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CROSS-COUNTRY

They Were Off and Running at Laguna Hills Invitational

September 12, 2000|DAN ARRITT

September cross-country meets typically serve as extended summer training for coaches and athletes, but Saturday's Division I senior race at the Laguna Hills Invitational had the look of a postseason duel.

At the starting line was Ozzie Pina of Long Beach Poly, a recent transfer from Lakewood who won a Southern Section Division I title last season. Alongside him were two of the county's best runners, Scott Brandos of Edison and Devin Segal of Dana Hills.

Segal took the early lead and held it until about a mile to go, when Pina surged ahead and brought along Brandos, who did his best to drag Segal.

"I caught Segal and told him, 'Let's go get Pina,' " Brandos said, "So we started to go for a while and then [Segal] fell off."

Pina was able to hold off Brandos' charge and win the three-mile race in 15 minutes 20 seconds. Brandos was second in 15:30 and Segal was third in 15:39.

Jim Roldan, in his fifth season as assistant boys' cross-country coach at Edison, wasn't expecting such high-caliber competition at the first meet of the season, nor did he want it.

"I didn't know these guys were going to show up," Roldan said of Pina and Segal. "I just wanted Scott to get a race under his belt."

Brandos ran the third-best time of the day and the fastest among county runners. He also had the fastest time among county runners at the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational last season, but that was the highlight of his up-and-down campaign.

"He's a lot stronger this year," said Roldan. "Last year, I think Segal would have beaten him."

MY WAY ON THE HIGHWAY

Erich Moreno is listed as head coach of the Edison boys' team, but Roldan does most of the training.

Former coach Michael Munoz left the team over the summer to begin teaching English in Japan, but kindly left behind a detailed training regimen for his successor. When Roldan assumed control of the team's workouts over the summer, he made a few modifications to Munoz's schedule.

"He left the schedule but really couldn't anticipate what was going to happen with the coaching situation," said Roldan, who stays in touch with Munoz via e-mail. "Our workouts are similar but I've kind of changed some things."

Roldan lives in Pasadena and commutes to Edison four days a week, after putting in a full day's work as an engineer for the city of Los Angeles. Roldan moved to Pasadena after accepting the job late last year, but never questioned whether to continue coaching the Chargers.

"I've spent so much time with this program the last five years, I'm not going to walk away now," he said.

Brandos said there was some initial sadness when Munoz left for Japan. In addition to sharing his vast knowledge of the sport, Munoz was a good friend.

But Brandos and his teammates are very familiar with Moreno and Roldan. "We didn't hit any speed bumps or anything," Brandos said. "Everything basically stayed the same."

LONG ENOUGH

El Modena didn't finish as fast as originally thought, but the Vanguards were still quick enough to win the Division II varsity girls' title Saturday at the Bronco Invitational at Prado Regional Park in Chino.

Because of a mix-up with a measuring wheel, the length of the course was only 2.7 miles, somewhat shorter than the intended three-mile layout.

On-campus construction at Cal Poly Pomona forced the meet to be temporarily moved to the regional park course, which hosted this year's NCAA Division II West Regionals.

Valencia finished second in the Division II varsity boys' race, led by sophomore Juan Robles, who finished fifth overall in 14:10.

Katella finished third in Division II and Foothill was fourth, led by junior Matt McKeehan, who was 111th overall in 14:22.

LOOKING AHEAD

The 20th annual Woodbridge Invitational will take place Saturday at the high school.

The races will be divided by school class and division. Divisions I and II will run in the morning and Divisions III and IV will race in the afternoon.

Esperanza is participating in the meet for the first time and the Aztecs' second-ranked girls' team should compete for team honors in Division I.

Woodbridge's Michael Haddan, who won the Division II freshman race at the Laguna Hills Invitational with the county's eighth-fastest time (15:58), is expected to make a run at the freshman course record of 15:51, set by Lakewood's T.J. Reyes in 1988.

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If you have an item or idea for the cross-country report, you can fax us at (714)966-5663 or e-mail us at dan.arritt@latimes.com

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