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Jakosky Quit Karate but Still Has a Kick

Agoura High runner is favored to win girls' race in Ventura County cross-country championships Monday.


Karate and cross-country might appear to be vastly different sports, but senior Laura Jakosky of Agoura High says her training in the former has helped her excel in the latter.

Jakosky, favored to win her second consecutive girls' title in the Ventura County cross-country championships at Lake Casitas on Monday, took up karate at the age of 8 and earned a first-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do by the time she was 13.

"Mentally, they're very similar," Jakosky said. "You have to be disciplined and tough to compete in both.

"A lot of the things that Coach [Bill] Duley tells me about cross-country are the same things that I was told in karate. Things like, 'It's going to hurt, but you have to learn to deal with it and get by that.' "

Jakosky, who has won six of eight races this season, didn't run competitively until her freshman year at Agoura, when she dropped karate.

But her martial arts background helped her adjust to the rigors of distance running quicker than most.

"She was able to accelerate her mileage fairly rapidly because of the muscle strength she had built up in her legs through karate," Duley said. "She was able to up her mileage a lot quicker than many beginning runners."

Jakosky, who describes herself as a hyper, highly competitive person, placed eighth in the Southern Section Division II final and 28th in the state meet as a freshman. But she really made a name for herself as a sophomore by winning the Southern Section title and finishing sixth in the state final.

Amber Steen of Newport Harbor defeated Jakosky for the section title last year in a race that included a thrilling homestretch battle in which both runners elbowed each other several times.

"When you have two people running as hard as they can with so much on the line, you're going to have elbows being thrown," Jakosky said. "I just look at it as those things are going to happen."

Jakosky followed the section meet with a sixth-place finish in the state final for the second consecutive year, but she was a disappointing 44th in the West region championships.

"She just never got untracked in that race," Duley said.

Jakosky lowered her career best to 10:48.15 in the 3,200 meters in track and defeated Steen for the Division II title in the section championships in May, but she placed 10th in 11:17.71 in the Masters Meet six days later.

There have been few disappointments this season.

Jakosky was sick when she finished well behind Anita Siraki of Hoover and Steen in the Division II race of the Woodbridge Invitational on Sept. 16. But she ran a career best of 17:42 to place fourth in the individual sweepstakes race of the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational in Walnut on Saturday.

Jakosky finished more than a minute behind Siraki's stunning course record of 16:38 over the 2.95-mile layout, but Duley was impressed with the way she ran.

"I saw a confidence at Mt. SAC that I haven't seen before," he said. "She was quite a ways off the lead [halfway through the race], but she really ran herself back into the race and passed some of the runners ahead of her.

"She kept charging and charging, which is something she hasn't always done in the past in races against the really good girls."

Jakosky, who won't take any recruiting trips until after the season, says her improved confidence is the result of being older, wiser and in the best shape of her life.

"I owe so much of what I've accomplished to Coach Duley," Jakosky said. "I could go on for hours about everything he's done for me, but I'll just say that he puts you on a four-year plan when you train with him. He is great at getting you to improve every year.

"I've told the freshmen on this year's team, 'If you stick with him for the next four years, you're going to see a lot of improvement.' "

Freshman Lindsey Owen of Nordhoff and seniors Jaclyn Pedersen of Royal and Kelley Hess of Thousand Oaks are expected to be Jakosky's biggest challengers in today's race, but they'll be big underdogs.

Jakosky has beaten Pedersen, the 1998 county champion, and Hess, runner-up last year, by large margins this season and her time at Mt. SAC was 44 seconds faster than what Owen ran in the Division III sweepstakes a day earlier.

Royal, defending champion Nordhoff and Thousand Oaks are expected to battle for the girls' team championship.

Oak Park, led by individual favorite Mark Nevers, is tabbed to win its second consecutive boys' title.

But Royal, Newbury Park, Nordhoff, Thousand Oaks, Santa Clara and Camarillo all appear capable of pulling off an upset victory.

"I think Oak Park is the team to beat," said Coach Mike Stewart of Newbury Park.

"But I've told [our] guys that anyone can get [seventh] and anyone can get second."

Nevers, a senior who finished second to Josh Spiker of Ventura in the last two county championships, is expected to receive his strongest challenges from sophomore Phillip Reid of Rio Mesa, and junior Brandon Lucero and sophomore Johnny Zendejas of Camarillo.

The meet starts with the junior varsity boys' race at 1:30 p.m.

The varsity girls' race is scheduled to start at 4, with the boys' event at 4:30.

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