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Summer School

Patananan Works Now, Rests Later


PALMDALE — There are two schools of thought regarding how often high school distance runners should race during the summer.

The first is that racing should be held to a minimum, that summer provides an opportunity to take a break after a long track season and before beginning to train for the cross-country campaign.

The second maintains that racing keeps a runner physically and mentally sharp and adds spice to the sometimes bland rigors of training.

Justin Patananan of Highland High is a true believer in the latter method.

Patananan, a senior, credits frequent summer racing with his transformation into one of the top boys' cross-country runners in the region.

"Racing in the summer is really important," Patananan said. "A lot of people told me that I shouldn't race much during the summer, but I think it's a great way to measure what kind of shape you're in."

Patananan's attitude was shaped in part by a personal-best performance in a 5,000-meter track race at Cal State Long Beach in mid-June. He'd never broken 16 minutes before then, but after running 15:55 he decided to combine "serious" races with "workout" races during the summer.

The serious races included events such as the Independence Day Classic 5k Run in Newhall on July 4 when Patananan finished fifth in 15:58.

The workout races were comprised of competitions such as a series of cross-country all-comers meets in Lancaster.

The frequent races and a training regimen that included low weeks of 50 miles and high weeks of 75 miles gave Patananan plenty of confidence when the season began.

"I pretty much expected [to be successful]," Patananan said. "I did a lot of quality stuff over the summer and that was because I wanted to reach some goals I'd set."

Placing among the top five in the state Division I championships Nov. 29 and in the top 24 in the West regional Dec. 6 might seem like ambitious goals for someone who did not advance to the Southern Section Division II finals last year, but Patananan thinks they're attainable.

"This is the first time that I've ever really been focused on running," he said. "I know where I want to go."

Cory Abouaf, the boys' cross-country coach at Highland the past seven seasons, says he has seen several changes since Patananan started running as a sophomore.

"The first year he ran, it was something to do," Abouaf said. "Last year, he realized that he had some talent. But this year he wants to be up there with the leaders. He wants to do something."

And he has.

He opened the season with a third-place finish in the senior race of the Seaside Invitational on Sept. 12, then won the Littlerock Invitational eight days later and the first Golden League meet of the season last Wednesday.

He finished 13th in the Division I race of the prestigious Stanford Invitational on Saturday after leading the field through the first mile in 4:47.

Abouaf said that Patananan was foolish to push the pace in the first mile against such a strong field, but he was pleased that Patananan moved from 18th to 13th in the final quarter-final of the race.

"He could have given up after falling back of the leaders," Abouaf said. "He was really hurting, but he bounced back. He regrouped and finished strong when he could have said, 'forget it.' "

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