Tim Butler, Dana Hills High School boys' cross-country coach, spent a good part of this week preparing for the worst.
He knew his runners, ranked third in the Southern Section 4-A, had the ability to finally break ahead of top-ranked Palos Verdes and second-ranked Corona del Mar.
But Butler's worries of team injury, illness and mental letdowns clouded any hope of victory.
Saturday, the cloud burst and the Dolphins reigned, winning the Southern Section 4-A cross-country championship with 63 points at Mt. San Antonio College.
Palos Verdes finished second with 87; Camarillo was third (97), and Corona del Mar, which stayed just seconds ahead of Dana Hills all season, finished a disappointing fourth (103).
"I almost want to say I can't believe it," Butler said. "It was such an incredible total team effort--the first time we were able to put it all together. That's the way to win championships."
Let us count the ways:
- Mike Tansley, the top Dolphin all year, got off to a fast start with teammate Javier Barrera, and they maintained the fourth and fifth-place positions behind Corona del Mar's Eddie Lavelle, Canyon's Brett Schultz and Newport Harbor's Jim Geerlings. With little more than a quarter-mile to go, Tansley surged down Reservoir Hill to finish second in 15 minutes 29 seconds.
Barrera finished seventh in 15:39, bettering his previous best at Mt. SAC by 11 seconds.
- Fermin Segura, usually Dana Hills' fourth man, was the Dolphins' third finisher, defeating Palos Verdes' No. 2 Bennie Cravatt and Corona del Mar's No. 3 Greg Shryock, to finish 10th (15:49).
- Andrew Tansley, Mike's identical twin, finished 26th (16:10), and Jerry Kurlak improved his Southern Section preliminary time 26 seconds to finish 34th in 16:21.
While Dana Hills rejoiced, Corona del Mar and Palos Verdes tried to warm their aching muscles and broken hearts.
"My worst fears were realized," said Palos Verdes Coach Joe Kelly, who lost the 4-A title last year by upset to Thousand Oaks. "Dana Hills ran beautifully, but it makes you wonder what they're possibly doing (in training) that you're not."
Palos Verdes' David Scudamore, who won the race in 15:11, the fastest time this year, found it difficult to celebrate his personal victory.
"Our primary goal was for the team to win here," Scudamore said. "It didn't matter which team beat us. I'm just surprised we lost to anyone."
Most were surprised by Corona del Mar's fourth-place finish.
The Sea Kings suffered a setback early in the race as Paul Scott tripped and fell in the first 300 yards, only to get trampled by several runners. Scott, usually the Sea Kings' fourth or fifth man, continued the race bloodied and bruised, finishing as Corona del Mar's seventh man.
In the 3-A division, La Habra's Terrence Mahon won the individual title in 15:26, the fastest Orange County time of the day.
Mahon battled Notre Dame's Mike Glaze and Arroyo's Jaime Ortega throughout the race but surged in the final 800 yards to outrun Glaze by two seconds.
"I was pretty nervous," Mahon said. "I could hear Glaze coming up behind me on the final stretch. I had to really push it to get there first."
Orange County fared well in several divisions. In the 4-A, Newport Harbor's Jim Geerlings finished third (15:31), 26 seconds faster than his time in last week's preliminary. Brett Schultz of Canyon was fifth (15:36), Corona del Mar's Eddie Lavelle was sixth (15:37) and Jim Robins was ninth (15:47). Other 4-A teams included El Modena (eighth) and Mission Viejo (ninth).
In 3-A, Buena Park finished fifth with 160 points, improving its team time by 1:07 over last week. Marty Baratti (seventh, 15:43) led the Coyotes. Rich Heppenstal led Woodbridge to a fourth-place finish in 2-A, and Brea-Olinda's Brent Jones placed sixth (15:51), a 43-second improvement from last week. Tony Bergman of Whittier Christian finished fifth (16:25) in the 1-A final. Orange County teams that qualified for the state championships Nov. 28 in Woodward Park in Fresno include: Dana Hills (Division I) and Corona del Mar, Newport Harbor and Woodbridge (Division II). La Habra's Terrence Mahon advances as the county's only individual runner.