Two of the most frequently used axioms in cross-country are, "Every place counts," and, "It's a team sport," and both proved to be true at the City championships at Pierce College Saturday.
Led by Ian Alsen's victory, Granada Hills High School tied Belmont for first place in the boys' varsity race with 47 points, but Belmont won its sixth consecutive title because the Sentinels had a faster sixth man. Birmingham placed third with 96 points.
In the girls' race, Martha Segura of Lincoln won the individual title and Wilson won its second consecutive team crown with 51 points. Kennedy placed second with 78 points, and Belmont was third with 94.
"It's a lousy way to lose," Granada Hills Coach Bob Augello said of the tiebreaking procedure. "When I heard we tied, I knew we were history."
Although Alsen, Craig Lawson and Paul Klinedinst placed first, fourth and sixth for Granada Hills, the Highlanders couldn't match Belmont's superior depth.
While Joel Schweiger (27th) and Steve Gordon (31st) were the Granada Hills' fourth and fifth scorers, Belmont placed six runners in the top 25, led by Julian Otero in seventh and Natividad Gaona in eighth.
Jose Bautista (25th) was Belmont's sixth runner, and Tim Ells (38th) was Granada Hills' sixth runner.
"This has to be the most gratifying win of the six," Belmont Coach Gordon Weisenberger said. "The first win was the most exciting because it was the first. But this one was more gratifying because I didn't think we'd win. I didn't tell the guys, but I really thought Granada Hills was going to win."
Alsen, who bypassed the Kinney national championships in San Diego to compete in the City meet, controlled the race from the start.
He and Birmingham's Sabino Miranda passed the one-mile mark in 5:18 and the two-mile mark in 10:20 before Alsen broke the race open with a decisive move heading up the final set of switchbacks.
"I really wanted to go for a course record," said Alsen, the runner-up in the 1986 championships. "But the weather conditions were so bad that I just ran to win."
Alsen, who set the high school three-mile course record of 14:23 at Pierce earlier this year, clocked 15:03 in windy conditions Saturday.
Miranda, who placed eighth in 1986, placed second in 15:26.
"I'm happy that I won, but disappointed that we lost," Alsen said. "I didn't know they would go to the sixth man to break the tie. It's hard to accept, but it's one of those things that happens. We've got to live with it now."
Segura ran a perfect tactical race to win the girls' title in 18:41. The lanky Lincoln senior let Wilson's Arcela Lopez set the pace for the first 2 1/2 miles before taking the lead.
When Segura crested the summit of the 150-yard long hill, she had a five-yard lead, which grew to six seconds at the finish. Lopez faded to third, but Wilson placed five runners in the top 21 to win easily.