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Newbury Park Runner Gets Kick Out of 2nd : Prep cross-country: Hoover’s Casillas places fifth and Fillmore’s Aparicio seventh in national championships.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jeff Wilson of Newbury Park High and Margarito Casillas of Hoover, two of the top cross-country runners in the state, joined the nation’s elite Saturday with their performances in the Kinney national championships at Morley Field.

Wilson, a senior, timed 15 minutes 18.7 seconds over the 5,000-meter course and placed second behind Corey Ihmels (15:03.6) of Williston, N. D. Casillas, a junior, was fifth in 15:30.6. Agoura junior Ryan Wilson, third behind Casillas and Wilson in last week’s West regional, finished a disappointing 28th in 16:20.7.

In the girls’ race, junior Maribella Aparicio of Fillmore finished a surprising seventh, timing 18:02.8 over the 5,000-meter course. Juniors Liz Mueller of Waterford, Conn., and Amanda White of Cockeysville, Md., battled for the lead before Mueller blew the race open in the last half-mile to win in 17:21. White was second in 17:43.3.

With no less than 10 individuals considered potential winners, the boys’ race was a crapshoot, so it was fitting that the runner who took the biggest gamble won.

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Ihmels, the Midwest regional champion, surged to a 20-yard lead shortly after the one-mile mark (4:45) and was never seriously challenged. He held a seven-second lead after two miles (9:43) and his victory margin of 15 seconds was the second-largest in the boys’ race since the meet began in 1979.

Jeff Wilson and Casillas--along with Northeast region champion Brendan Heffernan of Glen Gardner, N.J., and Angel Martinez of San Gabriel--were the leaders of the pack in pursuit of Ihmels after his big move. Casillas caught a glimpse of Ihmels but did not immediately react; Wilson simply was caught unawares.

“I didn’t notice him making his break,” Wilson said. “I was looking around at the mile to see where everyone was, and, all of a sudden, he was gone. I just said, ‘Whoops.’ ”

Casillas, the surprise winner of the West regional, saw Ihmels throw down the gauntlet, but said he figured that Ihmels would come back to the pack.

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The last mile was strictly a race for second as Brian Hesson of Elba, Ohio, Wilson, Martinez and Casillas battled for position. Hesson, who had grabbed the eighth and final qualifying position in the Midwest regional two weeks ago, held second place until the final 150 meters, when Wilson swooped past him.

“There was no way I thought I was going to get second,” Wilson said, “but I kept telling myself, ‘You can catch him. You can catch him.’ ”

Aparicio was 28th in the 32-runner field after a half-mile but moved into 13th at the mile (5:29) and was fourth at two miles (11:25) before being passed by three runners in the last half-mile.

“I wasn’t worried early in the race because I knew they would go out fast,” Aparicio said. “I just wanted to stay within myself and come through the mile in 5:30. . . . After that, I just kept telling myself to move up and keep working.”

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