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Fleshman Goes to Head of Class

Track and field: She outkicks rivals Canchola and Burgess on final lap to win 1,600 meters in 4:59.1.


RESEDA — Heading into the final lap of the girls' 1,600-meter run Saturday in the San Fernando Valley Invitational track meet at Birmingham High, the race and the argument over who is the top girls' distance runner in the region were dead even.

Half a lap later, both were over.

Lauren Fleshman of Canyon High, running second at the time, began her kick down the backstretch of the final lap and rivals Elaine Canchola of Nordhoff and Tiffany Burgess of Birmingham couldn't match it, enabling Fleshman to cruise to victory in a meet-record 4:59.1.

Canchola, who finished sixth in the state 1,600 last year, was second in 5:04.1. Burgess was third in 5:10.6.

It was a rare appearance in the 1,600 for Fleshman, who specializes in the 3,200 but managed to break the five-minute barrier for the first time in her career and shaved nearly two seconds off her best time. She said running against Canchola was all the motivation she needed.

"Part of it was the competition," said Fleshman, who ran the final lap in 1:09. "I knew Elaine was coming to race me so I had to be ready."

Fleshman said she was surprised Canchola and her Nordhoff team came to the meet, but was pleased she could put her strategy into action against Canchola, who is known for setting quick paces.

"I wanted to ride her until I felt confident I could pass her," Fleshman said. "I wanted to see how long I could last and if I didn't feel confident I wouldn't have made a move."

Canchola, who won the 800 earlier in the day, said she expected such a strategy from Fleshman.

"I knew that's what she does," Canchola said. "I was a little tired from the 800 but I was trying to keep my pace up."

Fleshman, who ran only in the 1,600, said it wouldn't have mattered if Canchola had been fully rested.

"I think I still could have stayed with her," she said. "If I felt dead after the race then maybe not but I felt great. Her personal best was 5:04 and she ran that, so I definitely think I could have stayed with her."

Nordhoff distance coach Ken Reeves had no argument.

"Fleshman ran a great race," he said. "Elaine could have rested and we could have rolled her up to the start line in a limo and she still couldn't have stayed with Fleshman today."

The meet belonged to the distance runners.

Three meet records were broken, all in distance events.

Fleshman broke Jessica Del La Cerda's 11-year-old record of 5:08.5, Dusty Herman ran 9:35.1 in the 3,200 to break Mike Rattary's record, also set in 1987, and North Hollywood freshman Natalie Stein shattered Kristin Kabo's record of 11:43.5 by running 11:28.2 in the girls' 3,200.

Pete Paplanus of Calabasas had a double victory, winning the 400 and tying for first in the 200. Darryl Roberts of Flintridge Prep also was a double winner, tying Paplanus in the 200 and winning the 100.

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