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HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW

Lancers Look for Run Back to Top

With a squad that is complete and healthy, Thousand Oaks girls' team has plans to make up for two disappointing seasons.

September 04, 1997|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A downward spiral that began two years ago should come to an emphatic end for the Thousand Oaks High girls' cross-country team.

Finishing ninth and fifth in the past two Southern Section Division I championships might be a cause for celebration for some programs, but not for Thousand Oaks, the 1994 Southern Section champion and state meet runner-up.

A bout of anemia slowed Erin Sorensen for most of last season and when Melissa McBain missed the section finals to attend her grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, the Lancers posted their worst finish in the section championships since 1992.

"We never really jelled last year as a team," Thousand Oaks Coach Jack Farrell said. "We never had a race where everyone ran well."

Things might be different this year for several reasons.

Junior Amanda Armstrong, who finished third in the Southern Section Division I championships last year, is coming off a track season in which she ran career bests of 5:10.79 in the 1,600 meters and 2:19.50 in the 800.

Sorensen, a senior who was 93rd in the section finals last year, returned to full strength during track and clocked 11:28.55 in the 3,200.

McBain, a junior who split time between soccer and cross-country the past two years, will focus entirely on the latter this season.

Add seniors Stephanie Overton, Lindsay Marsden and Kathryn Morris and talented freshmen such as Kelley Hess to the mix and there exists all the ingredients for a team that should challenge for a top-four finish in the section championships Nov. 22 and a berth in the state finals Nov. 29.

"With McBain, I felt like we were a fifth- or sixth-place team last year," Farrell said. "Without her, forget it."

Armstrong, runner-up to Ventura's Alyson MacIntosh in the Ventura County championships last year, could lead the Lancers to their first county title since 1994, when All-American Kim Mortensen was a junior.

Although Armstrong didn't run the 3,200 during track season, Farrell doesn't think that will adversely affect her performances over the three-mile or 5,000-meter distance in cross-country.

"She is a very competitive person and she's an aggressive cross-country runner," he said. "Her speed helps her in cross-country more than it does in the 3,200 in track."

Despite Armstrong's talents, the amount of depth at the Division I level might prevent her from finishing among the top three in the Southern Section championships.

Thousand Oaks' top runner has placed third or better in each of the past four section finals, but that streak might end this season because schools such as Yucaipa, the No. 2-ranked squad in Harrier magazine's national poll, Irvine University and Canyon have moved up to Division I.

That means that standouts such as Allyson Marquand of University, Kimi Welsh of Yucaipa and Lauren Fleshman of Canyon, who were all finalists in the 3,200 in the state track championships in June, are expected to run in the Division I final.

The presence of defending Division I champion Jennifer Burris of Chino Hills Ayala and runner-up Danielle Day of Quartz Hill add to the likelihood of a superb section final.

Other region teams to watch:

Nordhoff--Four of the top six runners from the state Division IV champion graduated in June, but senior Elaine Canchola will give the Rangers a superb front-runner.

Canchola won her third consecutive Southern Section title and placed second in the state championships last year. In track, she ran school records of 4:55.07 in the 1,600 and 10:45.84 in the 3,200 and Coach Ken Reeves said she looked "better than ever" in a recent high-altitude training camp.

Sophomore Rae Stumbough finished 11th in the Southern Section cross-country championships last year, but Reeves will need to get big improvement from his No. 3, 4 and 5 runners if Nordhoff is going to win its third consecutive Ventura County title.

La Canada--Junior Kim Garnic, senior Sheila Maude and sophomore Christina Ellis could give the Spartans the best 1-2-3 punch in the region.

That trio finished fourth, 14th and 31st in the state Division IV championship last year to help La Canada to a runner-up finish behind Nordhoff. Garnic also ran a personal best of 11:05.45 in the 3,200 during track and Maude clocked 5:14.53 in the 1,600.

How high the Spartans finish at the Division III level will depend on how well their fourth and fifth runners perform.

Louisville--With six of their top seven runners coming back and with junior Kim Utterson transferring from La Reina, the Royals could make a return trip to the state championships in Fresno, where they won the 1995 Division IV title.

Senior Kelly Harrington placed eighth in the state meet last year and ran 2:19.95 in the 800 in track.

Sophomore Mariel Holcomb should be Louisville's No. 2 runner.

Quartz Hill--Senior Danielle Day and junior Carly Harrill could give the Rebels one of the best tandems in the region.

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