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In a Legend's Footsteps : Cross country: At Belmont, Alex Carmona succeeds his old coach, Gordon Weisenburger, who racked up 14 City Section titles.

August 29, 1993|SEAN WATERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When he was a cross-country runner at Belmont High about a decade ago, Alex Carmona had the misfortune of running on the same team as Roman Gomez.

While Carmona was one of the best runners ever to compete for the Sentinels, he was second to Gomez, who was one of the top high school runners in the nation.

Now Carmona is following another legend.

Carmona, 28, has been left with the Sentinels' coaching duties after the retirement of Coach Gordon Weisenburger. In 17 years as coach, Weisenburger guided the Sentinels to 10 City Section boys' titles and four consecutive girls' titles.

"I feel like I'm replacing John Wooden," said Carmona, referring to the former UCLA basketball coach who guided the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships. "I'm not going to emphasize winning. If it comes, I'll be happy."

Carmona, who works in the counseling department at Belmont, does emphasize participation and has assembled the school's largest team.

About 125 runners showed up for the first practice earlier this month, leaving Carmona feeling a bit overwhelmed. The top returning runners are Ricardo Valenzuela on the boys' team and Gomez's youngest sister, Yolanda, on the girls' team.

Valenzuela, a senior, finished 10th in the City Section finals at Pierce College last season and is the fastest returning runner in the city.

Amado Munoz, who placed 23rd, Marcos Vidrio and Roberto Gonzalez provide senior leadership for the team. The most exciting prospect may be freshman Manuel Lopez. Yohannes Measho, a transfer student from Ethiopia, is an outstanding runner who played soccer last season.

"I keep telling people no one can replace Gordon," Carmona said. "He was the greatest influence on my life. My job is trying to keep the program going and not make any big changes."

The biggest change this season would be if a team other than Belmont won the city championship.

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Although Lincoln does not have as much depth as Belmont, the Tigers have been a factor in the Northern Conference and the city finals. For four consecutive years, the Tigers have placed among the top 10 in the City Section. Art Aguilar, who finished 45th in the city finals as a junior, is the Tigers' top runner.

Lincoln also welcomes the return of Nacho Haro, who transferred out of Lincoln last season after being the Tigers' top sophomore in 1991. Junior varsity standout Juan Mendez and junior Hector Arroyo provide depth.

"It will be between Belmont and us in the Northern Conference," said John Ralles, who has intermittently coached the Tigers since 1976. "This may be my last season, so it's boom or bust."

Roosevelt Coach Duane Telliano thinks the Southeastern Conference is the most competitive in the City. Last season's statistics bear that out--four Southeastern schools finished among the top 10 in the city finals.

Huntington Park was the top team from the conference, finishing second to Belmont in the city finals.

"We should have won, could have won, but didn't win," Spartan Coach Tony Guajardo said. "We made up for it in the state finals, though."

The Spartans finished seventh in the state meet in Fresno, while Belmont placed 13th.

Huntington Park, however, lost city champion Jorge Perea and fourth-place finisher Mike Gomez to graduation. Seniors Gabriel Cruz (16:48) and Juan Carlos Leon (17:11), and junior Danny Perez are the Spartans' top runners.

Bell, which finished second in the Southeastern and eighth in City, returns seniors Francisco Camacho and Dennis Vela. Junior Camacho, a junior, and sophomore Raul Cabrera provide team depth.

"Based on what I saw last year, I still see Garfield being the main threat," Bell Coach Ernie Aguirre said. "But Roosevelt and Huntington Park still can give you trouble."

After winning the frosh-soph title, Garfield expects to contend with a deep junior class, which includes Richard Martinez, David Jimenez, Mando Morales and Ricky Medina. David Herrera, who ran a 4:28 in the 1,600 meters, is the top returning letterman.

Roosevelt hopes to contend with Miguel Ramirez, who ran 16:26 to finish 16th in the City Section. Ricky Curiel, Ramon Duarte and newcomer Ruben Perez are the other top Roughrider runners.

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In City Section girls' competition, Belmont will have a tough time repeating last season's performance. The Sentinels had the first seven finishers and eight of the top 10.

Yolanda Gomez, who placed second in last year's finals, and fifth-place finisher Imelda Flores are two of the top returning runners in the section. Raquel Ramirez and freshman Arturina Carcamo also are outstanding runners.

The Sentinels, however, will miss Alma Herrera, who transferred to Huntington Park. Herrera, who placed 10th in the City, joins Flor Sanchez, who placed 12th, and sophomores Gabriela Gonzalez and Lourdes Mencheca to make the Spartans a title contender.

Garfield also has an outstanding group of runners with Laura Avila, Ana Gayton, Blanca Jimenez, Laura Huesca and Elvira Perez.

Bell's top returning runners are Sandra Mora, Sonja Gutierrez and Liz Ceja.

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