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VALENCIA — After opening the season with a disappointing performance, Antonio Arce of Palmdale High is starting to shift gears.

The latest evidence came Saturday when the Falcon senior won the Division I boys' race of the Santa Clarita Valley Invitational at College of the Canyons.

Although Arce's time of 15 minutes 39 seconds over the 2.9-mile course was not particularly fast by his standards, the suddenness in which he blew the race open made it obvious he had plenty in reserve.

As one observer put it, "When he decided to go, the race was over in 20 yards."

Arce was content to share the lead with his brother, Mario, and Hoover sophomore David Lopez for the first two miles, but when he pushed the pace shortly thereafter, neither of them could respond.

Lopez finished second in 15:45 and Mario Arce, a junior, was third in 15:53. The Arces' 1-3 finish propelled Palmdale to a 61-88 victory over Reedley. Hoover edged Belmont, 92-94, for third.

Arce said he used the race as a tuneup for Saturday's Mt. San Antonio College Invitational. "I just wanted to run with the leaders and help my brother for the first two miles," he said, "and then just take off up that last hill."

Arce, the runner-up in the 3,200 meters in the State track and field championships in June, finished a well-beaten fourth in the season-opening Seaside race in Ventura. However, he has won four of five races since.

His only loss during that streak came at the Stanford Invitational on Oct. 1 when he finished third behind Mike Stember of Sacramento Jesuit and Brett Strahan of Hart, but he avenged the defeat to Stember by winning the Clovis Invitational a week later.

Like Arce, the Canyon girls' team is also improving as the season progresses, and placed five runners among the top 12 finishers to run away with the team title.

Canyon, led by the third-place finish of sophomore Julie Harris, totaled 40 points. Clovis placed second with 81 and Rio Mesa was third at 120. Harris timed 19:27 over the 2.9-mile course to finish behind Hoover's Lorien Cleavinger (19:15) and Glendale's Rhaina Echols (19:24).

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