It is not often that an athlete benefits from an illness before a major competition, but Canyon High senior Dave Hartman credited a cold for his third-place finish in the Kinney national cross-country championships at San Diego's Morley Field on Saturday.
Hartman, who finished third in the Kinney West Regionals in Fresno on Dec. 1, came down with a cold early last week, but instead of it weakening him, the illness served as a relaxant.
"Before I got sick, I was pretty nervous about nationals," Hartman said. "I'd been shooting for a top-five finish all year, but when I got sick, I lowered my goal to the top 15. And that helped me relax."
No longer worried about finishing among the leaders, Hartman ran conservatively for the first half of the race before moving into 11th place at the two-mile mark.
"Angel Martinez (of San Gabriel High) was leading a pack of about 10 guys for the first half of the race, so I just tried to stick with them," Hartman explained.
At 2 1/2 miles, Hartman surged up the final hill on the two-loop, 5,000-meter course, moving from 10th to fourth, and with 500 yards left, he swooped past Kevin Hogan of New York to take third.
Hartman's time of 15 minutes 21 seconds was slow compared to previous third-place finishes in the national meet, but temperatures in the mid-80s had a lot to do with that.
Winner Louie Quintana of Arroyo Grande won in 15:07.2, the slowest winning time in the race's 12-year history.
For comparison, Agoura's Bryan Dameworth won the 1989 race in 14:49.9.
Trivia question: Dameworth, who finished fourth in 1988, and Hartman are two of three Valley-area runners who have placed among the top five in the boys' race in the Kinney meet.
Who is the other?
Negative trend: Agoura High senior Deena Drossin figured that this year was going to be different.
After running below par at three previous national championships, she entered Saturday's race undefeated and fresh off a course record-tying effort at the West regionals.
She was picked to finish second behind defending champion Melody Fairchild of Colorado on pre-meet form charts, but faded to sixth after leading at the mile mark.
"I think I just went out too fast," said Drossin, who woke up with a cold Sunday and missed school Monday. "I don't think the cold affected me at all. I felt strong, but I just went out really fast and Melody ran a superb tactical race."
Fairchild, who finished second in the Kinney meet in 1988, set a course record of 16:39.3 over the 5,000-meter distance, despite the heat, while Drossin ran 17:53.1, 2.2 seconds slower than her personal best on the Morley Field course, set as a freshman.
"(Deena) was very, very disappointed," Agoura Coach Bill Duley said. "I don't know if she was sick, or if she was feeling the pressure, or if it was a combination of the two, but she ran well off what she's capable of running."
Drossin, who won her third state Division I cross-country title last month, and placed 11th, 17th and 13th in three previous Kinney meets, said that pre-meet pressure did not affect her.
"I usually run better when I'm one of the favorites," she said. "A lot of runners don't like that, but I've always run my best in that situation."
Add championships: The Kinney meet signaled the end of the 1990 cross-country season, but Hartman and Drossin both plan to compete in the U. S. World Junior (19 and under) cross-country trials in Tallahassee, Fla., on Feb. 2.
The top six finishers at the junior meet will qualify for the national team that will run in the World Junior championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in March.
Drossin finished third in last year's U. S. junior meet in Seattle, and 73rd at the World Junior Championships in Aix-les-Bains, France.
Dominating finish: Billed as the finest all-around high school cross-country league in the nation this season, the Marmonte League did nothing to tarnish its reputation in the girls' race.
Led by the second-place finish of Jeannie Rothman of Westlake, runners from the Marmonte League finished second, fifth and sixth, and were the top three finishers from the West region.
Rothman, runner-up to Drossin in the West regionals and 16th in last year's meet, ran 17:38.4, followed by Veronica Barajas of Channel Islands (17:47.5) and Drossin.
Barajas, a junior who placed eighth in the West regionals, established herself as one of the early favorites for next year's race, as she was the No. 2 underclassmen behind Amanda White of Maryland, who finished third in 17:40.7.
Add Rothman: Rothman's runner-up finish was the highest ever for a girl from the Valley area.
Vicki Cook placed third in the 1980 championships for Alemany.
Trivia answer: Eric Reynolds of Camarillo.
Reynolds, who ran 8:44.0 in the two-mile as a Scorpion senior, won nationals in 1982 after placing third in 1981.
Night court: The Notre Dame boys' basketball team had some time to reflect on its victory over Culver City in the first round of the Beverly Hills tournament Tuesday night.