As a freshman at University High School last year, Tanja Brix was one of Orange County's top cross-country runners.
But this year, the spotlight has shifted to Shelley Taylor of Edison. Taylor, also a sophomore, was a big favorite to win Saturday's state cross-country championship, but she stumbled and finished seventh.
Brix, The Times' Athlete of the Week, finished fourth in 18 minutes 6 seconds--a personal best for a 5-kilometer race. The three runners ahead of her--Deena Drossin (Agoura), Becky Spies (Livermore) and Jeannie Rothman (Westlake Village Westlake)--are all juniors.
Throughout the season, Brix, 15, finished below her potential, saying she was tired. Some wondered if burnout was setting in. But five weeks ago, it was discovered she was anemic.
"In practice, my coach would give me times to repeat and I could never hit them," Brix said. "I started out the year finishing the same (as last year), but gradually I got a little slower. . . . I got real depressed.
"I took a blood test because I thought I had mononucleosis," she said. Instead, the tests showed she was anemic, so she began taking iron supplements, and by early November had recovered sufficiently to win her second consecutive Sea View League title.
In Saturday's state final, Brix got yet another chance to run against Taylor after losing to her in the Southern Section preliminaries and finals. Not expected to challenge, she finished 24 seconds ahead of Taylor.
"It kind of took the pressure off me," Brix said of the lack of attention. "It was all new to me last year. It was the first time I had really been in the paper. So subconsciously, I think it put more pressure on me. I didn't really think about it, but it was always there."
Brix and Taylor have two more years in which to continue their competition.
"Of course, it was nice (to beat her)," Brix said, "but I know she's going to be back out there next year."
Missy Clements led the La Habra volleyball team (20-1) to an upset of defending state champion Highland of Bakersfield Saturday in the semifinals of the Southern California Regional tournament. Clements' 27 kills, 13 blocks and five aces helped La Habra to its 19th consecutive victory, 15-13, 15-5, 12-15, 14-16, 15-4.
Danielle Everett had 25 kills and seven blocks in Corona del Mar's 15-9, 15-10, 15-11 victory over host Poway in Saturday's Division I state quarterfinal match. The Sea Kings (23-1), ranked second in the state to Mira Costa, advance to today's semifinals against San Jose Lynbrook in San Jose.
University High School
* Position: Cross-country runner
* Height, Weight, Class: 5-4, 100, Sophomore
* Last Week: Brix finished fourth in the state Division I cross-country championships Saturday.
* Season: Brix won her second consecutive Sea View League championship.