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Top Runners Are Expected at Meet

September 24, 1996|STEVE KRESAL

The Golden Coast Invitational, being held Saturday at Fairview Regional Park in Costa Mesa, boasts one of the top cross-country fields in Southern California.

Golden West Coach Matt Simpson said 29 or 30 of the 32 teams in Southern California are scheduled to compete in the meet, hosted by Golden West and Orange Coast.

The men's race starts at 10 a.m. on the course that mostly overlooks the Santa Ana River channel. Glendale, the defending state champion, El Camino and Mt. San Antonio are expected to run.

The women's race follows at 11 a.m. Defending state champion Mt. San Antonio is scheduled to compete.

Orange County will be represented by five of its six teams. But the one missing--Rancho Santiago--has proved to be the top team in the early going this season.

The Dons, coming off convincing victories by the men's and women's teams in the Orange Empire Conference preview run Friday, are taking the week off from competition.

"This is the training schedule we have always followed," Coach Al Siddons said. "We go to two meets then we take a week off. We've done it this way for about 30 years."

The Rancho Santiago men's team dominated the preview run, placing 11 runners among the top 15. Teams can only score the first five runners and Rancho Santiago won with 22 points. The Dons placed 15 runners in the first 21 places.

Orange Coast, under first-year Coach John Goldman, finished second with 78 points and Riverside (88) was third.

Neil Smart of Riverside won the four-mile race in the Newport Ecological Reserve in 20 minutes 59 seconds. Smart, from England, was the 1995 community college state steeplechase champion.

The next four runners were from Rancho Santiago: Ben Mejia (21:02) finished second, Brian Mitzel (21:08) third and Victor Viqueras (21:09) fourth.

"Participation is the key," Siddons said. "It was a good race. None of our guys were big stars in high school."

Siddons said he was more excited by the victory by the Rancho Santiago women's team which finished with 39 points. Orange Coast (45) was second and Saddleback (85) was third. Irvine Valley's fifth runner showed up minutes before the start of the race and the Lasers were fourth with 101 points.

Elly Estrada of Rancho Santiago won her second invitational of the year, covering the 5,000-meter course in 19:35. Estrada is coming off a solid freshman season in which she was 10th at the state meet.

Teammate Jennifer Flores (20:05) was second and Donna Mills (20:12) of Orange Coast was third in the preview run. Mills was even with Estrada for the first half of the race before falling back.

The early season success has pleased Siddons but he is well aware that it's a long way to the state meet, which is Nov. 23 at Woodward Park in Fresno.

The Dons' men were undefeated in the regular season last year but because of illness and injury to their top two runners, the team fell to seventh in the state meet.

To help emphasize this point, Siddons has included a reminder at the bottom of his weekly newsletter that the most important race of the season is the final one.

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