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Fleshman Will Get Her First Big Test

Cross-country: Canyon runner goes against Bei and Gorton at Mt. SAC Invitational.


Lauren Fleshman of Canyon High.

Trina Cox of Santa Rosa.

Sara Bei of Santa Rosa Montgomery.

Sara Gorton of Mountain Pointe in Phoenix.

Abby Miller of Grass Valley in Henderson, Nev.

Those five, who would be included in a who's who list of the top girls' cross-country runners in the Western region of the United States, will compete in the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut on Saturday.

Unfortunately, all of them won't be in the same race.

Fleshman, a senior who placed second in the 1997 West region championships, Bei, a sophomore who won the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in the state track and field championships in June, and Gorton, a junior who placed fifth in the West region cross-country championships last year, are entered in the individual sweepstakes race.

Cox, a senior who defeated Fleshman for the state Division I title last year, and Miller, a junior who placed third in the 1996 national championships, will run in the team sweepstakes 20 minutes later.

"I'm having trouble finding races where someone can push Sara, but hopefully this will be one," Coach Larry Meredith of Montgomery said. "She's definitely looking forward to running against the best."

Fleshman is unbeaten in seven races this season and Gorton has lost only once, but the undefeated Bei will be favored after twice beating Cox by more than 20 seconds this season.

"She just keeps improving," Meredith said of Bei, who burst onto the national scene when she out-kicked Elaine Canchola, then a senior at Nordhoff, for eighth place in the 1997 West region championships. "She's running better now than she did in track."

Gorton could be at a disadvantage against Bei and Fleshman because she'll run in the Tempe Union High School District championships today before boarding a flight to Ontario.

"I tried to talk her out of running in the Tempe championships," Coach Sabrina Robinson of Mountain Pointe said. "But she really wanted to do it. She felt she owed it to the team."

While Bei, Fleshman and Gorton will take center stage in the individual sweepstakes race, there will be several other outstanding races.

Saugus, No. 4-ranked Division I boys' team in the state, will meet all of the other top 10-ranked squads in the team sweepstakes race.

Thousand Oaks, the state's No. 3-ranked Division I girls' team, will run in the team sweepstakes race, as will Marmonte League rival Simi Valley.

The La Canada girls and the Nordhoff and Notre Dame boys will be some of the featured performers today in the Division III, IV and V sweepstakes races.

Sophomore Nicole Bonino and senior Kim Garnic will lead a La Canada team that is defending state Division III champion, ranked first in the state in its division and 16th in the nation overall by Harrier magazine.

"When everyone on this team runs well, we're as good as any team in the state," co-Coach Dennis McNulty of La Canada said. "When we don't, there are 10 teams that can beat us."

Nordhoff, ranked No. 2 in the state in Division IV, and Notre Dame, No. 3, will meet for the first time this season but will be underdogs to top-ranked Riverbank.

An estimated 14,000 runners from 475 high schools will compete in 88 races during the two-day meet, which is billed as the largest in the nation.

The meet will start at 2 p.m. today with competition beginning at 7:15 a.m on Saturday.

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