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Girls' Race at Mt. SAC Unfolds as Easy as 1-2-3

Cross-country: Trio of extraordinary prep distance runners compete for first time, separate themselves from field.


WALNUT — Three of the top high school distance runners in the western United States met Saturday for the first time this season in the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational with eye-popping results.

Not that they're perfect strangers. Senior Lauren Fleshman of Canyon High, sophomore Sara Bei of Santa Rosa Montgomery and junior Sara Gorton of Mountain Pointe in Phoenix were teammates on the West region squad that ran in the 1997 national championships in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Bei moved to third on the all-time course performer list with a winning individual sweepstakes time of 17:05 over the three-mile distance and Fleshman advanced to eighth with her second-place time of 17:19.

Gorton, running her second race in two days, placed third in 17:28 to move to 17th on the list. Julia Stamps of Santa Rosa High set the course record of 16:55 in 1995.

"I was really sucking it up on the uphills," Fleshman said. "My legs were a little tired from a hard workout we had earlier this week so I wasn't running the hills like I usually do. I was playing catch-up a lot on the downhills."

Fleshman, Bei, Gorton and sophomore Natalie Stein of North Hollywood were part of an eight-runner pack that came through the mile in 5:25, but it became a three-runner race shortly thereafter with the undefeated Bei setting the pace.

"I was a little surprised I was in the lead as early as I was," Bei said. "I thought some of the other girls might push the pace more than they did."

Bei, winner of the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in the state track and field championships in June, led Fleshman and Gorton up the second of three major hills on the course before breaking open the race on the final incline with 1,000 yards left.

"She just took off," said Fleshman, runner-up in the 1997 West region championships.

"The most frustrating thing was admitting to yourself that there was no way you were going to catch her."

Fleshman managed to pull away from Gorton, however, and help Canyon to a second-place total of 122 points.

Hesperia Sultana won with 101 points.

Stein, the defending City Section champion, finished sixth in 18:24 with sophomore Anita Siraki of Hoover seventh in 18:31 and freshman Erin Weesner of Royal ninth in 18:45.

Saugus and Ventura turned in the top performances by boys' teams from the region.

Saugus placed fifth in a loaded team sweepstakes race with senior Jacob Boeding ninth in 15:40.

Senior Dan Klawer was 19th in 15:54 as the Centurions totaled 172 points to finish two points behind fourth-place Belmont.

Long Beach Poly, defending state Division I champion, placed four runners among the top 15 finishers on its way to a 67-point total. Santee West Hills was second with 115, followed by Chino Don Lugo with 164.

Junior Josh Spiker placed fifth in 15:27 in the individual sweepstakes race to help Ventura to a 122-125 victory over Huntington Beach Edison. Spiker was one of four runners who led the field through the mile in 4:35.

He was still within striking distance of the leaders at the two-mile mark but he lost some ground in the final mile as senior Marcus Chandler of San Diego Serra won in 15:09.

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