Although Hart High's cross-country team might be the first across the finish line at many meets this season, the Indians figure to be the last to leave the race site.
While opponents are boarding the bus to head home, the Hart boys' and girls' teams will huddle around Coach Gene Blankenship for a ceremony.
Blankenship passes out pins for individual achievements at each meet and awards a "Runner of the Week" T-shirt to a boy and girl each week based on combined performances in Thursday dual meets and Saturday invitationals.
The pins hold special meaning for Hart runners. Called Ruge Awards, the pins are named after former Hart runner Shannon Ruge (RU-gee), who died after sustaining a head injury while on a church-group trip in February, 1990.
"It's a way of honoring individual performances in each race and it's a way of keeping Shannon's memory alive," Blankenship said.
At the end of the school year Blankenship awards Ruge Scholarship money to selected graduating seniors who competed in four seasons of cross-country and track. The money is raised through a 5-kilometer race staged in November.
About one-third of the money from the Ruge Run is designated for scholarships and the rest goes toward team travel expenses, uniforms and other equipment.
Glendale Coach Don Shoemaker said turnovers and lack of intensity were the main culprits in the Dynamiters' season-opening, 30-28 loss to Alhambra.
"Alhambra was ready to go, it's that simple. And we seemed to lack some intensity," Shoemaker said. "Our team just can't expect Pathon (Rucker) to break off an 80-yard run every four or five minutes."
Glendale turned the ball over twice inside its own 20, and a third turnover came at the Dynamiter 30. Alhambra converted those mistakes into 17 points.
Buena senior Kevin Moran, a two-way starter at offensive guard and linebacker, is expected to return to action this week after missing three weeks because of an emergency appendectomy.
A Better Tomorrow
Saugus might have lost by a sizable margin against Thousand Oaks last week but first-year Coach Jack Bowman saw positive signs in the 35-9 loss.
Bowman pointed to two dropped passes in the end zone and two lost fumbles inside the 10-yard line. Without those, he said, the Centurions would have been in a close ballgame with a team ranked No. 2 in the Southern Section Division II.
"We needed to find out some stuff," he said. "And we played well for a while. We just made a lot of mistakes."
Earning special notice was defensive lineman Reno Torralba, who caught the eye of Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards.
"Richards said he was dominating," Bowman said.
L.A. Baptist opened its season by destroying Bethel Christian, 36-0, last Saturday. Quarterback Dane Brown threw for 274 yards and was not sacked.
No wonder Coach Mark Bates is confident about the Knights' next game.
L.A. Baptist plays Santa Ana Calvary Chapel Saturday at Westminster High. Calvary Chapel, to the surprise of almost all Alpha League coaches, was rated as the No. 1 team in Division X by the Southern Section in a preseason poll. Last year, Calvary Chapel posted a 4-5-2 record.
Bates is another who doesn't believe the hype.
"Last year, they might not have won a game in our league," he said. "I'd say it would be more of an upset if they beat us."
Antelope Valley, despite its 19-17 loss to Hawthorne, is expected to make a difference in the Golden League this year.
Part of the reason is the emergence of fullback Carlos Acosta, who gives Antelope Valley another ground threat to complement Freddie Edwards, one of the region's top players.
"One of our bright spots was Carlos Acosta," Coach Brent Newcomb said. "We didn't have that last year."
Acosta gained 62 yards in six carries.
Climbing a Mountain
Stacey Auer of Thousand Oaks conducts many of her workouts in hilly terrain in anticipation of an uphill battle this season against tough cross-country competition.
The past two years, Auer has finished fourth in the Marmonte League finals. So close, yet so far. To qualify for the Southern Section preliminaries, she needs to place among the top three in the league meet.
But consider the Marmonte competition: The top three finishers in the league meet last year--Deena Drossin of Agoura, Jeannie Rothman of Westlake and Veronica Barajas of Channel Islands--placed in the top six in the Kinney national championships.
Drossin and Rothman have graduated, but Barajas is back and Agoura acquired two of the state's better runners in sophomore Kay Nekota and freshman Amy Skieresz through transfers.
Although she has yet to take part in cross-country postseason competition, Auer is not without credentials. As a sophomore in track last spring she ran 3,200 meters in 10:38.63, one of the faster times in the nation. She placed third in the league meet and advanced to the Southern Section 3-A Division finals.
Mike Glaze and staff writers Brian Murphy, John Ortega and Jeff Riley contributed to this notebook.