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Defending State Champion Siraki Among Thousands Preparing for the Long Run at Showcase Mt. SAC Meet

October 19, 2000|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anita Siraki broke or approached the course record in almost every cross-country race she has competed in this season.

The Glendale Hoover senior won the Millikan Invitational in Long Beach, the Woodbridge Invitational in Irvine, the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto and the Kenny Staub Invitational in La Crescenta.

On Saturday, Siraki runs in the largest prep cross-country event of all: the 53rd Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut. About 475 schools and 14,000 runners will compete in the two-day event.

The girls' record for the hilly 2.95-mile course is 16 minutes 55 seconds, set by Julia Stamps of Santa Rosa in 1995. Last year, Siraki clocked 16:58 at the Southern Section championship meet.

Is a record in the offing Saturday?

"You can't predict," said Siraki, who finished fourth at the national championships last year. "In all the races I have run this year, I have been at least 30 seconds faster than I was in the same race the year before.

"That's not too realistic to expect at Mt. SAC."

If not Saturday, Siraki might have two more chances to make history on the same Mt. SAC course. The Southern Section prelims and finals are contested over the same layout. The Western Regional championships are run on a slightly longer version of the course.

"I love this course," said Siraki, who is also the defending state champion. "You have to run it a few times to know how to race it."

The course will get plenty of wear Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, 28 races will be run in divisions III, IV and V, highlighted by the boys' Division IV sweepstakes race featuring Ryan Hall of Big Bear. Hall is the defending state champion in the 3,200 meters and is regarded as a contender for national honors.

On Saturday, 55 races will be run in divisions I and II, including four marquee events: the boys' and girls' team and individual sweepstakes.

The boys team sweepstakes features nine of the top 10 ranked teams in the state, including No. 1 Long Beach Poly. The Jackrabbits, ranked by Harrier magazine as the No. 2 team in the nation behind Mountain View of Orem, Utah., are led by senior Ozzie Pina, the defending Southern Section Division I champion.

Canyon Country Canyon, the top-ranked team in Division II, Rosemead Bosco Tech, the top-ranked team in Division III, and five-time defending City Section champion Belmont are in the boys' team sweepstakes race.

The boys' individual sweepstakes race features J.J. Duke of Clovis, Ben Aragon of Santee West Hills, Derek Lyons-Quick of Poway and Chris Britton of Madera.

Palos Verdes Peninsula, ranked No. 1 in the state, headline a girls' team sweepstakes race that includes five of the top seven teams in California. Irvine Woodbridge and defending meet champion Felton San Lorenzo Valley are among the teams competing.

Peninsula, ranked 15th in the nation by Harrier magazine, is led by seniors Nicole Lee and Breanne Sandberg and junior Emily Vance.

Peninsula Coach Joe Kelly said his team might be deeper than the team that won the school's only state title in 1994.

"We have three girls who can run near the front in any race--that's something you don't get very often," Kelly said. "Our four, five and six runners also are very solid, so we don't really have the weakness at those spots that some teams do."

Siraki will run in the girls' individual sweepstakes race. Among others in the race are: Natalie Stein of North Hollywood, who won the 1997 City championship and was section runner-up the last two years; Julie Allen of Fountain Valley, who finished second to Siraki in the state Division I championship race; and Laura Jakosky of Agoura, who won the 1998 Southern Section Division II title.

At last year's Mt. SAC Invitational, Siraki cut her previous best time from 18:18 to 17:23. It was the third-fastest girls' time at the meet.

Sara Bei of Santa Rosa Montgomery won the individual sweepstakes race for the second consecutive time with a 17:05 clocking. Siraki was second. Alejandra Barrientos of Felton San Lorenzo Valley won the team sweepstakes race in 17:13, leading her team to the title.

Siraki went on to her personal-best performance in the Southern Section finals and rode the momentum to a state title.

On Oct. 7, she set a course record to win the Division I girls' race of the Staub Invitational. Her 17:18 time lowered by 12 seconds the course record set by Amy Skieresz of Agoura in 1992 and was 1:04 faster than she ran to win last year's race.

"I'm not sure what I can do Saturday," Siraki said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to win and run the best that I can.

"This is only one of the big races. I want to make sure I'm ready for the biggest ones at the end of the season."

*

Staff writer John Ortega contributed to this story.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Major Crossroad

The 53rd Mt. SAC Cross-Country Invitational will take place at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut:

* When: Friday and Saturday.

* Featured races: Boys' Division I & II team sweepstakes, Saturday, 9 a.m.; Boys' Division I & II individual sweepstakes, Saturday, 9:20 a.m.; Girls' Division I & II team sweepstakes, Saturday, 9:40 a.m.; Girls' Division I & II individual sweepstakes, Saturday, 10 a.m.

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