They’ll come by the thousands, from the West Coast to the East, hoping to find a method to this madness they call Mt. SAC.
It’s the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational, the largest high school cross-country meet in the nation. Today and Saturday, more than 7,000 runners from 310 schools will converge upon the hills of Walnut, hoping to meet the challenges awaiting them.
Little has changed in the meet’s 40-year history. The course remains as one of the nation’s toughest, blending long, steep hills and winding switchbacks into a 3-mile running roller coaster.
The competition is just as tough. This year, Mt. SAC will feature the top teams from all parts of California, plus teams from Arizona, Nevada and New Jersey.
It is the New Jersey team--Lincroft Christian Bros. Academy--that has added an additional level of excitement to this year’s meet. The school returns what many consider the top boys’ team in the nation.
Led by seniors John Coyle, Dan Heffernan and Nick McDonough, all of whom have run faster than 4 minutes 20 seconds for the mile, Christian Bros. is the slight favorite to win the boys’ team sweepstakes division, starting at 9:43 Saturday morning.
Leading challengers include Camarillo, the top-ranked team in the Southern Section 4-A; Corona del Mar, ranked second in 4-A; Poway, a San Diego Section power; Casa Roble of Orangevale, Calif. (near Sacramento); and Belmont, a perennial City Section power.
The boys’ individual sweepstakes race (Saturday at 10:03) will include some of Orange County’s top runners--Jimmy Rodriguez of Santa Ana Valley, Roger Nava of Santa Ana, Bill Gould of Capistrano Valley, Mike Farrell of San Clemente and Steve Frisone of Laguna Hills--as well as Kevin Holbrook of Vacaville and Scott Hempel of Walnut, the defending State champion.
In the girls’ division race at 10:47 Saturday, Palos Verdes, the top-ranked team in 4-A and the defending Southern Section champion, is expected to repeat as team sweepstakes champion.
Although second-ranked Newport Harbor and third-ranked Villa Park will not be competing, county girls will be well-represented by fourth-ranked El Toro, fifth-ranked Huntington Beach, sixth-ranked San Clemente and seventh-ranked Santa Ana Valley.
Martha Pinto of Katella, the two-time defending Orange County girls’ champion, will find the best competition of the season in the individual sweepstakes Saturday at 10:23.
Pinto, a sophomore, is expected to be challenged by freshman sensation Tanja Brix of University, Andrea Caminiti of Irvine, Karen Hecox of South Hills and Kira Jorgensen of Rancho Buena Vista, who is the defending state and national high school champion.
Jorgensen is expected to make a run at the Mt. SAC course record of 17:16 set by Palos Verdes’ Kirstin O’Hara in 1983.
Mt. SAC Notes
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the competition, meet officials will initiate the first honorees to the Mt. SAC Hall of Fame. They are: Tim Danielson, the former Chula Vista High School standout and the last California high school runner to break 4 minutes in the mile. Tracy Smith, who set a world indoor 2-mile record holder while at Arcadia High in the mid-60s; UCLA Coach Bob Larsen, former coach at San Diego Monte Vista High, and Jack Hedges, who made popular heavy-distance training while at Westminster High in the early 1970s. They will be honored with a steak fry at the Mt. SAC field house, Friday at 6 p.m. . . . Small-school competition begins today at 2:30 p.m. Many county teams, including Woodbridge, Dana Hills and Newport Harbor, will not attend Mt. SAC in order to rest for upcoming league championships Nov. 4-5 and Southern Section preliminaries Nov. 11.