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CROSS-COUNTRY

Sunny Hills Twins Out to Set the Pace

It may be hard to tell Claire and Stacy Kim apart, but they have no problem distinguishing themselves from their competition.

October 17, 2000|DAN ARRITT

After September's grade-level invitationals and Saturday's Orange County Championships, identifying the county's top freshmen runners doesn't take a lot of guesswork.

Michael Haddan of Woodbridge earned that title in boys' cross-country, running the county's third-fastest time overall at the Woodbridge Invitational on Sept. 16, then winning the Division II varsity race at the county championships.

But labeling the top newcomer in girls' cross-country isn't as easy. Mainly because Claire and Stacy Kim are so difficult to tell apart.

Claire and Stacy are freshmen twins at Sunny Hills High, and have emerged as the county's top runners in their class this season.

At the Bellflower St. John Bosco Roadrunner Classic on Sept. 23, the sisters won the girls' division with identical times of 18 minutes 32 seconds. They were so even at the finish line, race organizers decided to order another first-place trophy.

"They were dead even, side by side," said Bernadette Mota, an assistant coach at Sunny Hills who works primarily with the girls' team. "The people judging were saying, 'Who won?' "

Claire and Stacy Kim also had many wondering who they were at the Central Park Invitational in Huntington Beach two weeks ago. They bravely ran on the heels of Fountain Valley's Julie Allen for the first 2 1/2 miles before finally succumbing to the brisk pace set by the 1999 Times' Orange County runner of the year.

"That was the first time this season they had someone else leading the pack besides them," said their father, Chung Kim. "It was kind of a surprise to them."

Mota, who is part of a new coaching staff at Sunny Hills, led by her brother, Lorenzo, said Claire and Stacy should only make each other faster in the years to come.

"They can push each other during workouts," Mota said. "A lot of times you get one girl who is good, but then you don't have anybody to push her."

Mota, who ran for Lakewood St. Joseph and Long Beach City College, has been pushed by the Kim sisters as well. She first learned of their talent from her former high school coach, but was skeptical until she hit the pavement with them.

"When I started doing summer workouts with them, I said to myself, 'Yep, these are fast girls.' They give me a really good workout."

The Lancers skipped the Orange County Championships so they could rest for this weekend's Mt. San Antonio College Invitational.

"We don't want to run too many Saturday invitationals," Mota said. "After Mt. SAC, the schedule gets pretty intense."

The Kims were born in the United States, but moved to Korea with their family shortly before kindergarten. It was during their six-year stay in Korea that the Kims began running with their physical education class.

When they moved back to the United States, their fourth-grade P.E. teacher suggested they continue running. The Kims took his advice and joined a track club in La Mirada, which helped them develop impressive junior resumes, including several trips to the USTAF junior nationals.

"We've done a lot of races, but Stacy and I were really excited when we were able to qualify for the national championships," Claire said. "We went to places like Kentucky and Chicago."

Claire and Stacy have also tried their hand at tennis and have been fairly successful, but they aren't ready to play both sports in high school, since both compete in the fall season.

"We had to pick one," Claire said, "and cross-country is better for us."

LOOKING AHEAD

The boys' team sweepstakes race at the Mt. SAC Invitational begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and will feature nine of the state's top 10 Division I teams, including fifth-ranked Dana Hills.

Four of the top eight Division II teams will also be at the starting line, including second-ranked Newport Harbor, which is coming off victories at the Stanford Invitational and the Orange County Championships.

The girls' team sweepstakes begins at 10 a.m. and will also include several top county teams, such as Woodbridge, the state's top-ranked team in Division II.

The girls' individual sweepstakes race will feature a rematch between Glendale Hoover's Anita Siraki and Fountain Valley's Allen, who finished 1-2 at the Division I state finals last season. Siraki, who was the top 3,200-meter runner in the nation last spring, and Allen will chase the course record of 16:55.

Division III-V races will be held Friday, with one of the highlights expected to be the Division IV girls' event. That race will feature the state's top six teams from Division IV, including top-ranked Corona del Mar, which is coming off a victory at the Orange County Championships.

Corona del Mar ran in the team sweepstakes race last season and finished second to San Lorenzo Valley.

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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