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Vahoviak runs away from field

GRIFFITH PARK -- Last summer, Burroughs High junior Katie Vahoviak

decided to give up basketball and concentrate strictly on being a

distance runner.

The decision has paid dividends this season for Vahoviak, who put


on a fine performance Saturday in the 30th annual Bellarmine

Cross-Country Invitational at Griffith Park.

Vahoviak ran away from the rest of the field in the combined

Division II-III girls’ varsity race, clocking 17 minutes 59 seconds


on the 2.9-mile course adjacent to the Greek Theatre.

Vahoviak had to outlast Alex Salinas of South Torrance to win the


“We were right together, and then up the sandy hill, [Salinas]

faded back and I pulled away,” Vahoviak said.

“This summer, I really picked myself up and I realized I could do

something if I pushed myself.”

Salinas was second in 18:38.


Vahoviak’s time was the third fastest for a female in the meet,

which included four girls’ varsity races.

Although Burroughs only had three girls in the race, and didn’t

score as a team, Vahoviak’s teammates also performed well. Adrianna

Powers finished seventh (19:43) and Michelle Martinez was 10th


In an invitational that has become a local tradition, the event

featured all four area schools. Along with Burroughs, Burbank,


Providence and host Bellarmine-Jefferson also had some fine


The Burbank High boys’ team placed sixth in the Division I race

with 187 points. The Bulldogs were paced by an outstanding

performance from senior Preston Richardson, who took third in 15:15.

“I wanted to get a better time,” Richardson said. “But I’m happy

that I’m able to continue running well with my teammates, because I

want Burbank to be recognized.”

L.A. Loyola junior Mark Matusak -- one of the top runners in the

nation -- won the Division I race in 14:28, short of the course

record of 14:10 set in 1986 by Glendale’s Richard Erbes. Matusak, who

had the fastest time of the day, ran 14:20 in the event last year.

Bell-Jeff junior Gerad Herkey ran in the Division I race without

the rest of his team, which competed in Division V. In an attempt to

get some competition among a faster group of runners, Herkey didn’t

disappoint, as he finished seventh in 15:30.

“I tried to push it in the hills, but they are hard,” Herkey

said. “I was aiming for Mark, because I knew he was going for the

record, but he was holding his own. He’s a real mature runner.”

Ryan Christoffersen (11th; 15:40), Rick Bennett (47th; 16:40),

Aram Sahagian (61st; 17:11), Jason Holm (65th; 17:16), Eric

Christoffersen (66th; 17:17) and Eslam Morsey (78th; 17:45) rounded

out the Burbank team.

The Burroughs boys’ team finished fifth with 139 points in the

Division II-III combined race.

Daniel Anderson led the Indians by taking sixth in 16:05. Kyle

Hazlewood (24th; 16:54), Kent Melendez (30th; 17:16), David Lopez (32nd; 17:19), Steven Newbon (47th; 18:07), Josh Betancourt (48th;

18:10) and Matt Martinez (52nd; 18:28) competed for the Indians.

Burbank High finished fifth in the Division I girls’ competition,

led by freshman Michelle Horgan, who took fifth in 18:54.

Horgan was followed by teammates Melissa Edwards (29th; 20:27),

Allison Ivie (40th; 20:57), Salma Khan (48th; 21:21), Emily Ambrose

(49th; 21:23) and Jenna Nalbandian (59th; 21:54).

Host Bell-Jeff placed fourth in the Division V girls’ varsity race

with 107 points, behind CIF Southern Section powers Flintridge Prep,

Brentwood and Rancho Palos Verdes Chadwick.

Pharrin Lewis led Bell-Jeff by taking seventh in 19:51. Teammates Cathleen Burrola (12th; 20:23, Erin Madrid (22nd; 21:49), Cynthia

Hajj (28th; 22:13), Vilma Couch (38th; 22:52) and Stephanie Ayala

(61st; 27:58) helped the Guards’ cause.

The Guard boys’ team, minus Herkey, did not run a full team in the

Division V race, as Jeff Pang (13th; 16:52), Daniel Hernandez (43rd;

19:15) and Josh Lepe (45th; 19:22) were the only athletes to compete.

The Providence High boys’ squad finished 11th in the Division IV

race, as Joey Henderson led the Pioneers by finishing 61st in 19:25.

The Pioneer girls’ team finished 16th in the Division IV race, led

by Naia Simon, who placed 49th in 22:15.

Katie Gose of Thousand Oaks La Reina had the fastest girls’ time

of the day -- 17:05.