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HIGH SCHOOL CROSS-COUNTRY / SANTA CLARITA INVITATIONAL : Hoover's Casillas Runs 15:21 to Break Own Course Mark


Margarito Casillas of Hoover High learned a painful lesson during track season: Becoming too analytical about running can make it overly complicated and hinder performance.

Casillas was so concerned about improving his finishing speed during track season that he over-trained in that area and finished a worn-out seventh in the 3,200 meters at the state championships in June.

He has kept things simple this cross-country season--relying mostly on his superb endurance--and the results have been impressive. He rolled to his seventh consecutive victory Saturday, winning the Division I race of the Santa Clarita Valley invitational at College of the Canyons.

His time of 15 minutes 21 seconds over the three-mile distance broke his course record of 15:32 set last year.

Alvaro Mejia of Birmingham, the defending City Section champion, stayed close to Casillas for the first mile (4:48), but the fifth-place finisher in last year's Kinney national championships broke the race open shortly thereafter.

Canyon junior Jon Bischop finished second in 16:07 and Palmdale freshman Marcus Castro (16:14) ran down a faltering Mejia (16:15) in the final 50 meters to place third.

Canyon, ranked fifth in the state Division II poll, narrowly defeated upstart Palmdale and its young guns for the team title. Each team totaled 59 points, but the Cowboys were awarded the victory because their No. 6 runner, Arturo Armio (31st), finished ahead of the Falcons' sixth runner, Vladimir Artica (32nd). Glendale finished third with 88 points, followed by Birmingham (95) and Lakewood (150).

Although Canyon is a relatively young team with three juniors and two seniors among its top five runners, the Cowboys are positively long in the tooth compared to Palmdale, whose top five Saturday were Castro, three sophomores (Antonio Arce, Louie Alvarez, Roy Johnston) and a junior (Chris Bennington).

"Things really went well for us today," Palmdale Coach Rob Fairly said. "This was a great performance for us. This will give the kids a lot of confidence."

Confidence is something that Casillas is gaining more of with each victory. No longer concerned that other runners might have a better finishing kick, Casillas simply runs hard from the start.

"I didn't really have any set time goal today," he said. "I was just shooting to run faster than I did last year. I just wanted to get out there and see what I could do."

The girls' Division I race contrasted sharply to the boys' as Canyon romped to the team title. Rosanna Heagerty of Birmingham and Sonya Malendez of Indio staged a close battle for the individual title before Heagerty prevailed in 19:54.

Heagerty, a sophomore, led at the mile mark in 5:59, trailed Malendez by 20 meters at two miles, then surged in front with 500 meters left to win by eight seconds.

Canyon senior Heather Giles finished third (20:38) to lead Canyon to a 53-80 victory over Lakewood. Glendale placed third with 90 points, followed by Birmingham (112) and Ridgecrest Burroughs (120).

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