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Garritson Follows in Sister's Footsteps

Girls' cross-country: Buena Park senior finds comparisons to Carrie inevitable, but she's making a name for herself.


BUENA PARK — Growing up in a family with 10 brothers and three sisters, it's no surprise Heather Garritson has had to endure some sibling rivalry.

The rivalry became even more intense when she enrolled at Buena Park High in the fall of 1994 and joined the Coyotes' cross-country team, three months after her sister, Carrie, graduated from the school.

Carrie, who went on to compete for Alabama, was a standout in high school. She won state titles in her freshman and senior seasons, was named to the Foot Locker National championship team four times and was selected The Times Orange County girls' cross-country athlete of the year as a senior.

"Ever since I was little there's been a bit of sibling rivalry and that's helped me be more competitive," Heather said. "[Carrie's] success put more pressure on me to work harder and be as good as she was."

The pressure was most intense for Heather as a freshman, but it was pressure others placed on her.

"At the beginning of my freshman year, before the Laguna Hills [Invitational, the first meet of the season], people wanted to see if I was going to be as good as my sister, or live up to my sister's name," Heather said. "I was always thought of as 'Carrie's little sister.' "

Carrie concedes that Heather has had to face others' high expectations. "Everyone expects her to achieve at the level I did," she said. "[Other runners] know what I've done and they think she can probably do the same thing."

It didn't take long for Heather to establish herself.

"I think people realized I was for real at Mt. SAC, [where, as a freshman, she won the Division III-AA race with a time of 18 minutes 31 seconds]," she said.

Heather also won the Freeway League title, the Division III state title and was named to the Foot Locker national championship team in her first season, putting her on track to match and even surpass her sister's accomplishments.

However, though she has won three consecutive league titles, Heather failed to win a state title and didn't make the Foot Locker national championship team in her sophomore or junior years.

According to Michael Garritson, Heather and Carrie's father and personal coach, "Carrie was a very predictable athlete because she always applied herself. But Heather has had her ups and downs [while training]."

Fortunately for her, Garritson has one more year to try and repeat her accomplishments from three seasons ago.

"I'm hoping to win at state this year, make it to Foot Locker and place high," Heather said. "It's my senior year, so I want to go out with a bang."

Because of her summer training, Heather is primed to reach her goals.

"I would say that her workouts are far superior to last year's," Michael Garritson said. "It tells me that if she applies herself and stays healthy, I think this could be her best season ever."

Aside from her personal goals, Heather hopes to help her Buena Park teammates reach the Southern Section finals for the second consecutive year and advance to the state finals for the first time in school history.

"[Heather's] never had a strong team around her, but this will be the strongest Buena Park girls' team ever," Coach Dan Hirsch said.

Having a stronger team around her can only mean trouble for opponents.

"Running is an individual sport, but having a team [at state finals] adds pressure on you to perform even better to help the team," Heather said.

So far, Heather has overcome the pressures that she has faced and excelled. As a result, she has made a name for herself.

"I'm not Carrie's little sister anymore," Heather said.



1. Esperanza

Six return for Division I champions.

2. Irvine

The Vaqueros return five runners.

3. University

Allyson Marquand leads Trojans.

4. El Modena

Runners-up in state Division III.

5. Mission Viejo

Billingsley could be top freshman.

6. Dana Hills

Five runners return for the Dolphins.

7. Woodbridge

Mary Moore will lead the Warriors.

8. Marina

The Vikings return six starters.

9. Corona del Mar

Morse and Quaye lead Sea Kings.

10. El Toro

The Chargers return six runners.


Runners to Watch

* Michelle Basanda, Aliso Niguel, Jr.

* Kim Bates, Los Alamitos, Sr.

* Kendal Billingsley, Mission Viejo, Fr..

* Jessica Dahlberg, El Modena, Sr.

* Christa Fitzgerald, Dana Hills, Sr.

* Heather Garritson, Buena Park, Sr.

* Jessica Howard, University, So.

* Melissa Livermore, Irvine, Jr.

* April Lopez, Mission Viejo, So.

* Lori Mann, Santa Margarita, Fr.

* Allyson Marquand, University, Jr.

* Alicia McFall, Newport Harbor, Jr.

* Becky Miske, El Toro, Jr.

* Mary Moore, Woodbridge, Sr.

* Valerie Morris, Irvine, So.

* Sinfo Orozco, Santa Ana Valley, Sr..

* Dani Rope, Santa Margarita, Sr.

* Jill Santibanez, Katella, Sr.

* Brooke Thomas, Laguna Hills, Jr.

* Erin Zehntner, Irvine, Jr.

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