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HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS’ CROSS-COUNTRY PREVIEW : Veteran Agoura Team Anticipates a Showdown With Palos Verdes

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Palos Verdes has ruled the Southern Section 4-A Division for the past three seasons and has been the state’s top-ranked team for the past two, but that reign might end Nov. 26 when Agoura and Palos Verdes are expected to clash at Fresno’s Woodward Park for the state Division I title.

Led by Deena Drossin’s individual victory, the 2-A champion Chargers finished second to Palos Verdes, 70-91, in last year’s championships. And with its top seven runners returning from the 1987 squad--three more than Palos Verdes--Agoura has an excellent chance to dash to the top.

“We’re definitely looking forward to the challenge,” Agoura Coach Bill Duley said. “We’re excited about the possibilities, but we’re relaxed and confident about it.

“We’re looking forward to racing Palos Verdes and seeing how we compare with them.”

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Drossin placed 11th in the Kinney national cross-country championships in San Diego last year and was the Southern Section 1-A champion in the 1,600 meters. She is looking forward to meeting the Sea Kings but said that the match-up is not a frequent topic of conversation.

“We haven’t really talked about it,” she said. “But I’m sure it’s something that we’ll talk more about as the season goes on.”

The Chargers will have to wait several days before they are up to full speed. Drossin injured her right arch in August and will not race until a five-team Frontier League meet at Santa Clara on Sept. 27.

Though the injury forced her to curtail her daily training--she ran only 2 miles a day for three weeks--Drossin compensated with a swimming and cycling regimen.

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“Her workouts in the pool were geared to what we were doing on the track,” Duley said. “If we were running 10 quarters at 80-second pace, Deena would run in the pool for the same period of time. She may be a little rusty when she returns, but she shouldn’t have lost much of her cardiovascular capabilities.”

Sophomore Tiffany York, 15th in the state cross-country championships last year, is again expected to be the Chargers’ No. 2 runner, but junior Cheyenne Zontelli could challenge her by season’s end.

“She has a tremendous amount of talent,” Duley said of Zontelli, who placed third in the 800 meters in the 1-A track championships. “I think her success in track really got her motivated for cross-country. She trained well over the summer and could be a key to our success this year.”

Senior Tally Rowland and sophomore Stacy Kristan are the Nos. 4 and 5 runners, and senior Grace Asuncion and sophomore Michelle Schultz are Nos. 6 and 7. Asuncion is healthy after being injured most of the 1987-88 school year; Rowland might have been the Chargers’ most consistent runner last year.

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Even if Agoura doesn’t win the state title, five of the top seven runners will be back to try again next year.

“We’re in good shape for the next few seasons,” Duley said. “But I wouldn’t mind winning it this year.”

OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH

Newbury Park: The Panthers have placed fourth, fourth and seventh in the past three Southern Section 4-A championships.

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They could improve this year because the top seven runners from last year’s team return.

Senior Amy Nesbitt will lead the defending Marmonte League champions. Nesbitt took a break from running during track season, but Coach Mike Stewart said she has returned with renewed vigor.

“She’s really fired up,” Stewart said. “I expect big things out of her this year.”

Sophomore Rachel Muir and senior Samantha Hodgdon will battle for the No. 2 position. Sophomores Lori Lopez, Christina Penilla and Laura Whitworth are expected to be the fourth, fifth and sixth runners.

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“Making it to state is a big goal,” Stewart said. “And a realistic one.”

El Camino Real: The Conquistadores’ success will depend on whether they can round up solid fourth and fifth runners.

Their top three of Alex Guidi, Christy Stubbs and Melissa Guidi (Alex’s twin) might be the most potent 1-2-3 punch in the Valley area excluding Agoura.

Alex Guidi placed seventh in last year’s City Section cross-country championships and ran third in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200 in the section track championships. Stubbs placed eighth in the cross-country championships and fourth in the 3,200 during the track championships, and Melissa Guidi placed sixth in the 800 in the City championships.

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“We’re great for the first three runners,” Coach George Martin said. “But we’re not going anywhere as a team unless we find a good fourth and fifth runner.”


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