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It's Best of Times for Muite

Cross-country: North Hollywood senior wins heat with his fastest race.


WOODLAND HILLS — Every runner would like to be on a roll toward the end of the season, but no one will enter the City Section cross-country championships at Pierce College next week riding a bigger wave than Paul Muite of North Hollywood High.

The Husky senior saw to that Thursday by winning his heat of the City preliminaries with a time of 15 minutes 14 seconds over the three-mile course at Pierce.

The clocking cut 22 seconds off his previous best and was the fastest time in the City this season.

It also gave him a five-second margin of victory over Manuel Lopez of Belmont, runner-up in the 1995 City championships.

"I felt confident that I could run well and run fast, and when I got out into the race, everything just flowed," Muite said.

Paced by Muite and Antonio Gavino, who finished fourth in 15:50, North Hollywood totaled 72 points to place second in its heat behind defending City champion Belmont, which had 36.

The top five teams in each of two heats and any individual among the top 15 finishers but not on a qualifying team advanced to the City championships on Nov. 23.

Muite had lowered his best time at Pierce in each of his previous four races, but North Hollywood Coach Gary Smith thought he'd approached his limits in the Valley Pac-8 Conference final last week when he clocked 15:36 to place second behind Monroe senior Ali Benmohamed.

Muite proved he hadn't by running 20 seconds faster than Benmohamed did while winning the other heat.

"I just keep taking things week by week," Muite said. "Next week, I'll try to win, and if not, then I'll try to improve my time."

In the girls' meet, Kennedy senior Bree Akesson and Cleveland freshman Jamie Jones won their heats and El Camino Real upset defending City champion Birmingham, 59-79, in the first heat.

Akesson has been favored to win the City title since transferring from Alemany earlier this season, but she was shadowed by Birmingham sophomore Tiffany Burgess before winning in 18:39.

Burgess, runner-up in the City championships last year, placed second in 18:44 to cut 23 seconds off her previous best at Pierce.

El Camino Real was paced by Tamar Gamliel and Daquita Bailey, who finished third and fourth in 18:58 and 19:46.

Jones, a swimmer in her first season of cross-country, ran a best of 18:56 in heat two.

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