diego, where she was the top finisher from the West Coast.
She also had a fine track season, winning the Arcadia Invitational and finishing fifth in the state championships at 3,200 meters.
Sutton has personal bests of 10:29.96 for 3,200 meters and 5:07.5 in the mile. And she shows no signs of slowing down. Recently, she lowered her own course record by 40 seconds at the Santa Barbara Lagoon Invitational. She ran the three-mile course in 16:59.
Last Saturday, she broke the course record by 38 seconds at the Woodbridge Invitational in Irvine, winning in 17:01.
"She looks very strong," said Mike Stewart, coach at Newbury Park. "It's obvious she's in great shape. She's going to be very hard to beat this year."
Farrell, Sutton's rival at Thousand Oaks, finished third at the Southern Section championships in 1985 after a second-place finish in 1984 as a sophomore.
In the state meet, Farrell finished sixth in the 3,200--just behind Sutton--and has personal bests of 4:58.33 in the 1,600 and 10:35.27 in the 3,200 meters.
On Saturday, she won the Royal Invitational at Moorpark College with a 17:33 time over the hilly 2.9 mile course.
Feller, a junior, finished 10th in the 4-A Division last year as a sophomore and has run 5:16.34 in the mile. She finished third at Moorpark with a time of 17:52.
In addition to Sutton, Farrell and Feller, several other Marmonte League competitors are capable of finishing in the top 10 at the Southern Section championships.
Jena Haggenmiller, a Thousand Oaks junior, finished seventh at last year's championships and has run 11:15 for 3,200 meters. She finished fourth at the Royal Invitational in 17:56.
Amy Nesbitt of Newbury Park finished 12th in the Southern Section meet last year as a freshman. Her best time at 800 meters is 2:17.7.
Nesbitt's older sister, Lara, a senior, finished 22nd at last year's championships.
While the Marmonte League will have the strongest league in the Valley-area, the talent isn't limited to the Conejo Valley.
Heather Scobie and Amy Reiter of Saugus, Andrea De La Monica of Calabasas, Sheri Lawson of Kennedy and Lori Speakes of Canyon are some of the area's top runners.
Scobie finished second in the 3-A championships in 1985 as a freshman and is the favorite for the individual title this year. She placed eighth in the 1,600 meters at the state championships and has run 4:54.63 in that event. Her best time at two miles is 10:48.09. She ran 17:49 to finish second at the Woodbridge Invitational.
Reiter, a sophomore at Saugus, finished sixth in the Southern Section championships last year and has run 5:15.9 in the mile and 11:48.2 in the two-mile.
De La Monica, a junior, won the 2-A title in the 800 meters and has run 2:13.31 in the event. She also has a best of 5:16.96 in the mile.
Lawson, another junior, was hobbled by injuries throughout the 1985 cross-country season, but came back to run 11:15.31 and win the City championship in the 3,200 meters.
Kennedy Coach Pete Nelson said Lawson would have won the City cross-country title last fall if she hadn't been injured.
Speakes finished 14th at the 3-A level as a sophomore in 1985 and is expected to lead Canyon again this season.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Newbury Park: The Panthers are ranked second in the Southern Section poll. . . . Five of top seven runners return. . . . Sophomore Samantha Hodgdon and junior Noel Harrison should be the No. 4 and 5 runners. . . . Cathy Severn, Renee Bergan, Tina Myers and Jennifer Rudd provide team depth. . . . The Panthers began their season with victories at the Santa Barbara Lagoon meet and the Woodbridge Invitational.
Westlake: The Warriors are ranked third in the Southern Section poll. . . . Top six runners return. . . . Seniors Stacia Pollock and Carolyn Feller, along with sophomore Jaime Butler were expected to be the Warriors' second, third and fourth runners. However junior Desiree Joubert, who is coming off a superb track season, was the team's second runner at the Royal Invitational. She finished seventh in 18:22. As a sophomore, she finished third in the state championships in the 800 meters and seventh in the 1,600. She has run 2:09.62 in the 800 and 4:55.37 in the 1,600.. . . . Finished second at Moorpark, behind top-ranked Palos Verdes. . . . Coach Don Shotliff said that the team's goal is to finish in the top three in the Southern Section.
Thousand Oaks: Marmonte League champions in 1985, the Lancers are ranked fourth in the Southern Section poll. . . . Won the 4-A title in 84'. . . . Finished third in the Large-Schools Division at Moorpark. . . . Top four runners return from 85' team. . . . Farrell, Haggenmiller and sophomores Mandy Kossoris and Angie Lovell give the Lancers four strong runners. Lovell has run 5:22.29 in the mile and 11:49.2 for two-miles. . . . Junior Pam Fuller and freshman Santi Goetzinger will battle for the fifth spot. . . . Coach Jack Farrell said the key to the team's success will depend on whether or not it can develop a strong fifth runner.
Kennedy: The Golden Cougars, who finished third at the 1985 City championships, will attempt to win their second City title in four years. . . . Return top four runners from last year. . . . Lawson and junior Kim Crongeyer give Kennedy a fine 1-2 punch. Crongeyer finished 11th at the 1985 City championships and finished fourth in the 1,600 meters at the City track championships in June. She has run 5:05.89 in the 1,600. . . . Olga Padron, a junior, and Tanya Einem, a senior are expected to be No. 3 and 4 runners, as they were last year. . . . In order to win the City championship, the Golden Cougars need to develop a solid fifth runner.
Saugus: The Centurions finished third in the 3-A Division last year. . . . They are ranked fifth in the Southern Section poll . . . . Although he lost his third, fourth and fifth runners to graduation, Coach Steve Spraker has a solid team nucleus in Scobie and Reiter.