FRESNO — With the inception of the state cross-country championships this year, many coaches knew a few key adjustments were needed in their athletes' training programs.
Because the state meet added two extra weeks to the season, some coaches cut back on summer mileage, or scheduled fewer invitational-type races, hoping to give their athletes enough extra rest not only to endure the longer season, but to be at their best at the end.
Timing would be everything, they said. For many, it was.
Newport Harbor High School's girls' team, unranked in Orange County for most of the early season, walked away from Saturday's state meet at Woodward Park as the Division II (medium schools) champion with 87 points.
"We started off at the beginning of the season with seven individuals running seven different ways," said Sailor Coach Bob Van Sickle. "Finally, this week, we managed to have seven individuals give 100% at once. It (this season) has worked out well for us."
Stacy Pando led Newport Harbor with a ninth-place finish, running the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes 6 seconds.
Following Pando were Sailors Kim Robinson (13th, 19:13), Maggie Steinhauser (31st, 19:54), Lena Dahbour (40th, 20:07) and Heather Webb (55th, 20:28).
Woodbridge, led by freshman Amy Robles (12th, 19:13) was second with 106 points.
"We're very, very happy," said Warrior Coach George Varvas. "All the girls ran a gutty race. Our season has been fantastic, and to end it as the second-best team in the state is terrific."
Kira Jorgensen of Rancho Buena Vista won the race in 17:34, the fastest girls' time of the day.
In the boys' Division I (large schools) race, La Habra's Terrence Mahon finished an impressive fifth among some of the nation's best high school runners.
"I've really tried to pace myself through this season," Mahon said last week. "I don't want to finish my season tired or on a bad note."
Mahon, the Southern Section 2-A champion, was ninth at the one-mile mark but surged through the second mile passing several runners. His time of 15:29 was the fastest for Orange County boys.
Sophomore Bryan Dameworth of Agoura won the race in 15:12, the fastest time of the day.
"There was no place to take it easy in this race," said Mahon, a senior. "I just pushed the whole time."
Santa Ana Valley's Maricela Benavides had a similar race, placing 12th in the girls' Division I in 18:27, the fastest time for Orange County girls.
Benavides didn't go out with the leaders, and she passed the one-mile mark in 29th place. But with small surges throughout the second and third mile, Benavides pulled to 12th. A final kick helped her hold off a fast-approaching Teresa Sandoval of Montebello.
"At the mile, it seemed as if there were tons of girls ahead of me," Benavides said. "But I just started passing them one at a time, then started sprinting as hard as I could. I wanted to give up, but my mind wouldn't let me."
Newport Harbor's Jim Geerlings, who finished an unexpected third in the Southern Section 4-A two weeks ago, surprised many of the top runners in the Division II race, placing fourth in 15:33.
"This is a great way to end the season," said Geerlings, a senior. "I used whatever I had left."
The county's two top-ranked boys' teams--Dana Hills and Corona del Mar--fell short of sensational season-enders Saturday.
Dana Hills, the Southern Section 4-A champion, finished second in Division I with 115 points, 74 points behind Arroyo, who placed five runners in the top 25 to win with 41 points.
"No one could have beaten Arroyo today," said Tim Butler, Dolphin coach. "We ran the best we could."
Corona del Mar, top-ranked in the state's Division II most of the season, finished second with 63 points to the second-ranked team, Walnut (40).
"We wanted to win so much," said Corona del Mar's Eddie Lavelle, who placed sixth in 15:39. "We wanted to put everyone else away."
Perhaps the timing just wasn't right.
The Woodbridge boys' team finished fifth in Division II with 181 points. Newport Harbor was sixth with 188. The Warriors were led by Rich Heppenstal (21st, 16:08) and Steve Dohman (24th, 16:12). Following Jim Geerlings, the Sailors were helped by an outstanding performance by Mike Dixon (13th, 15:58). Dana Hills was led once again by the one-two punch of Mike Tansley (12th) and Javier Barrera (13th).