YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Valley / Ventura County Sports

Hoover's Siraki a Heavenly Find

Cross-country: Improving sophomore, third in section final, aims to finish among top 10 girls at state meet.


FRESNO — To say Anita Siraki was a divine gift to the Hoover High cross-country program might seem an exaggeration, but Coach Greg Switzer swears she was the answer to his prayers.

Switzer, devoutly religious, guided David Lopez to a 13th-place finish in the 1996 national championships and then prayed for a high-quality girl runner to coach.

"I told [God] that I was very fortunate to have had three really good guys at Hoover," Switzer said. "But if you're going to keep sending me good runners, could you give me a girl?"

Siraki, a sophomore, started school the September after moving from Glendale's attendance district to Hoover's. She could finish among the top 10 runners today in the Division I race of the state championships at Woodward Park.

The meet starts at 8:30 a.m. with the boys' Division I race and concludes at 1:20 p.m. with the girls' Division V event.

Siraki isn't expected to run in the lead pack that will include seniors Lauren Fleshman of Canyon, Trina Cox of Santa Rosa, Allyson Marquand of Irvine University and Courtney Baird of La Mesa Helix. But she could be in the second pack with junior Valerie Flores of San Pedro and sophomore Natalie Stein of North Hollywood.

"If she can [finish among the first seven], that would make her first-team all-state," Switzer said. "And we've never had a sophomore who's done that."

That's impressive considering Eliazar Herrera, 11th in the 1989 national championships, Margarito Casillas, fifth in 1991, and Lopez earned first- or third-team All-American honors during their Hoover careers.

Siraki finished fourth in the Pacific League cross-country final as a freshman, but it wasn't until she ran 5:15.22 to finish in the 1,600 meters in the league track final in May that she turned in any notable performances.

She set a course record to win the season-opening Millikan Invitational in Long Beach in September and has gotten progressively better, finishing third behind Fleshman and Marquand in the Southern Section Division I final at Mt. San Antonio College last week.

"Anita is one of those people who realizes she has a gift and wants to maximize it," Switzer said. "She has a body that doesn't break down [from training], she is very intelligent and she has a great work ethic. All of those things make her a good runner."

While Siraki will be shooting for a top-seven finish today, Fleshman and the La Canada girls' team and the Nordhoff boys are favored to win titles.

Fleshman, runner-up to Cox in the state Division I final last year, is expected to win the title this time after finishing 13th in the Division I final in 1995 and sixth in the Division II race in 1996.

La Canada is favored to win its second consecutive Division III title and have a top-10 individual finisher in sophomore Nicole Bonino.

The Nordhoff boys, with sophomore Roberto Contreras, are expected to win their second consecutive Division IV title and sixth in eight years at either the Division III or Division IV levels.

Junior Josh Spiker of Ventura and the Nordhoff girls' team aren't favored to win their races, but they could.

Spiker has won four consecutive times and defeated senior Alfonso Leon of Santa Ana for the Southern Section Division I title last week, but some observers still regard Leon as the favorite.

Corona del Mar defeated Nordhoff, 63-71, for the Southern Section Division IV championship, but Nordhoff has a habit of saving its best race of the season for the state final.

Sophomores Laura Jakosky of Agoura, Mark Nevers of Oak Park and Tom Kubler of Viewpoint could finish among the top five in their respective races.

Jakosky won the Southern Section Division II girls' title, Nevers placed third in the Division IV boys' race and Kubler was third in the Division V boys' final.

In team competition, Saugus could finish among the top three in the Division I boys' race, as could Notre Dame--without injured senior Kevin Lelles--in the Division IV boys' event, Flintridge Prep in the Division V boys' final and Thousand Oaks in the Division I girls' race.

Los Angeles Times Articles