Ventura Runners Do Two-Step
The Ventura High boys’ cross-country team may have found its long-awaited 1-2 punch at just the right time.
Junior Josh Spiker, who ran 9:18.23 in the 3,200 meters during track season, and senior Matt Swaney, who clocked 9:37.81, were expected to be one of the best tandems in Southern California at the start of the season. But Swaney struggled--by his standards--before rounding into form the last two weeks.
The difference was evident in the Southern Section preliminaries at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday when Spiker and Swaney finished 1-2 in their heat to help the Cougars to a second-place finish behind Murrieta Valley.
With 77 points, Ventura finished four behind Murrieta Valley, but three ahead of third-place Saugus, the No. 5-ranked Division I team in the state.
The top four teams in each of the four Division I heats advanced to the section championships at Mt. SAC on Nov. 21.
“That was a really good race,” Spiker said of Swaney’s effort. “We ran real well as a team.”
Spiker’s 15:24 clocking over the three-mile course was the fastest of the meet at any level and gave him his third consecutive victory and seventh in 10 races this season.
The time was also three seconds faster than he ran in placing fifth in the individual sweepstakes race of the Mt. SAC Invitational on Oct. 24.
“I expected to run slower today because I was having a hard time breathing in the last mile,” Spiker said. “It was really dry and I’m not a hot-weather runner.”
Swaney ran 15:46 to cut 15 seconds off his best at Mt. SAC and credited a slower pace in the first mile for his success.
“I’ve tried to run more relaxed the last couple of weeks,” he said. “In the [earlier] races, I was always trying to go out with the leaders and that’s not the way I ran last year. I would be back at the mile, but work my way toward the front by the end.”
Senior Jacob Boeding of Saugus placed fourth in 16:00 and senior teammate Dan Klawer finished fifth in 16:03 for the Centurions, who appeared to be saving something for the section final.
In other races, senior Lauren Fleshman of Canyon won her Division I heat, Nordhoff won its boys’ and girls’ Division IV heats and La Canada won both races at the Division III level.
Fleshman, who has won nine of 10 races, cruised to a 18:29 clocking after running 17:19 to place second in the individual sweepstakes race of the Mt. SAC Invitational.
Nordhoff, defending state Division IV boys’ champion, defeated runner-up Costa Mesa, 52-98.
The Ranger girls defeated Costa Mesa, 36-68, in their heat.
La Canada, defending state Division III girls’ champion, won its heat with a 32-61 victory over Newbury Park.
The Spartan boys defeated South Hills, 57-61, in their heat.
The Simi Valley girls were notable nonqualifiers at the Division I level, placing sixth in their heat.
The Pioneers were ranked ninth in the section, but were hurt by the absence of freshman Dannielle Fernandez, who was injured, and junior Summer Tracey, who was suspended from school, according to Coach Roger Evans.