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
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,
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
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
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.”