For the third time in the past 3 years, a runner from Granada Hills High will be a contender for the individual title when the City Section cross-country championships are held Nov. 19 at Pierce College.
For the first time during that span, however, a Highlander athlete will not be favored. But that suits Craig Lawson just fine.
“I run better when I’m the underdog,” Lawson said after finishing second to Martin Morales of Wilson in heat 2 of the City prelims at Pierce on Thursday. “Today went just as I hoped it would. I just wanted to qualify for next week. I didn’t want to run all-out today, and I didn’t have to.”
Lawson clocked 15 minutes, 8 seconds over the 3-mile course while Morales ran 15:06, the fastest time of the day.
Natividad Gaona of Belmont won heat 1 in 15:07 to set up a 3-runner showdown next week.
In contrast, the battle for the boys’ team title should not be close.
Belmont, the six-time defending City champion and the third-ranked team in the state Division I, should romp to its seventh consecutive title.
Led by Gaona, the Sentinels placed 5 runners in the first 8 to score 19 points in the prelims. Roosevelt (102), North Hollywood (112), Birmingham (118) and El Camino Real (136) rounded out the top 5.
The top 5 teams and the top 15 individuals in each heat qualified for the City championships.
Alex Guidi and Christy Stubbs of El Camino Real placed 1-2 in heat 1 of the girls’ meet to lead the Conquistadores to a third-place finish with 76 points.
Belmont placed first with 67 points and San Pedro finished second with 75. Franklin (147) and Birmingham (149) rounded out the top 5.
Guidi ran 18:56, the third-fastest time of the day, and Stubbs was clocked in 19:17.
Roosevelt’s Luisa Soliman upset defending City champion Martha Segura of Lincoln in heat 2. Soliman ran 18:46 and Segura finished in 18:54.
Arecilia Gomez of Wilson placed third (19:06) as the Mules placed 4 runners in the top 11 and scored 35 points. Garfield (52), South Gate (113), Taft (114) and Lincoln (125) rounded out the top 5.
Wilson, the two-time defending City champion, will be favored to make it 3 in a row next weekend, when Lawson will attempt to give Granada Hills its second consecutive individual title.
Ian Alsen, now at Arkansas, won the 1987 title after placing second to Tefere Gebre of Belmont in 1986.
“I’m not really worried about winning next week,” said Lawson, who placed fourth in last year’s City meet.