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A Renewal of Rivalries at Mt. SAC : Cross-country: Strahan, Stember and Arce to duel for boys' championship.


Brett Strahan of Hart High, Mike Stember of Carmichael Jesuit and Antonio Arce of Palmdale, the top boys' cross-country runners in the state during the first half of the season, will renew their rivalries in today's Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut.

They, along with Eleazar Hernandez of Camarillo and Keith O'Doherty of Thousand Oaks, figure to be the premier performers in the team sweepstakes race that will include eight of the top-10-ranked Division I squads in the state and four of the top six Division II teams.

Thousand Oaks, the defending State Division I champion and the No. 5-ranked team in The Harrier magazine's national poll, is favored to win its third consecutive team sweepstakes title. Jesuit--the state's top-ranked Division II team--Hart, Peninsula and Camarillo are regarded as the leading challengers.

In contrast to the team race, there is not a clear individual favorite.

Strahan defeated O'Doherty and Arce in the season-opening Seaside Invitational and followed that with a victory over Hernandez, O'Doherty and Stember in the Mt. Carmel Invitational a week later.

However, Stember out-kicked Strahan and Arce to win the Stanford Invitational on Oct. 1 before Arce countered with a win over Stember in the Clovis Invitational.

"I expect a tough race," Arce said. "I just want to try and stick with those guys for the first half and then try to make a break somewhere."

Although Arce was the runner-up in the 3,200 meters in the State track and field championships in June, he lacks the finishing speed of Stember and Strahan, who placed second and fourth in the 1,600 in the State meet. To win, he must put some distance between himself and those two before the final quarter-mile.

"I've got to make a break before the final sprint," he said.

The girls' team sweepstakes race will mark the first clash of the season between Thousand Oaks, the top-ranked team in the state, and Irvine, the defending State Division I champion.

Irvine edged El Toro and Edison in last week's Orange County championships, but Thousand Oaks' depth could prove decisive.

The Lancers' top six runners finished within 62 seconds of each other in a dual-meet victory over Newbury Park on Tuesday and junior Kim Mortensen should be among the race leaders.

"The question is whether it's going to be a four-way battle, or are we going to be out in front of them," Thousand Oaks Coach Jack Farrell said.

"If we can get six girls within a minute of each other, and Kim's up around the leaders, we should be tough to beat."

The boys' and girls' individual sweepstakes races should also be competitive.

John Greene of Agoura, the defending Southern Section Division II champion, Francisco Sandoval of Channel Islands, Phil Gonzalez of Crescenta Valley and sophomore David Lopez of Hoover are expected to be among the top competitors in the boys' race.

Santa Rosa sophomore Julia Stamps and Agoura senior Amy Skieresz will meet for the first time this season in the girls' competition.

Stamps, the defending State champion in the 3,200, won the Division I race of the Stanford Invitational with a time that was 27 seconds faster than Skieresz's winning time in Division II, but Agoura Coach Bill Duley expects a close race.

"I think Amy is ready for a good race," Duley said. "She had a great workout (Wednesday). I think there are going to be some very fast times out there."

Today's meet, which will include more than 40 races, starts at 7:30 a.m.

The boys' team sweepstakes is at 9:30, with the boys' individual sweepstakes, girls' individual sweepstakes and girls' team sweepstakes following in 20-minute intervals.

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