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HIGH SCHOOL CROSS-COUNTRY SEASIDE INVITATIONAL : Hart Boys Win 3 of 4 Team Races

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Hart High boys’ cross-country team solidified its No. 1 national ranking Saturday by winning three of four team titles en route to the overall sweepstakes championship in the Seaside Invitational at San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura.

“I don’t know about being No. 1 in the country, but we’re a darn good team. No bones about it,” Hart Coach Gene Blankenship said.

Paced by Mike Dukes, who finished fourth in 15 minutes 6 seconds, the Indians edged Claremont, 73-77, to win the senior-division race. Keith Grossman (14:50) and Paul De La Cerda (15:08) finished 1-2 in the junior-division race as Hart recorded a 16-72 victory over cross-town rival Canyon.

The Indians also won the sophomore-division title, 61-63, edging Claremont behind the second- and third-place efforts of Gavin Klinger (15:28) and Jose Erazo (15:37). Brett Strahan won the freshman race in 15:25 but Hart (69 points) placed third behind Channel Islands (38) and Thousand Oaks (55). In all, 11 Hart boys’ runners bettered 16 minutes on the flat, three-mile course.

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Thousand Oaks junior Stacey Auer was slow to warm up in the girls’ junior-senior race but still managed to hold off a surprising challenge from Canyon’s Robin Heidt to win in 17:13, the fastest girls’ time of the day. Heidt finished second in 17:23.

“It hurt the first half-mile because it’s hard for me to get into a pace early in the race,” Auer said.

Simi Valley (99) won the junior-senior team title behind the third-place finish of Rikke Pedersen and Elizabeth DiLalla’s eight-place run. Pedersen, an exchange student from Denmark, timed 17:36 in her first race in the United States. DiLalla timed 18:05.

Jeff Wilson of Newbury Park took a wrong turn with about 200 yards remaining in the boys’ senior race but recovered in time to win, squeaking past San Marcos’ Todd Tressler, 14:35 to 14:36.

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Wilson’s final sprint surprised Coach Ed Linglebach because Wilson’s training has not yet included speed work. “We start that Tuesday,” Linglebach said.

Wilson made up about a 50-yard deficit on Tressler, who is known more for his speed. Last year as a junior, Tressler timed 4:10.12 for 1,600 meters in track and placed second in the state championships.


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