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CROSS-COUNTRY / BOYS’ STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS : Santa Margarita’s Murray Keeps Up With the Elite

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Being a student of the sport, Michael Murray knew what he had to do at the CIF State Cross-Country Championships on Saturday in Woodward Park.

But Murray, a Santa Margarita junior, had not aimed his goal nearly high enough. Murray ran with the state’s finest in the Division II final, finishing fifth in 15 minutes 41 seconds.

“I was hoping for the top 10, so this was a big surprise,” said Murray, the Sea View League and Southern Section Division II-A champion this fall.

Daniel Sikiric of San Jose Leland and Michael Stember of Carmichael Jesuit surged after the two-mile point of the 3.1-mile race, the point at which Murray made a critical decision.

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“Once they started to separate, I knew I could go with them,” Murray said.

“I knew when they moved, I had to go with them or I wouldn’t be in it at all.”

Sikiric (15:23) eventually pulled away from Stember (15:29), the nation’s fastest 1,600-meter runner as a junior last fall. David McQuitty of La Mesa Grossmont (15:31) and Ayub Abdusalam of Hoover (15:31) also finished ahead of Murray.

Katella’s boys’ team, the Freeway League winners, scored 180 points to finish seventh, one place ahead of Orange (212).

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Matt Wickersham of Mater Dei posted the highest individual finish by an Orange County boy, finishing fourth in the Division I race.

Wickersham, who won the Division I-A section title last weekend, put himself in position to win by moving up from 11th after the first mile and seventh at the two-mile mark.

But a poor final mile kept the South Coast League champion from the individual title, crossing the line in 15:48.

“I should have been up there,” Wickersham said. “I just didn’t turn it on in that final mile.”

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Mira Mesa senior Larry Henderson won in 15:41, edging Palos Verdes Peninsula senior Ryan Deane (15:46) and Thousand Oaks senior Todd Disney (15:47).

Santa Ana, which won the section Division I-A team title last weekend, faded to 10th place with 228 points.

El Modena was fifth and Corona del Mar seventh in the Division III final.

The Vanguards, led by senior Ryan Emenaker (17th place, 16:20) scored 145 points. The Sea Kings, led by senior Andrew Gwin (26th, 16:31) scored 157 points.

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Ryan Downey was the only county representative in the Division IV race, with the St. Margaret’s sophomore finishing 13th in 16:41.

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Cross-country notes

Nick Russell of Orange was 24th in the Division II race. . . . The Katella duo of Erick Miramontes and Edgar Benitez finished 28th and 29th, respectively, in the Division II race. . . . Santa Ana senior Wenceslado Morales led the Saints in the Division I race with a 20th-place finish in 16:20.

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