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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Moorpark Changing Gears for Defense of Its State Title

Cross-country: Raiders, only third in WSC, run away from field in Southern California championships at Mt. SAC.

November 08, 1998|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WALNUT — According to the calendar, the junior college cross-country season began Sept. 11.

But members of the Moorpark College men's team will tell you that it didn't really start until the Southern California championships at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday.

Moorpark, the two-time defending state champion, was the third-best team in the Western State Conference behind Glendale and Bakersfield during the regular season, but the Raiders defeated their WSC rivals and 28 other teams to win the Southern California title and stamp themselves as a favorite in the state championships at Woodward Park in Fresno on Nov. 21.

"We felt like this was the start of our season," said Moorpark's Todd Disney, the individual champion. "The guys have been saying all season that the season doesn't begin until the last two meets."

Teammate Rey Coronado, who finished fifth, agreed. "We needed to step it up a level," he said. "We were behind some of those teams in the early part of the season and in the conference meet, but we knew that those races would have no effect on the state championships."

Moorpark totaled 99 points to defeat second-place Bakersfield, which had 117, and third-place San Diego Mesa, which had 162.

San Bernardino Valley was fourth with 175 points and two-time defending WSC champion Glendale was fifth at 181.

Disney, the former Thousand Oaks High runner who transferred from Wyoming to Moorpark just before the season began, was third in the WSC meet, but he surged past Gabriel Hernandez of San Bernardino Valley on Saturday with 125 meters left to clock a winning 20:55 over the four-mile course.

Hernandez, who finished in 20:58, and Dan Gaston of Saddleback, who placed third in 21:07, had a three-second lead on Disney when they came through three miles in 16:15. But Disney passed Gaston going up a series of switchbacks before setting his sights on Hernandez with 400 meters remaining.

"When we came out of the hills and onto the flat, I thought I could get him," Disney said. "I was close enough that I thought I had a shot."

Coronado finished in 21:12 for the Raiders with teammates Efrain Garcia 20th in 21:49, Jose Amezcua 32nd in 22:03 and Ross Wood 41st in 22:14.

Aaron Sharp of Oxnard was seventh in 21:22 and Mike Barkhuff of Antelope Valley was 10th in 21:31 with Eduardo Diaz of Glendale 17th in 21:45.

Jose Merino of Glendale, the WSC champion, finished 43rd in 22:16.

Doni Green, Moorpark's second-year coach, was ecstatic with the Raiders' performance, but said the team has more work ahead.

"The meet that matters is not here," he said. "It's two weeks down the road."

Julie Harris of Glendale finished fourth in the women's meet to help the Vaqueros to sixth place.

Harris, the WSC champion, clocked 19:04 over the three-mile course as Glendale totaled 265 points.

Orange Coast, the defending state champion, placed five runners among the top 16 finishers to total 44 points. El Camino was second with 110 points, followed by Santa Ana with 202, Mt. SAC with 217 and Pasadena City with 263.

Valley, with Patricia Loera finishing second in 18:42 and Yadi Estrada placing sixth in 19:14, was seventh with 291 points.

Loera finished nine seconds behind winner Zoila Gomez of Orange Coast and was hopeful that teammate Marisol Barajas would be healthy enough to run in the state championships.

Barajas, the 1996 state cross-country champion, dropped out of the Santa Barbara Invitational on Oct. 17 with a strained hamstring and has not raced since.

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