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scene in the Southland | FALL PREVIEWS / Perennial
Powers Appear to Be Right on Course : CROSS-COUNTRY

Siraki Is Starting in Front

September 14, 2000|GARY KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

Anita Siraki is well aware that her status has changed.

After winning Southern Section and state cross-country titles and finishing fourth at the national championships last season, Siraki is no longer considered just one of the pack of contenders.

She is the runner to beat.

"Last year, no one expected a lot from me, I just went out there and ran," said Siraki, a senior at Glendale Hoover. "I'm going to have to handle the pressure in a different way this year and try not to get too nervous."

Siraki has already made her opponents anxious by setting a course record at last week's Millikan Invitational in Long Beach. This weekend, she will try to log another record at the Woodbridge Invitational in Irvine, the first big meet of the season.

Siraki said she is still getting used to being the favorite every time she steps to the starting line.

"My coach always tells me to just block out the other runners," she said. "But you hear their footsteps or hear them breathing when they are behind you.

"That's why you just try to get into that zone where it's just you--then it's just perfect. You just run your race and feel great."

Siraki is not the only Southland competitor with a shot at national honors.

Ryan Hall of Big Bear, like Siraki a defending state champion in the 3,200 meters, is considered a threat for a national boys' title.

Four Southland teams are ranked in Harrier magazine's national preseason polls. Long Beach Poly's boys are seventh. In the girls' poll, Irvine Woodbridge is seventh, Santa Ana Foothill 17th and Corona del Mar 19th.

Long Beach Poly, which finished second to Division I section and state champion Chino Don Lugo last season, has five of its top seven runners back and has added transfer Ozzie Pina, who won the Division I individual title at Lakewood last year.

Belmont's boys, who finished ninth at the state meet last year, are favored to defend their City Section title, but could be challenged by Woodland Hills Taft.

San Pedro lost two-time City Section champion Valerie Flores, who finished 19th at the national championships, but the Pirates have enough talent to repeat.

North Hollywood's Natalie Stein could win her second individual title in four years.

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