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STATE CROSS-COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS : Saddleback Picks Itself Up, Finishes Third

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Saddleback High’s quest for the boys’ state Division I cross-country title Saturday started on the wrong foot.

Or rather, no foot.

Five Saddleback runners tripped and fell about 30 yards into the Division I final here at Woodward Park. The race was restarted, and the field left the line cleanly.

The second chance proved worthwhile for Saddleback, which finished third with 123 points in a race that featured three of the nation’s top 11 teams as ranked by The Harrier magazine.

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Newhall Hart upset Madera, the state’s No. 1-ranked team, 58-113. Madera had been ranked third nationally, Hart ninth and Saddleback 11th.

The other top performers from Orange County were in girls’ Division II. Edison’s Shelley Taylor finished second individually, and Woodbridge was second in the team race.

Eddie Salinas led the Saddleback boys by placing 17th in 16 minutes 3 seconds. Albert Ochoa (16:22) and sophomore Johnny Ochoa (16:24) finished 37th and 40th.

The initial final standings sheet showed L.A. Belmont and Oxnard Channel Islands tied for third with 147 points, with Saddleback not listed. But the results were revised, and Saddleback was awarded the third-place plaque. Belmont placed fourth ahead of Channel Islands based on a higher-placing sixth runner.

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“This is going to make it a lot shorter bus ride back,” Saddleback Coach Mel Silva said. “We’re third in the state !”

Taylor who made up for a disappointing seventh in Division I last year with her runner-up finish in 17:46, 18 seconds behind Jeannie Rothman of Westlake. Rothman’s 17:28 was the fastest girls’ time of the day and only a second behind the meet record set by Agoura’s Deena Drossin last year.

Rothman steamed to the lead after one-half mile, and Taylor was playing catch-up the rest of the way.

Results also were initially incorrect for the girls’ Division II race, but that did not affect Woodbridge’s final standing.

The Warriors scored 83 points to 38 for Escondido San Pasqual. Woodbridge freshman Kay Nekota placed fourth in 18:07, and Katella’s Martha Pinto was sixth in 18:38.

Original results also shuffled the top 16 individuals. The revised team results fixed Anaheim Canyon and Tustin in their proper places.

Canyon, which was at first placed third ahead of Southern Section champion Westlake Village Westlake, was dropped to fourth (132 points) behind Westlake (107). Tustin jumped to sixth ahead of Fair Oaks Del Campo, 180-196.

“I am thankful they were able to figure it out instead of throwing out the results and saying they’re not going to have a champion or anything,” Woodbridge Coach George Varvas said.

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