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Burbank boys want a return to state

Jim Riggio

There will be a lot of young faces roaming around the local roads

and trails as the 2003 high school cross-country season gets set to



Across the city, the four schools -- Burbank, Burroughs,

Bellarmine- Jefferson and Providence -- have their share of talent,

especially with underclassmen, which should make for some promising

years ahead.


Here is a closer look at how the teams are shaping up:


The Bulldog boys’ team, which finished eighth in Division II of

the 2002 CIF-State Cross-Country Championship, lost four of its top

seven runners, including stars Kyle Ivie and Stratos Christianakis,

who graduated.

However, the Bulldogs had a lot of depth last season, and will be

prepared to put forth a strong squad thanks to a large group of


talented athletes.

Senior Preston Richardson, who ran 15 minutes 55 seconds on the

2.91-mile Mount San Antonio College course, returns and will be the

No. 1 man.

Junior Ryan Christofferson, senior Aram Sahagian, junior Eric

Christofferson (Ryan’s twin brother) and senior Rick Bennett, all ran

between 16:30 and 17:30 at Mount SAC last season.

Seniors Robbie Goodbar and Jason Holm also figure to make a run


for some of the top varsity spots.

“We’ve got a lot to be excited about, but we’ve got a lot of

unknowns,” said boys’ Coach Bob Shaw, who noted some athletes have

had injury problems in the past.

“Our goal is to finish in the top three in league. Hopefully, we

can make it to the CIF Finals. But now, we’ve moved up to Division


The move up in division means Burbank -- along with Burroughs and

the rest of the Foothill League -- will be battling some of the

finest teams in Southern California in its quest for a third trip to

the State Meet.

Darin Wolf, who is Burbank’s head track and field coach and the

school’s former girls’ volleyball coach, is taking over the girls’

cross-country team. Wolf said he has high hopes for his Bulldog


“Right now, we have three or four runners who are capable of

running sub-20 [minutes] at Mount SAC, and there should not be more

than a minute separating our top five runners,” Wolf said.

The good news for the Bulldog girls’ team is it does not have a

definite No. 1 runner.

Juniors Allison Ivie and Melissa Edwards both ran under 20 minutes

at Mount SAC last year. They should be pushed by senior Jenna

Nalbandian and several other newcomers.

Freshman Michelle Horgan could be an impact runner, as could

sophomores Neline Shamirian and Emily Ambrose and junior Salma Khan.

“Burbank has not sent a girls’ team to the CIF Final since 1978,”

Wolf said. “We are young and talented, and with only one senior on

the team, the next two years could be very exciting for us.”


The Guard girls’ team has enjoyed a streak that has lasted more

than a decade.

Bell-Jeff will be seeking its 13th consecutive league title this

season, as they narrowly captured the Sunshine League championship

last year to extend the streak.

The streak began in 1990 in the Mission League, and continued in

the Camino Real before the team moved to the Sunshine League last


“They’re all shooting for us,” Bell-Jeff Coach Jim Couch said of

the other teams in the league.

The league title will not be easy to win, with Pasadena La Salle,

L.A. Marymount and Alhambra Ramona Convent -- the Sunshine League

champion two years ago -- should all be tough.

The good news for Bell-Jeff is it returns its top six runners from

a team that finished ninth at the CIF Southern Section Division V

final in 2002.

Seniors Pharrin Lewis, Erin Madrid, Cynthia Hajj and Kelly Hobbs

are the veterans. The Guards also have some talented underclassmen in

junior Kathleen Burrola and sophomore Amber Herkey.

“We should be pretty competitive,” Couch said.

“It will be interesting to see what happens between now and


Although the Bell-Jeff’s boys’ team isn’t as strong, it should

have a quality 1-2 punch in juniors Gerad Herkey and Jeff Peng.

Herkey has gone 4:40 in the 1,600 meters during the track season

and 15:36 on Bell-Jeff’s 2.9-mile home Griffith Park course. Peng ran

in the mid-16s at Griffith Park last year.

Junior Geo Lauren also returns and should be a top runner and

sophomores Mike Perez, Jimmy Gonzalez and Stephen Stevens will have

to fill in the gaps to complete the top five.

“I think Gerad and Jeff have a shot to go 1-2 in the league this

year,” Couch said of the Santa Fe League.

Couch said Herkey should make the state meet as an individual,

after missing qualifying by one place last season.


After three consecutive second-place finishes to Canyon in league,

the Burroughs girls’ cross-country team might be hard-pressed to

continue its success.

However, despite losing four-year standout Carolyn Brown to

graduation, the Indians still have junior Katie Vahoviak, the school

record holder in the 3,200 (11:28). She has also gone 5:20 in the


“Katie found her motivation this summer, trained well, and

hopefully it will translate into something special,” Burroughs Coach

John Peebles said.

Sophomores Alex Cetateanu, Adrianna Powers, senior Hilary Duran

and freshman Michelle Martinez round out the Indians’ top five


Peebles said he might elect to keep some of his top runners down

on the lower levels instead of pushing them up to varsity.

“Unless we do something eye-opening in the first few meets, I

would rather give these younger girls a chance for some success at

the lower level, rather than get them in over their heads on the

varsity level,” Peebles said.

The Burroughs boys’ team has struggled the past two years, but the

Indians are more experienced this season and should make for a strong


Peebles has 12 runners competing for seven varsity spots. With

just one senior, most of the team’s runners are juniors and


Junior Daniel Anderson (4:38 in 1,600 and 10:02 in 3,200) is

Burroughs’ top returner. Sophomore Adrian Harrison and junior Josh

Betancourt should provide some good support for Anderson.

Peebles said he has enough depth that he can change the lineup if

he needs to.

“This is something that the kids will decide in practices and

races,” Peebles said.

“Nobody is assured of a spot, not even Daniel or Adrian. The

question becomes who has the legs, lungs, heart and head to become a

varsity runner? I am excited to see who is willing to step it up and

take it to the next level.”


The Pioneers boys’ and girls’ teams are hoping to improve from

last season, as neither qualified for the postseason

Pacing the boys’ team is a pack of runners led by senior Tommy

Boucher, who will running under the guidance of his sister, Coach

Michelle Boucher.

Tommy Boucher is an accomplished athlete, as he has found success

as a Pioneer boys’ basketball and volleyball player.

Junior Ranier Blanco, sophomore Joey Henderson, junior Joseph

Gopez and sophomore Armen Chircorian should give the Pioneers a pack

that will make them competitive in the Liberty League, which

continues to improve.

“We have a pretty good pack and we have quite a few runners

back,” Michelle Boucher said. “There’s eight teams in the league, so

finishing in the top half is definitely doable.”

The girls’ team isn’t as deep. Junior Nadia Simon was an honorable

mention all-league selection last year, as she finished among the top

15 in the eight-team league final.

Senior Patty Batres and junior Kendra Shaughnessy are two others

who figure to be key contributors.

The Pioneers will be looking forward to participating in the

Burbank All-City Meet, an event they haven’t run in since 2000.

Two years ago, the meet was canceled in wake of the Sept. 11

tragedies, and last season the Pioneers had to miss the meet because

of a league contest that fell the same day.

“The kids really want to run in the All-City Meet,” Michelle

Boucher said. “They were disappointed they couldn’t last year.”