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AT A GLANCE

Girls' Cross-Country

September 05, 2000

* The Proven: With five of seven girls from The Times' Orange County cross-country team returning, including runner of the year Julie Allen of Fountain Valley, prepare for an exciting and competitive season. Allen, a junior, said goodbye to club soccer last spring after running the fastest time at the Orange County Championships and finishing second at state. Allen spent the summer training with the Cal Coast Track Club, led by Corona del Mar Coach Bill Sumner, but despite rumors she might end up at Corona del Mar, Allen said she is staying at Fountain Valley. Also returning from last season's first team are Newport Harbor senior Amber Steen, who won a Southern Section Division II championship and finished fifth at state, Santa Margarita senior Lori Mann, a two-time selection who finished fifth in the Southern Section Division II finals and eighth at state, and Mater Dei junior Jenny Sears, who had the county's fourth-fastest time at the Orange County Championships, the Southern Section finals and the state finals. Six of the seven all-county second-team runners also return.

* The Promising: Esperanza was already expected to be a top 10 team in the county, before Aztec Coach Rich Medellin convinced junior Shalice Pugmire to come out for the cross-country team. Pugmire is the younger sister of former Esperanza running star Courtney Pugmire, who won a Southern Section Division I title in 1994, finished second at state and ninth in the Foot Locker national championships. Medellin expects Pugmire to immediately fill one of the top two spots on the team. Sophomore Allison Costello is another newcomer who's expected to battle for one of the top spots. Costello missed most of last season after breaking her ankle playing soccer.

* Preseason Top 10: 1. Corona del Mar--Although lacking a standout, the Sea Kings are loaded with everything else; 2. Esperanza--Not to be outdone, the Aztecs are also loaded with young talent and seasoned veterans; 3. Foothill--Five returners from state champions make this team dangerous, especially when healthy; 4. Woodbridge--Kristen Berglas, Meghan Belotti and Jessica Kanin return from Division I state champions; 5. Brea Olinda--Entire group returns after finishing third at the Southern Section Division II finals; 6. Newport Harbor--Steen needs to hitch up her teammates if the Sailors hope to get any higher; 7. Santa Margarita--Injuries have created a speed bump, but Eagles are not out of the hunt; 8. Northwood--Everybody comes back from state Division V third-place team; 9. Capistrano Valley--Megan Tormey's return from injury is a big lift for Cougars; 10. Mater Dei--Newcomers add to already talented squad.

* Key Dates: Sept. 9, Laguna Hills Invitational; 16, Woodbridge Invitational; 23, Dana Hills Invitational; 30, Stanford Invitational; Oct. 7, Central Park Invitational; 14, Orange County Championships at Irvine Park; 21, Mt. San Antonio College Invitational; 28, Century League finals at Yorba Park, Sunset League finals at Central Park; Nov. 1, Empire League finals at Irvine Park, Orange League finals at Craig Park; 2, Freeway League finals at Clark Park, Garden Grove League finals at Mile Square Park, Olympic League finals at Craig Park, Pacific Coast League finals at Irvine Park, Serra League finals at Central Park; 3, Sea View League finals at Irvine Park, South Coast League finals at Laguna Niguel Park; 11, Southern Section prelims at Mt. SAC; 18, Southern Section finals at Mt. SAC; 25, State finals at Woodward Park in Fresno.

* League Favorites: Century--Foothill; Empire--Cypress; Freeway--La Habra; Garden Grove--Pacifica; Golden West--Santa Ana; Olympic--Orange Lutheran; Orange--Brea Olinda; Pacific Coast--Corona del Mar; Sea View--Woodbridge; Serra--Santa Margarita; South Coast--Capistrano Valley; Sunset--Esperanza.

* Fast Fact: La Quinta pulled its girls' cross-country program out of mothballs last season, and now another Garden Grove League school, Bolsa Grande, is attempting to field a team for the first time in several years. "There's definitely some natural talent," said Coach Christa Wemmer. "We're hoping to offer the other teams in our league some competitive races."

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