Amy Skieresz won her first state title and Kay Nekota was the runner-up for the second time in the last three years, but a case of food poisoning short-circuited Agoura High's bid for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Division I girls' title in the state cross-country championships Saturday.
Skieresz, a junior, ran 17 minutes 49 seconds over the 5,000-meter course at Woodward Park to improve on her second-place finish last year, and Nekota powered past four opponents in the final 200 meters to finish second in 18:12, but Agoura finished a distant fifth in the team standings with 160 points.
Upstart Irvine, which finished fourth in the Southern Section final the previous week, edged Peninsula, 85-87, for the team title with Madera (107) finishing third and San Diego Mt. Carmel (142) coming in fourth. Thousand Oaks placed sixth with 175 points.
"It's a bummer (not to win the team title)," Skieresz said. "But it's not like it was a huge shock. We were prepared for it."
The Chargers' chances for the title evaporated when Cathy Prater--their No. 3 runner--spent much of Friday night vomiting, apparently because of some tainted lasagna she ate at a local restaurant.
Although Prater recovered enough to run, she was a shell of herself and finished 128th in 21:47.
To put that in perspective, consider that Prater finished third in the Marmonte League final earlier this month, less than a minute behind Skieresz.
"Even with her, I don't think we would have finished better than third," Agoura Coach Bill Duley said. "Those first two teams just really ran well."
Without Prater, Agoura's lack of depth became its Achilles' heel.
Vickie Greene finished 30th in 19:32 for the Chargers but Alison Kaz (94th in 20:52) and Carie Malnekoff (100th in 20:59) were too far back for the Chargers to contend for the title.
"Considering what happened, I think we did a good job to finish fifth," Duley said.
The ease with which Skieresz disposed of a high-quality field had many onlookers touting her as one of the favorites for the Foot Locker West regional Dec. 4, but she said Saturday's meet will be her last race of the season.
She plans to take a break after a difficult season during which she has had bouts with an ear infection and flu.
Thousand Oaks, which finished second to Agoura in the league final, appears to be the heir apparent to the Chargers next season as Kim Mortensen (ninth in 18:44) led a Lancer contingent Saturday that was comprised of two juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
Agoura has four seniors among its top seven.
Gabriela Rodriguez of Oxnard highlighted the performances of local runners in other races by finishing ninth in the Division II event with a time of 18:49.
Nordhoff finished seventh in the Division III race and Chaminade was eighth in the Division IV race.