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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | CROSS-COUNTRY

Santa Clara's Runners Make It a New Frontier

November 09, 2000|JOHN ORTEGA

Wait until next year.

Those four words no longer have to be uttered by the members, coaches and supporters of the Santa Clara High boys' cross-country team when it comes to winning the Frontier League title.

Not after defeating nine-time defending champion Nordhoff, 28-45, in the league finals at Lake Casitas in Ventura last Thursday.

Santa Clara finished a distant second to Nordhoff in the league finals last year, but the Saints vowed things would be different this year because their entire team was returning while Nordhoff lost two of its top three runners to graduation in June.

"We knew if it was ever going to happen, it was going to be this year," Coach Debra Sharp of Santa Clara said. "With all the seniors we had coming back, we felt that this was the year."

Santa Clara, the top-ranked Division V team in the state, and Nordhoff, the No. 4-ranked Division III squad, split a pair of two-point decisions in league meets earlier this season. But Santa Clara was a surprisingly easy winner in the finals.

Michael Reed and Bobby Hull finished first and second for the Saints with fellow seniors Anthony Walker, Joel Mellick and Gus Deharo placing seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively.

"We thought it would be close," Sharp said. "We expected it to be a dogfight like the first two."

It wasn't for two reasons.

First, Santa Clara ran extremely well in winning its first outright league title and second overall.

Second, Nordhoff was missing junior Mike Owen, senior Nick Pisciotta and sophomore Austin MaGill, who were kept out of the meet with various leg injuries.

Sharp would like to have beaten Nordhoff at full strength, but she refrained from playing the what if game.

"We know that you've got to go with what you have on that particular day," she said. "The guys would like to have beaten them with everyone there, but they weren't disappointed with winning."

Coach Ken Reeves of Nordhoff refused to make excuses for the loss.

"We got beat by a better team last week," he said. "They were stronger than us and deserved to win."

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Nordhoff's nine-year year league title run ended last week, but the Rangers still have a shot at winning their fourth consecutive Southern Section title.

Owen, Pisciotta and MaGill are not seriously injured and it appears likely that senior Roberto Contreras will be academically eligible when the section championships are held at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut on Nov. 18.

Contreras, who hasn't run for Nordhoff this season, placed eighth in the state Division IV final last year.

Reeves, who has been receiving weekly progress reports on Contreras, says grades will be turned in Monday and finalized by the end of next week.

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Not having a dominant No. 1 runner can be a strength, not a weakness, for a cross-country team.

Just ask the Quartz Hill girls' squad.

The Rebels, ranked third in the state Division I poll, have had five No. 1 runners in eight meets.

The order of their top five runners has not been the same in any meet.

"It's not something that we've talked about," Coach Mike Davis said. "We've been running in a pack all year and that's just the way it's been. The girls know that whoever ate the right thing that morning or isn't worried about a test or is feeling good on that particular day will be up there and the rest of them will be close behind."

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The Thousand Oaks girls' and boys' teams had mixed results in the Marmonte League finals last Thursday.

The Lancers won the girls' meet with a 43-65 victory over runner-up Royal that avenged a 27-30 loss to the Highlanders earlier this season and gave them a share of their sixth title in the last seven years.

Thousand Oaks fell short of winning its fourth consecutive boys' title.

The Lancers, Royal and Newbury Park posted 5-1 league records, but Royal won the final with 31 points, followed by Newbury Park with 41 and Thousand Oaks at 69.

"Our guys have struggled with their consistency all [season]," Coach Robert Radnoti said. "And I'm not sure why. . . . It's just a mystery to me."

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How dominant has the Canyon girls' team been in Foothill League competition this season?

Enough that Coach Dave DeLong seemed slightly disappointed last Thursday when the Cowboys had six of the top eight finishers in the league finals at Castaic Lake.

"I think we run better on the courses with big hills," DeLong said.

DeLong's comment was based on the fact Canyon swept the top five places in the second Foothill League meet of the season on a Griffith Park course that has more hills than the one at Lake Castaic.

In addition, Canyon runners posted the top six times among Foothill League competitors in the Mt. SAC Invitational on Oct. 21.

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X-rays of Kelsey Wright's right shin proved negative for stress fractures last week, but it hasn't been determined if the Highland senior will run in a Division I heat of the Southern Section preliminaries at Mt. SAC on Saturday.

Wright finished sixth in the Golden League finals at the Rattlesnake course in Quartz Hill last Thursday, but her shin was extremely sore afterward.

"If she says it feels OK and she looks OK in workouts, she'll run," Coach John Johnston said. "If she looks like she's favoring it, she won't."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Top 10

Rankings of cross-country teams from the region

BOYS

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RK LW School (League) 1 1 Canyon (Foothill) 2 3 Royal (Marmonte) 3 2 Oak Park (Tri-Valley) 4 4 Newbury Park (Marmonte) 5 8 Camarillo (Pacific View) 6 6 Thousand Oaks (Marmonte) 7 7 Santa Clara (Frontier) 8 5 Nordhoff (Frontier) 9 9 Burbank (Foothill) 10 10 Fillmore (Tri-Valley)

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GIRLS

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RK LW School (League) 1 1 Quartz Hill (Golden) 2 2 Canyon (Foothill) 3 3 La Canada (Rio Hondo) 4 6 Thousand Oaks (Marmonte) 5 5 Nordhoff (Frontier) 6 4 Royal (Marmonte) 7 7 Agoura (Marmonte) 8 8 Ventura (Channel) 9 NR Westlake (Marmonte) 10 NR Burroughs (Foothill)

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