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KENNY STAUB CROSS-COUNTRY INVITATIONAL : Gonzalez's Victory a Learning Experience


LA CRESCENTA — Calling someone who has run 9 minutes 33.06 seconds in the 3,200 meters a novice might sound a little far-fetched.

But Phil Gonzalez of Crescenta Valley High fit the part after winning the Division I boys' race in the Kenny Staub cross-country invitational at Crescenta Valley Park on Saturday.

Gonzalez out-kicked Palisades' Peter Gilmore--ninth in last year's State Division I championships--in the final 100 yards to win the three-mile race in 15:46. He admitted that he had "no idea" who Gilmore was.

"I was looking to break (16 minutes) and beat some guys like (David) Lopez (of Hoover)," Gonzalez said. "But (Gilmore) was the only guy around me after the first mile and I didn't know who he was."

Such is your knowledge of opponents when you've been running competitively for only a year and are in the middle of your first full cross-country season.

"He still doesn't know how to race," Crescenta Valley Coach Keith Gilliland said of Gonzalez. "Obviously, he's very talented, but he knows very little about racing tactics."

Gonzalez's inexperience was evident at the start and finish of Saturday's race.

He went out too fast over the first 300 meters--wasting precious energy--and he failed to put Gilmore away after surging past him on the final uphill portion of the course.

After trailing Gilmore by a second at the one- and two-mile points, Gonzalez held a 10-meter advantage after the final uphill stretch. But he stepped off the accelerator after making the turn for the final downhill stretch. Gilmore caught him with 100 meters left before Gonzalez pulled away to a one-second victory.

"I didn't really know where he was," Gonzalez said. "I was surprised when he came up on me at the end."

Gonzalez's effort was not enough to give Crescenta Valley the team victory, however, as Palisades placed three runners among the top seven finishers while totaling 66 points.

Crescenta Valley was second with 71 points, followed by Garfield (86), Hoover (92) and Belmont (99).

Hoover was paced by Lopez, a sophomore who placed third in 15:55.

Canyon capped a productive week with a runaway victory in the girls' Division I race.

The Cowboys, who finished second to powerful Hart in Thursday's Foothill League meet, totaled 49 points, well ahead of South Torrance (94), Simi Valley (97), Palisades (98) and Glendale (110).

Sophomore Julie Harris (20:11) and junior Kellie Stigile (20:35) finished fourth and ninth, respectively, for Canyon. The Cowboys' other scoring runners were junior Danielle Hadfield (11th in 20:49), senior Terriann Boggio (12th in 20:50) and freshman Brandy Plasschaert (13th in 21:00).

The girls' individual title was also decided in the final 100 meters as Simone Ferrara of South Torrance surged past Michelle Zayas of Crescenta Valley to win by a second in 19:20.

Zayas led the race from the start, but Ferrara overpowered her in the final straightaway.

In other races, Lovien Cleavinger led Hoover to the Division III girls' title with a winning time of 19:57, and Bell-Jeff won the Division III boys' title, paced by the second- and third-place efforts of Carlos Herrera (17:20) and Jesse Montes (17:23).

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