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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | CROSS-COUNTRY

Sophomores Have Shown Their Class

November 16, 2000|JOHN ORTEGA

Three of them could qualify for the state cross-country championships in Fresno's Woodward Park on Nov. 25 as members of their school's teams.

Five of them will have to advance to the state meet as individuals if they're to run in Fresno.

No matter how they fare in the Division I or II races of the Southern Section championships at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut on Saturday, Phillip Reid of Rio Mesa, Johnny Zendejas of Camarillo, Ryan Morgan of Canyon, Chris Snyder of Crescenta Valley, Tim Hearst of Royal, Paul Sparks of Littlerock, and Kyle Ivie and Stratos Christianakis of Burbank have had notable sophomore seasons.

Reid defeated Zendejas for his second consecutive Pacific View League title earlier this month while Morgan has been the No. 4 runner for Canyon's nationally ranked team all season.

Snyder finished second in the Pacific League finals, Hearst won the Marmonte League title and Sparks won the Golden League championships.

Ivie and Christianakis are the Nos. 3 and 4 runners for Burbank, which has a decent shot at advancing to the state championships with an at-large berth at the Division II level.

"It's really neat to have two young kids as talented as [Reid] and [Zendejas] in the same league," Camarillo Coach Mike Smith said. "I think it says something about the talent in this area."

Zendejas and Reid have the two fastest times over Mt. SAC's 2.95-mile course among the above-mentioned sophomores, but they have vastly different backgrounds.

Reid started running when he was 6. Zendejas began a few weeks before his freshman year.

Zendejas finished ninth--35 seconds behind first-place Reid--in the Pacific View finals last year. But he ran 9:56.69 in the 3,200 meters in track and has continued to improve during cross-country, particularly in the last month.

"He's a kid who's just exploding right now," Smith said.

Zendejas, who had a best of 17:00 at Mt. SAC last year, ran 15:37 to finish second to junior teammate Brandon Lucero in a Division I race of the Mt. SAC Invitational on Oct. 21 and has been on a roll since.

He ran 15:18 to finish six seconds behind Reid in the Pacific View finals held on the flat three-mile course at College Park in Oxnard on Nov. 2. Then he timed 15:25 at Mt. SAC to finish fourth in a Division I qualifying heat of the section preliminaries last Saturday.

The time moved the 5-foot-3 1/2, 101-pound Zendejas into a tie for eighth on the all-time sophomore course list and to a tie for third among the region's sophomores.

Dave Hartman of Canyon set a then-sophomore course record of 15:19 in 1988 and Jon Spilman of Simi Valley ran 15:24 in 1977.

Bryan Dameworth of Agoura, who won three consecutive state Division I titles, clocked 15:25 at Mt. SAC as a sophomore in 1987.

"I was really shocked when I [first] got under 16 at Mt. SAC," Zendejas said. "Last week's race was just crazy."

Reid, Snyder and Morgan aren't far behind Zendejas on Mt. SAC's all-time sophomore list with bests of 15:28, 15:34 and 15:35, respectively.

Hearst ran 15:50 in the section preliminaries at Mt. SAC with Sparks at 15:59, Ivie at 16:00 and Christianakis at 16:04.

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Zendejas is having a superb sophomore season, but he suffered a huge loss in August when his father John, 42, died of a stroke.

John attended all but one of Johnny's cross-country and track races as a freshman.

"He was a big fan of mine," said Zendejas, an only child. "Some of the coaches in the [Pacific View] league knew him from when they were in school and they're always telling me, 'You know, your Dad is watching you. So go out and do your best.' That gets me going. I want to . . . make him proud of me."

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Advancing to a Southern Section final can sometimes be the luck of the draw.

Just ask the Royal boys' team.

The Highlanders placed a nonqualifying fifth in their Division I heat last week, but their team time would have been good enough in the other three heats.

"We ran well," assistant Ryan Luce said. "But we just got caught in a fast heat."

Rialto totaled 64 points to win the heat, followed by El Toro with 96, Santa Ana Valley and Rancho Cucamonga with 97, and Royal and Canyon Springs with 99.

Royal finished ahead of Canyon Springs because the Highlanders' No. 6 runner placed 36th while Canyon Springs' was 41st.

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The Highland girls' team had an up and down meet at the Southern Section preliminaries.

Senior Kelsey Wright advanced to the Division I final with a fourth-place effort of 18:37 in her heat, but junior teammate Cassie Ramirez was a nonqualifying 12th in 19:30.

Ramirez was 14th in 18:43 in the section final at Mt. SAC last year, but had to stop and tie her shoe during the race Saturday.

Wright, in her second cross-country season at Highland after moving from Virginia, cut 21 seconds off her best at Mt. SAC while running with an sore right shin that hampered her in the Golden League final on Nov. 1.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Top 10

Rankings of cross-country teams from the region

BOYS

*--*

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

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GIRLS

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

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