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La Canada Could Go Deep in Postseason


Winning Division III titles in the Southern Section and state championships are the goals of the La Canada High girls' cross-country team for the third year in a row.

Yet there are two big differences in the Spartan program this season.

First, Dennis McNulty, co-coach with Tony Haynes for the last five years, is the boys' coach at nearby St. Francis.

He has been replaced by Shannon Goods, a former runner at the University of Washington.

Second, depth will be an asset, not a liability, for La Canada this year.

The Spartans finished third in the Southern Section and fourth in the state championships last year, but they had only five quality runners.

There was a huge gap to their No. 6 and 7 runners, which made them very vulnerable if one of their usual five scoring runners went out with an injury or didn't perform well.

"We drop off the table after our fifth girl," McNulty would say.

That shouldn't happen this year as Haynes says La Canada has 10 or 11 girls capable of contending for one of the top seven spots.

"From the No. 2 position on down, things could change a lot this season," Haynes said. "We could have the luxury of keeping certain girls out of certain races, which should keep us fresh for the end of the season."

Senior Nicole Bonino, the 1998 Southern Section Division III champion and runner-up last year, is expected to be La Canada's top runner for the third year in a row. But there could be a weekly battle for the Nos. 2-7 spots between returning letter winners Carina Garnic, Emily Farr, Becky Zentmyer, Melody Thatcher, Rachel Frandsen and Stephanie Luk and newcomers Stephanie Lee, Tiffany Chung and Amy Parker.

Competition of that nature can benefit a team if the individual runners use each other to push themselves to better performances. But it can cause friction if individuals get hung up on maintaining a certain pecking order.

"I've told them that the one thing that can kill this team is [intrasquad] conflict," Haynes said. "I've told them that they need to put that aside and work for what's best for the team, not what's best for them as individuals."

La Canada appears to have a solid chance at winning its second section title in the last three years. But a third state title in four years would seem a reach as defending state champion Felton San Lorenzo Valley is the No. 2-ranked team in the nation by Harrier magazine.

"The state title is a little out there because of San Lorenzo Valley," Haynes said. "But this is a sport in which weird things happen. Nothing is guaranteed."

Other teams to watch in the region:

* Canyon: Junior Jazmin Treadway and sophomore Brenda Stevens are the top two returners for the Cowboys, who won their sixth consecutive Foothill League title and placed ninth in the Southern Section Division I final.

Treadway finished second in the league final and 10th in the Southern Section Division I championships.

Stevens was fifth in the league meet, 18th in the section final and ran 11:24.47 in the 3,200 meters in track.

Leanne Riggin and Alicia Johnson are highly regarded freshmen who should have an impact on the varsity.

* Thousand Oaks: The Lancers finished second to Westlake in the Marmonte League standings last season, but they'll be favored this year because their top seven runners are back.

Senior Kelley Hess finished second in the league final and seventh in the Southern Section Division I final and clocked 11:16.7 in the 3,200 in track.

Junior Ashley Patteson placed sixth in league with sophomore Ginger Taylor 13th.

* Quartz Hill: The Rebels failed to advance to the Southern Section Division I final last year, but five of their top seven runners are back.

Senior Jenny Yadon and sophomore Tarah Novelli placed third and eighth, respectively, in the Golden League final last year. But senior Shell Blevins, who was fifth, is not expected to run because of a leg injury.

* Hart: Sophomores Whitney Russell and Phaedra Miller will lead an Indian squad that finished second to Canyon in the Foothill League last year.

Russell, the defending league champion in cross-country, won the 800 and 1,600 in the league finals in track and had bests of 2:18.9 and 5:19.57.

Miller finished seventh in the league finals in cross-country.

* Westlake: Junior Kristen Anderson and sophomore Daniella Padilla are the top two returners for a team that won its first Marmonte League title since 1983 and placed seventh in the Southern Section Division II final.

Anderson placed fifth in the league final and Padilla was 10th.

Junior Michala Brook is a returnee who has struggled to regain the form that saw her run 5:12.60 in the 1,600 as a freshman.

* Royal: Junior Erin Weesner and senior Jaclyn Pedersen should give the Highlanders the best 1-2 punch in the Marmonte League, but their lesser-known teammates will have a big impact on where they finish in the standings.

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