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Ventura Dominates Team Race; Corona’s Escobar Wins Division

Two freshmen and another runner who gets mistaken for an underclassman took home individual titles Saturday at the state girls’ cross-country championships at Woodward Park.

In the team competitions, nothing compared with Ventura.

The Cougars completed a dominant postseason run by placing five runners in the top 24 of the Division I race, all finishing under 18 minutes 55 seconds. Emily Spiker placed seventh overall in 18:06 to lead Ventura to its second consecutive Division I title.

Alma Escobar, a junior at Corona, won the Division I race in 17:33, becoming the first girl from Riverside County to win a state cross-country title. Escobar, who is 4 feet 8 and weighs about 80 pounds, finished 24 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Lindsay de la Mo of Rancho Bernardo while producing the fastest girls’ time of the meet.

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It was a big improvement over a year ago, when a hip injury slowed Escobar at the state finals and she finished 17th in 18:32.

“We just kept her loose, kept her distracted before the race,” said Corona Coach Mark Gardner. “We went shopping at Old Navy before the race.”

Freshmen Kauren Tarver of Phelan Serrano and Shelby Buckley of Fullerton Rosary also went home with victories.

Tarver, who had the fastest time of the day at the section championships, won the Division II title in 17:48.

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She made her move with about a mile to go, passing Tori Tyler of Palo Alto Gunn and pulling away to defeat second-place finisher Whitney Blue of Newport Harbor by 10 seconds.

“It took a while to catch her,” said Tarver, whose victory helped the Diamondbacks finish third in the team competition.

Buckley won the Division III race in 18:10, holding off Clara Viehweg of San Francisco St. Ignatius by one second, the closest race of the day.

-- Dan Arritt

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