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PREP CROSS-COUNTRY ROUNDUP

Tustin's Smith Stays Ahead of the Pack

September 24, 2000|DAN ARRITT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Alonso Smith might have lagged behind in his conditioning this summer, but the Tustin High senior showed he's still ahead of the competition Saturday at the Dana Hills Invitational.

Smith won the three-mile Division II senior race in 15 minutes 27 seconds, which equaled the third-fastest time among county runners. Smith stayed with the lead pack until the two-mile mark and then used his speed to defeat Hesperia Sultana teammates Angel Hernandez (15:40) and Boyd Black (15:53).

"I knew I could run with them, but not that good," Smith said of the Sultana runners. "But I knew if I had the lead at the end, no one could catch me."

Although it was Smith's first cross-country victory, he's no stranger to the victory stand. He owned the state-leading time in the 800 meters during most of the track and field season last spring and won Orange County, Division II and Masters titles in the event.

Smith, who moved to South Orange County with his family earlier this year, decided to take some time off last summer and even contemplated transferring to Aliso Niguel, which is just a three-minute drive from his home.

"Our team did a lot of bonding at [summer] camp, so I decided to stay at Tustin," Smith said. "It's a good school and I have lots of good friends."

Smith's family also wanted him to stay at Tustin, so much so they bought him a new car to make the 20-mile commute a little easier.

"My dad likes the coaches," Smith said.

Tustin Coach Tom Coffey didn't see much of Smith over the summer, but remained confident he would return in the fall. Coffey said Smith's victory Saturday had more to do with his physical talent than his conditioning.

"With Alonso, as the season goes, he's going to get in better shape," Coffey said. "His summer probably wasn't what we like, and we knew even before the summer that it probably wouldn't be what we would like, but he has the ability to reach his goals."

Although track remains his best sport, Smith thinks he can win an Orange County title next month. He also hopes to win a Southern Section Division II title and accompany his team to Fresno for the state championships in late November.

"It would be better than going by myself," he said. "I really want to go with my team this year."

Smith's time was 27 seconds slower than he ran last season, but that was par for the course Saturday. Race organizers used a measuring wheel to lengthen the course after it was found to be slightly less than three miles in recent years.

Murrieta Valley's Kevin Arnold won the Division I senior race in 15:02, which was 32 seconds slower than last season's winner, Gabriel Guerrero of Bell Gardens.

Devin Segal of Dana Hills finished third in the same race in 15:24, which was the second-best time among county boys. Marina's Raemon Rodriguez finished second in the Division I junior race with the top time among county runners (15:14).

Julie Allen of Fountain Valley wasn't slowed by the longer course. Allen, who has set two course records this season, posted the top girls' time of the meet, winning the Division I junior race in 17:10.

Allen's time was nearly 1 1/2 minutes faster than second-place finisher Deanna Sick of San Diego Mt. Carmel and 14 seconds faster than the fastest time last season.

In the Bellflower St. John Bosco Roadrunner Classic:

St. John Bosco wins--Brian Robles (15:15 seconds set a La Mirada Regional Park course record as the Braves (46 points) edged second-place Edison (57) in the boys' 13-team event.

Mater Dei (62) won the girls' division and Sunny Hills' twins Claire and Stacy Kim finished first and second with identical 18:32 times. With 37 points, Rosary won the small schools division.

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