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CROSS-COUNTRY

The Straight Poop About Mt. SAC's Strange Trail Mix

November 14, 2000|DAN ARRITT

There's nothing easy about the high school cross-country course at Mt. San Antonio College.

The 52-year-old layout, which will host the Southern Section finals Saturday, is widely known for the grueling hills in the final two miles, but even the first 100 yards provide an obstacle.

"You go from a wide starting area into a narrow chute," said Cypress senior Michelle Icban. "I have no choice but to be in the back of the pack, unless I want to get stepped on."

The 2.93-mile course then spins into a half-mile circle that competitors must complete twice. Some say this is the worst part.

"It's so repetitive," Mater Dei freshman Kristen Kovacich said. "It's like running track."

Meghan Bellotti, a Woodbridge junior, isn't a big fan of the tight quarters in the first mile.

"So many people get bunched up and there's nowhere to go," she said. "You have to cut people off and I don't like doing that."

After completing the second loop, the course heads into a section called "switchbacks," a steep incline that consists of four tight turns. The better runners begin to separate themselves from the pack during this climb, while the rest begin their fade.

"It's so steep and it seems like it takes forever to get to the top," Mater Dei's Kaelyn Rasch said.

The course begins to level out at the summit, then descends to a paved area where spectators are afforded a great opportunity to check the progress of the race.

It's a good time to soak up some encouragement, as the course's best-known feature is just ahead.

Poop-Out Hill is a steep incline that leaves competitors seemingly climbing to the sky for its 100-foot duration.

"It's so bad," Bellotti said.

The course then goes into a sweeping right-hard turn, past the two-mile mark and about a dozen grazing cows. After another sharp right turn, runners head straight for Reservoir Hill, a 30-second climb that is straighter and less steep, but just as exhausting.

"Your momentum kind of carries you up Poop-Out," said Foothill's Emily Haigh. "But on the last one you're just so dead . . . it just kills at the end."

After descending Reservoir Hill, the final straightaway gives speedsters an opportunity to make up some ground before one more short incline leads to the finish.

FINE EXAMPLE

About two dozen coaches from Southern Section teams got a chance to put their bodies where their mouths were Saturday.

During a lunch break at the section prelims, a separate race was held for coaches on the same course that was used for the high school competition.

Pasadena La Salle Coach Danny Gonzalez held the lead coming out of Reservoir Hill, but El Dorado Coach Rob Nichols shifted gears and won by about five seconds.

If you have an item or idea for the cross-country report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at: dan.arritt@latimes.com

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