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The Rundown: Dana Hills Finds Reinforcements

Boys' cross-country: Strong group of newcomers and four returners give Dolphins shot at South Coast League title.

September 05, 2000|DAN ARRITT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They run for personal causes, such as their future, friendships and fitness. But there's one goal every member of the Dana Hills boys' cross-country shares this season: reclaiming the title in the competitive South Coast League.

That used to be a regular feat for the Dolphins, who won six league titles between 1986-92 and 10 during Coach Tim Butler's 27-year tenure at the school.

But Dana Hills has hung just one boys' cross-country championship banner in the last seven years. During that time, Mission Viejo has reemerged as the team to beat in the South Coast League, winning the last four titles.

Dana Hills senior Devin Segal, a second-team Times' Orange County selection last season, thinks the scale is about to tip in the Dolphins' direction again.

"It looks like we're shaping up to have a good season," Segal said. "We definitely have a lot of runners that can surprise some people."

Segal was referring to the strong corps of newcomers that joined the four returners from last season. Sophomore Tyler Kastorff and junior Damian Hall have run sub-16-minute times on the three-mile layout around Dana Hills High, while junior Tommy Jordan has finished two miles in just under 10 minutes on the track.

The new faces are expected to press returning seniors Derek Horn and Daniel Yoder for the top five scoring spots. Segal, Horn, Yoder and junior David Troxcil were key contributors last season, when the Dolphins finished third in league and 11th at the Southern Section Division I finals.

Horn was usually the third or fourth runner to cross the finish line for Dana Hills last season. He had a season-best time of 16:20 on the hilly Mt. San Antonio College layout and 15:34 on the Dolphins' home course.

"Right now, I'm coming back as the second fastest behind Devin," Horn said.

Yoder had a slightly faster personal best than Horn on the Dana Hills course (15:32) and expects the competition for the second through fifth spots to be close.

"There's like five or so guys that have the potential to be second," Yoder said. "We have some new guys that are doing so well."

Segal and Yoder said they draw most of their motivation from their religious faith and the potential for a college scholarship. Segal hopes to attend a major university in Southern California, but knows many college coaches are waiting to see how he performs this season.

"There's nothing for sure," said Segal, who has a 3.6 grade-point average. "I definitely think if I run the way I should, it will get me into college."

Segal admits he had an up-and-down junior season, which caused many college recruiters to take a wait-and-see attitude for his senior year. He blames the inconsistency last season on poor work habits.

"I actually started training before August this summer," said Segal, who finished 16th at the Division I finals but failed to qualify for state. "I think it was just the senior year thing that snapped my head into getting motivated."

Butler also saw a look of determination from Segal this summer.

"He's talking about really high goals, not whimping out when we give him extra workout stuff," Butler said. "Last year, it was off and on. I think it was growing pains and he finally realized what it takes to run up here and be a guy you want to go after."

The Dolphins' depth doesn't end with their top seven. Butler said 10 seniors ran under 17:30 at a recent time trial.

"This is the strongest senior class we've had by far," Butler said. "So we're looking a little better than we thought."

With the South Coast League featuring three of the county's top five ranked teams, Butler isn't wasting any time getting in some early-season racing. He took seven runners to an invitational at the University of North Texas last weekend and plans to take the 14 varsity runners to Hawaii for the Kamehameha Invitational in October.

"Texas is something new this year, but we go to Hawaii every year," Butler said. "We usually get there about a week early, just to get used to the heat and humidity."

Other teams to watch this season:

Santa Margarita returns its top eight runners from the 1999 team that advanced to the state finals. The Eagles finished ninth in the Division II state finals with four juniors, two sophomores and a freshman making the trip to Fresno. They were also the only team in that division without a senior at the starting line. Even so, Santa Margarita Coach Dave Zeitler thinks Bellflower St. John Bosco is the team to beat in the Serra League. Katella, which finished fourth in the Division II state finals last season, will be happy just to get to the Southern Section finals this season. The Knights return only two runners with any varsity experience. Fountain Valley could be one of the surprises this season. The Barons' current junior class was 0-6 in the Sunset League last season, but won the Division I sophomore race at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational. Santa Ana Valley will be seeking its fifth consecutive Century League title.

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