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Career Days Help Clements, Stein Finish as Champions


WOODLAND HILLS — Natalie Stein had reason to be happy after Saturday morning's City Section cross-country championships. She won the girls' race, tying a course record by running three miles at Pierce College in 17:13, 12 seconds faster than her time at last week's preliminaries.

Daniel Clements of Taft won the boys' race in a career-best 15:16.

Stein, a senior from North Hollywood High, tied the record set last year by Valerie Flores of San Pedro and was 1:34 ahead of second-place finisher Heather Rosas, also of San Pedro.

It was Stein's 10th victory in 12 races this season and her second City championship. She ran 18:12 to win as a freshman in 1997.

"I had improved by 25 seconds the previous week and my goal was just to run even faster if I could [Saturday]," Stein said. "I credit my coach for telling me when to run, when not to run and what kind of workouts to do."

Stein's effort showed she's capable of a top-five finish in the state championships Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.

"She's the best girl I've ever had in my 22 years here, as far as accomplishments go," North Hollywood Coach Gary Smith said.

"She and Valerie [Flores] are both great kids and I'm glad to see Natalie do this. This is great for the Valley."

Stein will not be joined by her teammates in Fresno because the Huskies finished fourth behind Belmont, San Pedro and Birmingham.

The top two teams and top five individuals not on a qualifying team advanced to the state meet.

Clements beat Oscar Sanchez of Eagle Rock by 13 seconds.

Clements' previous best was 15:28 at the West Valley League finals. He ran 15:36 at last week's preliminaries and admitted he wasn't expecting to run as fast as he did Saturday.

"I'm really surprised, but I told myself that after four years of running I've got to make something out of it," Clements said. "My whole family showed up to watch me and they were all cheering me on from different parts of the course. That helped."

Clements stayed with the leaders for the first two miles, then made his move on the downhill grade at the start of the third mile.

Damian Mendoza of Cleveland was the surprise of the meet, placing third in 15:32. He had not run under 16 minutes this season.

Chris Wells-Anders of El Camino Real was sixth in 15:35, followed by Manuel Ruiz of Monroe in 15:36 and Birmingham's Lino Ortiz in 15:37.

Monroe, with 104 points, finished second to qualify for the state championships for the second consecutive year.

Belmont had 45 points to win its sixth consecutive City title and 16th in 19 years.

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