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Strachan Sisters Kick Their Soccer Habit

Girls' cross-country: Laura, a junior, and Katie, a sophomore, are shifting entire focus to running this season, which could make highly regarded Foothill even better.


Laura and Katie Strachan finally took their ball and limped home.

The Foothill High sisters quit their soccer teams last winter to focus on a sport that was a lot more forgiving, and a lot more rewarding: They led the Knights to their first girls' Division II state cross-country title last season.

"We're better runners than we are soccer players," admitted Laura Strachan, a junior. "We just needed to really figure it out. We always get injured playing soccer."

She was a Times All-County first team selection in cross-country last season, finishing ninth at the state finals.

But shortly after the season ended, Laura Strachan broke a small bone in her lower back while playing soccer. The injury forced her to miss the spring track and field season, and she's still going through physical therapy.

Katie Strachan, a second-team all-county selection after finishing 14th at the state finals and eighth at the Orange County championships last season, sprained both ankles and injured her hip in separate incidents on the soccer field. A sophomore, she also sat out the track season and she's still feeling discomfort in her hip.

The Strachans' father, Rod, is a graduate of Foothill, where he began a swimming career that later earned him a gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley at the 1976 Olympics. Now an anesthesiologist at St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, Rod Strachan was tired of spending his off days in the emergency room with his daughters.

"Basically, [our parents] just made us set our priorities straight, telling us, 'In college, if you want to do sports, you're not going to do both,' " said Laura Strachan, whose sophomore season also included an eighth-place finish at the section finals and a fifth at the county championships.

Foothill Coach Jeff Farr, sharing the sentiments of just about every other cross-country coach in the county, was happy to hear that his prized runners were getting the kind of break they needed.

"I think last season, after doing a full season of cross-country and then going straight to soccer and then trying to do track, it just was too much and it kind of tore their bodies down," Farr said. "So I think they'll get some recovery time after not doing soccer this year."

Even before Laura and Katie Strachan dedicated themselves to running, the Knights were expected to be among the top cross-country teams in the state this season.

Now they should be even faster.

In addition to the Strachans, Foothill returns all but one of its top runners from last season. Senior Missy Ellsworth was consistently among Foothill's top five a year ago and is expected to be on the heels of Laura and Katie this season.

Emily Haigh was also a consistent top-five runner, even though she didn't train with the team last summer. But Haigh showed up this year and the head start should make her stronger early on.

Lindsay Kuehn also returns for the Knights and should be a key contributor in the 5 through 7 slots. Also expected to score valuable points is freshman Ashley Henderson, a middle-distance runner on her club track team.

"She has pretty good speed coming in," Farr said of Henderson. "We're just trying to give her some endurance."

Farr also expects newcomer Emily Feher to contribute. Feher, a sophomore, is familiar with the pressure that comes with success. She's a second-team all-county goalkeeper in girls' water polo, leading the Knights to the Division I title last winter.

Feher also plays for the SoCal 16-and-under club team, which won the gold medal in its division at the National Junior Olympic Championships earlier this month.

Farr said his strategy will differ greatly now that the Knights are state title contenders.

Farr was eager to win every race and quickly gain notice for the Knights last season, but this time around he'd like to try a different approach. Before the Southern Section and state finals in late November, Farr is only concerned with defending the titles at the Stanford Invitational in October and the Century League finals in early November. Every other race might as well be a training run, including the Orange County Championships in mid-October.

"Last year in training camp, he said our goal was to win state and everyone said, 'No it's not, we just want to make it to state,' " Katie Strachan said. "This year, he hasn't really said anything about winning this and winning that. He just wants us to train more. He's more into the training instead of the winning."

Farr has already made one winning move, hiring 1995 Foothill graduate Sabrina Caplis to help coach the girls' team. Caplis ran on Foothill's track team, finishing sixth in state in the 800 meters her senior year. She went on to star at UC Santa Barbara, where she set school records in the 400 (55.76 seconds) and 800 (2:07.31).

Not yet embedded in a full-time career, Caplis offered to help Farr coach the team. Caplis also remains in top-notch shape and helps the team with their pacing.

"She's so cool," Laura Strachan. "It helps to have a girl coach to push us and we can talk to her about anything. She talks about all her experiences at Foothill. We can totally relate to her. She's our age more, and she can run with us."

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