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Stein Enjoys Record Day in the Park

High school cross-country: North Hollywood runner sets course record at Bell-Jeff Invitational.

October 01, 2000|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Natalie Stein of North Hollywood High has been one of the top cross-country runners in the region for the last three years.

But she took a step Saturday toward establishing herself as one of the best that the area has ever produced when she ran a course record to win the Division I girls' race of the Bell-Jeff Invitational at Griffith Park.

Stein's 16:31 clocking over the 2.8-mile distance cut a second off the course record set by Tania Fischer of Chaminade in 1982 and was 1:29 faster than she ran to win the Division II race last year.

"I was hoping to get near 17," said the soft-spoken Stein. "I was pretty happy when I saw the [digital clock] at the finish [line]."

Stein, who ran a career best of 10:51.44 in the 3,200 meters to place eighth in the state track and field championships in June, ran 17:17 to win the Division I race of the Woodbridge Invitational on Sept. 16. She followed that with a winning time of 17:50 in a meet against South Gate and El Camino Real at Pierce College on Thursday.

But no one figured she would beat the course record set by a runner--Fischer--who placed seventh in the 1981 national championships and ran 10:19.10 in the 3,200 in 1983.

Stein's performance was doubly impressive because she wasn't seriously challenged.

She surged into the lead at the start and had a 40-second lead after the first mile.

Her advantage grew to a minute after 1 1/2 miles and it was nearly two minutes at the finish as junior Heather Rosas of San Pedro placed second in 18:30.

Valerie Flores, Rosas' former San Pedro teammate, defeated Stein for the 1998 and 1999 City titles, but Stein has been one of the best runners in the state in the first month of the season.

Not that she can explain why.

"I don't know," she said when asked why she has improved so much. "I put in the same effort [last year], but I'm just running faster."

Stein's training has something to do with her improvement.

She averaged 50 miles a week this summer--compared to 40 two years ago--and put in close to 70 during a seven-day training camp at Mammoth Lakes' 8,000-foot elevation late in August.

The hard work has already led to some superb races, but the state Division I final on Nov. 25 is the race Stein hopes to peak for.

McFarland's boys won the state Division IV title last year and have won a record seven championships since the state meet began in 1987. But this could be their best team ever.

The Cougars posted a runaway victory in the Seaside Park Invitational at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Sept. 8, won the invitational race at the Great American cross-country festival in North Carolina two weeks later and had five of the top six finishers to win the Division III-IV race Saturday.

Senior Andres Gomez placed first in 14:17 to move to second on the all-time course list behind Richard Erbes of Glendale, who ran 14:10 in 1986.

Senior Robert Kubler of Crespi was second in 14:33, second fastest time of the meet at any level.

Tom Kubler of Viewpoint, Robert's fraternal twin, opened his season by winning the Division V race in 14:52.

Burroughs won the Division II boys' and girls' titles, La Reina placed first in the Division III-IV girls' race and Lancaster Desert Christian swept the Division V team titles.

Senior Mike Navarro of Burroughs placed second in the Division II boys' race with a 15:03 clocking.

Senior teammate Tony Ahr was fifth in 15:13.

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