Vikings have a running quest

Catherine "Katie" Durant and Richie Soto have been on the run since their middle school days.

In that short time — a six-year period for Durant and four-year span for Soto — the two have grown into and excelled at cross-country and track and field as prep athletes at Marina High. They've both competed in the big invitationals and big meets, but neither has done a certain run.

Come early-Sunday, that will change.

Durant, 17, and Soto, 16, are entered in Sunday's 15th annual Surf City USA Marathon and both will run the half-marathon, along with numerous other Huntington Beach residents.

"It's a new challenge for me, and I know it's the same for Richie, so it should be a great experience for us both," said Durant, who has participated in past Surf City USA Marathon events, but as a 5K participant.

There is no 5K event this year.

More than 20,000 runners from around the world — 88% coming from Orange County — are expected for the Surf City USA Marathon, which has a course that travels along Pacific Coast Highway past the Huntington Beach Pier, toward the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and back to The Waterfront Beach Resort.

Durant began running the event's 5K run in 2007 in honor of her grandfather, John Layden, who passed away in 2006. She'll enter the event for the sixth time in his memory.

"I'm keeping the tradition going for my grandpa," said the senior. "He was the one who motivated me to do track and introduced me to a great sport.

"When I entered the 5K for the first time, I really didn't enter it to race it, but to have fun. That's what he would have wanted. It's just a good experience to be out there with the rest of the community."

Durant, who began her running career as a student at Marine View, has been a varsity cross-country runner and track and field athlete at Marina for four years and also played varsity soccer as a freshman.

She has served as cross-country captain her junior and senior years, but was injured both years. Most recently, a stress fracture (fibula) prevented her from competing at the Sunset League Cross-Country Championships in late-October.

That injury nearly kept her out of Sunday's half-marathon.

"But I've been getting therapy and I'm cleared and ready to go," said Durant, who is a straight-A student and is Marina's Associated Student Body Commissioner of Activities. "I'm feeling strong and hope that this will be a good start to our track season."

Durant, who said she started running during seventh-grade at Marina View Middle school but really began to "focus" on running competitively during her freshman year at Marina, said she is looking forward to her final track and field season with the Vikings. She is a school record-holder in the girls' three-mile (17 minutes 28 seconds) — as a member of the varsity 4 x 800 relay team — and both the girls' frosh/soph 1,600 meters (5:12) and 3,200 (11:13).

Her priorities for Sunday's half-marathon are simple.

"My main goals in the competition are to run at a steady pace throughout the entire half marathon, finish feeling strong and not develop any new injuries," she said. "My journey through high school running has been quite an experience because I have faced injury after injury. I haven't quite been able to reach my full potential due to these injuries after my freshman year.

"After recently coming off my second stress fracture, I hope to finish injury free and use this race as a beginning to strong track season. Running is truly my passion and I am very excited to run my first half marathon."

Like Durant, Soto began his running career during seventh grade at Spring View Middle School. Now in his second year at Marina, the sophomore put his impressive abilities on display during the cross-country season. First, he set a course record (14:56) for a sophomore and had the boys' eighth-fastest time at the Orange County Cross-Country Championships in mid-October at Irvine Regional Park. Later that month, he finished second (15:37.4) behind teammate Karl Baranov (15:26.6) and ahead of another teammate, Jason VanHamersveld (15:41.0), at the Sunset League Cross-Country Championships, as Marina claimed the boys' team title.

He runs the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 during the track and field season, which gets underway at the end of the month.

"It's been a great year so far," said Soto, who said he has spent the past month training for Sunday's run. "I thought I'd give the half-marathon a try to see how I can do, how fast I can go. I just want to impress people."

His goal Sunday is different than those set by Durant: he's aiming for a finish time of 1 hour 15 minutes.

"That's what I'm shooting for," he said. "I believe I can do it. I just think the whole thing will be really fun and a good experience. I plan to just run hard. I'm looking forward to Sunday."

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