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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

One Nevers Knows How Well Runner Could Do

November 18, 2000|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OAK PARK — The stopwatch says senior Mark Nevers of Oak Park High has virtually no chance of winning the boys' Division IV title in today's Southern Section cross-country championships at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

The stopwatch says Nevers will have to be satisfied with finishing second to Ryan Hall of Big Bear for the second consecutive year.

The stopwatch can be wrong.

So says Nevers, whose career best over Mt. SAC's 2.95-mile layout is 43 seconds slower than Hall's.

"If I didn't think I could win, I wouldn't be running," said Nevers, who ran a school record of 15:18 at Mt. SAC in the section preliminaries last Saturday. "If I thought I didn't have a chance at winning, I wouldn't be out there. . . . It won't be easy, but if I can run with him for the first two miles, I can't see myself just letting him go in the last mile. I think I'll do whatever I can to hang on."

Hall, a senior, is regarded as one of the top three distance runners in the nation after clocking 4:06.15 in the mile and 8:55.12 in the 3,200 meters during track season.

He ran 8:58.6 in a two-mile race at Azusa Pacific three weeks ago and 14:35 in the section preliminaries to threaten the course record of 14:32 set by Jeff Nelson of Burbank in 1978.

Nelson set the national high school record of 8:36.3 in the two-mile in 1979.

The unassuming Nevers doesn't think he can run 14:35 at Mt. SAC, but the straight-A student figures he can break 15 minutes and that could put him within striking distance of Hall if the Big Bear standout only runs a good race.

"It's a great opportunity," said Nevers, who has run 9:22.3 for 3,200 meters. "I think there's a good chance that the course record could fall, and I'd like to say I was in that race."

Nevers' confidence got a big boost in the preliminaries when he cut 12 seconds off his previous best at Mt. SAC, despite feeling "uncomfortable" during the race.

"He thought it was a good effort," Coach Kevin Smith of Oak Park said. "But he was shocked at the time. He was thinking it was a 15:30 or 15:40. It just didn't feel that fast to him."

Oak Park, the top-ranked Division IV team in the Southern Section, placed second in the section final last year and fourth in the state meet. But the Eagles felt they were over-raced by the end of the year.

They've run in about half as many meets this season, and Nevers will be running only his sixth race today.

"We were hurt when the Ventura County championships were canceled [because of rain]," Smith said. "That prevented us from getting in a hard race that we needed, but I still think we'll be fine. . . . Last week was a good chance for us to run hard."

So what has Smith said to Nevers about Hall?

Not a thing.

"I've never told him how to run a race in the past and I'm not going to now," Smith said. "Mark has always done a very good job about making the right decisions in races. He's always been very good about reacting to what's going on in a race."

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