Before the Southern Section cross-country championships on Saturday, many people felt that the Marmonte League possessed the best distance-running talent. Saturday's results at Mt. San Antonio College proved it.
Led by Newbury Park's Melissa Sutton, who won an unprecedented third straight 4-A title, and the Thousand Oaks boys team, who won its second 4-A title in three years, Marmonte League runners turned in one stellar effort after another.
Santa Clarita Valley runners also turned in good efforts--particularly the Hart boys team, which finished second in the 3-A Division, and sophomore Heather Scobie of Saugus, who finished second (18:30) in the 3-A girls race. Agoura teammates Bryan Dameworth (15:35) and Matt Thomson (15:51) placed third and fifth in the 2-A race.
Sutton's 13th consecutive victory didn't come easily. Junior Brigid Freyene of Riverside Poly ran even with her for the first mile (5:26), but, just like last year, Sutton broke away up the switchbacks, cresting the peak with a 15-yard lead at the 1-mile mark.
She led by 60 yards after two miles, and she held the margin to the finish. Her 17:30 clocking was two seconds faster than her previous best and the sixth fastest time ever for a girl at Mt. SAC. Freyene was second in a personal best of 17:42, ninth fastest on the course.
Thousand Oaks' Christy Farrell duplicated her third-place finish of 1985 with a personal best of 17:51. Teammates Jena Haggenmiller (sixth) and Angie Lovell (seventh) also ran personal bests of 18:11 and 18:21.
Behind those performances, Thousand Oaks finished second in the team standings with 62 points.
Palos Verdes, considered to be the top girls team in the nation, placed five runners in the first 13 to repeat as 4-A champion with 42 points. Marmonte League rivals Westlake (89) and Newbury Park (147) finished third and fourth.
"I planned to make my move going up the switchbacks," Sutton said with a sigh of relief. "I was very tired toward the end of the race, so I'm glad that I was able to get away from her early."
Unlike Sutton, the Thousand Oaks boys team wasn't favored, but it upset Palos Verdes, the top-ranked team in the Southern Section 4-A Division, 63-67. Marmonte League teams, Camarillo and Newbury Park finished third (106) and sixth (161).
The key to Thousand Oak's victory were strong finishes in the final mile of the race. Bryan Gibby (15:51) moved from ninth to seventh, John Rogers (16:00) went from 16th to 12th and Dave Helsdon (16:08) went from 23rd to 16th in the last mile. The Lancers' victory was the third straight by a Marmonte league team in the 4-A. They won in 1984 and Simi Valley won in 1985.
Sophomore Mike Esparza of Newbury Park turned in the fastest time by a Valley-area runner in the 4-A race, finishing third in a personal best of 15:34.
Thousand Oaks Coach Jack Farrell was pleased with his team's performance. "We really came through," he said. "We didn't have a healthy Paul McCarter in the boys race but still won.
"And the girls ran fantastic. That's the toughest anyone has run against Palos Verdes this year."
Hart also ran tough in the 3-A race but fell short of Arroyo, the second-ranked team in the state, 59-85. Bobby Bans (sixth in 15:45) and Frank Flores (10th in 15:51) led Hart.
SUTTON'S RECORD STRING OF 4-A CHAMPIONSHIPS
Year Course Distance Time 1984 Mt. SAC 3 miles 18:00 1985 Mt. SAC 3 miles 17:32 1986 Mt. SAC 3 miles 17:30