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Confounding Canyon Girls Seem Poised for Title Run

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Canyon High cross-country Coach Dave DeLong is a little mystified entering today’s Southern Section cross-country championships at Mt. San Antonio College.

Canyon, the state’s top-ranked Division I girls’ team, is favored to win its first section title in the meet that starts at 7:30 a.m, yet DeLong is surprised at how easily the Cowboys won their heat in last week’s preliminaries.

“To be honest, I am a little bit baffled at how easy it looked,” he said. “The girls ran easier than they had [in the Mt. SAC Invitational] and yet they dominated their heat. . . . We are a good team, but we’re not so good that we should be doing what we did Saturday.”

Paced by the 2-3-5 finish of junior Julie Harris, freshman Lauren Fleshman and senior Kellie Stigile, Canyon placed five runners among the top 14 finishers to score 28 points, well ahead of runner-up Arroyo Grande’s 77.

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Thousand Oaks, the defending Division I champion, was the state’s No. 1-ranked team during the first half of the season, but the Lancers fell to second after finishing behind Canyon last month in the Mt. SAC Invitational. In addition, the Lancers haven’t been at full strength for the past two meets.

Senior Tara Marsden and sophomore Erin Sorensen missed the Marmonte League championships because of illness. Sorensen had not recovered enough to compete in last week’s prelims.

Thousand Oaks senior Kim Mortensen is heavily favored to win the individual title, but the Lancers’ second-through-fifth runners must run substantially faster than they did in the prelims to defeat Canyon.

“Right now, we’ve got Kim and a bunch of barely sub-20 [minute] runners,” Thousand Oaks Coach Jack Farrell said. “We’ve got five or six girls who could run between 19:30 and 20 minutes, but that’s not going to beat Canyon. One or two girls are going to have to run down in the low 19s for us to win.”

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Based on times, Canyon had four girls ahead of Thousand Oaks’ No. 2 runner in the prelims.

“I look at it on paper and I think, ‘How can we lose?,’ ” DeLong said. “I guess it could be a year that the [other teams] are just a little bit off, or no one has stepped forward yet.”

Canyon is among four teams from the region favored to win titles.

The Nordhoff boys, the two-time defending state Division III champions, finished 1-2-3-4-7 in winning their preliminary heat and are heavily favored to win their second consecutive Division III section title. Seniors Will Bernaldo and Omar Vega, and sophomores Victor Ochoa and Dusty Herman, all appear capable of finishing among the top eight individuals.

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Sophomore Elaine Canchola is expected to successfully defend her individual title and lead Nordhoff to its second consecutive championship in the Division III girls’ race.

Louisville, paced by senior Shaluinn Fullove, the defending section champion, is expected to win the Division IV title.

Hoover could win the Division I boys’ title if junior David Lopez has recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the prelims.

Lopez and Thousand Oaks senior Todd Disney could contend for the Division I individual title. St. Francis senior Kevin Koeper might do likewise in the Division III race.

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The top four teams in each race and the top five individuals not on a qualifying team advance to next week’s State championships in Fresno.

The City Section championships also are scheduled for today, at 8:30 a.m. at Pierce College.

The top two teams and the top five individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to the State finals.

Belmont, paced by individual favorite Manuel Lopez, is expected to win the boys’ meet, but local runners could emerge victorious in the girls’ race.

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El Camino Real freshman Jamie Newman had the fastest time in last week’s prelims, and Taft and Birmingham are among five teams capable of winning the team title.


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