If Kim Mortensen of Thousand Oaks High is nervous about running in the Foot Locker national cross-country championships today at Morley Field in Balboa Park, it wasn't evident Thursday night.
"It's kind of like the icing on the cake," she said. "It's a reward for all the hard work and dedication."
The national championships began in 1979 and are composed of the top eight boys' and girls' finishers from the West, Midwest, Northeast and South regionals.
Mortensen finished second behind Santa Rosa junior Julia Stamps last Saturday in the West regional at Fresno's Woodward Park. She is regarded by many as the runner with the best chance--albeit a very slight one--of upsetting the defending national champion in the race today, which starts at 10.
"I just know that I'm going to give it everything I've got and have a good time with it," Mortensen said. "I'm not going to hold anything back. . . . But [there will] be other races. So I don't think it's worth getting all nervous over one race."
Already this year, Mortensen has finished second behind Stamps four times. She was runner-up to Stamps in the Stanford Invitational in September, the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in October and in the State Division I and West regional championships the past two weeks in Fresno.
Stamps' margins of victories have ranged from 19 to 40 seconds over Mortensen, but the Lancer senior has always appeared to have something in reserve.
Mortensen has won 10 races, broken seven course records and tied another this season.
Mortensen, Midwest regional champion Katy Radkewich of Beaumont High in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Northwest regional champion Dana Ostrander of Shenendehowa High in Clifton Park, N.Y., are expected to battle for second behind Stamps.
Radkewich, a junior, finished seventh in last year's meet and, Ostrander, a senior, placed eighth.
Nordhoff sophomore Elaine Canchola, making her second appearance in the national meet, could contend for a top-10 finish.
Canchola placed 19th last year after a surprising second-place finish in the West regional. She placed fourth last week in the West regional but said she was running "just to qualify."
Nordhoff senior Will Bernaldo qualified for the boys' race with a surprising seventh-place finish in the West regional.
After finishing third in the Division III race of the State championships Nov. 25, Bernaldo was considered a longshot for nationals.
Nordhoff Coach Ken Reeves figured that a 20th-place finish would be a great accomplishment, but Bernaldo cut 21 seconds off his previous best at Woodward Park.
A top-20 finish today would again seem like a high goal, but Reeves said, "Will doesn't know he's not supposed to win the race and I'm not going to tell him anything differently."