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High Schools | SPOTLIGHT ON CROSS-COUNTRY

It's Tough to Beat the Timing of Ayala

November 02, 2001|John Ortega

The Chino Hills Ayala High girls' cross-country team appears headed in the right direction at the right time.

The Bulldogs ran their best race of the season, finishing second to Anaheim Esperanza in the team sweepstakes race of the Mt. San Antonio College Invitational on Oct. 20, then topped that--at least on the watch--Tuesday in the Sierra League finals at Mt. SAC.

Ayala romped to its 10th consecutive league title with a 19-81 victory over runner-up Diamond Bar, but the victory was most noteworthy because the cumulative time of the Bulldogs' top five runners was nine seconds faster than what they ran 10 days earlier at Mt. SAC.

"That's what I was really excited about," Coach Erik Starkey said. "That we ran faster than we did at Mt. SAC against really tough competition."

Seven of the top 10-ranked Division I teams in the state, along with three of the top nine-ranked Division II squads, ran in the team sweepstakes at Mt. SAC, but the league final was almost like an intrasquad meet for the Bulldogs, who had five of the top seven finishers and six of the top nine.

Ayala's Whitney Patton, who won in 18 minutes 13 seconds, Ashley Curtis, second in 18:57, and Karen Porter, fifth in 19:28, all ran career bests over Mt. SAC's 2.91-mile course, while Ashleigh Hoagland tied her best when she finished seventh in 19:51.

"This wasn't a big meet like Mt. SAC," Starkey said. "But I didn't want to change our mind-set because of that. I wanted to keep us in the mode of going out and going hard and pushing [ourselves]."

Ayala's performance should help the Bulldogs maintain their No. 2 ranking behind Esperanza in the state Division I poll and give them increased confidence when the Southern Section championships are held Nov. 17 at Mt. SAC.

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Chipping away: Patton hasn't had a breakthrough race this season like some of her teammates, but Starkey said she's doing just fine.

He points out that her time in the league meet was five seconds faster than she ran in the Mt. SAC Invitational, and that time was five seconds better than she ran last year as a freshman.

"She probably could have run sub-18 [on Tuesday] if there had been someone out there pushing her," he said.

Patton concurred.

"I was pushing myself more than I had [in previous league meets]," she said, "but I feel that if there had been someone close to me, I could have gone faster."

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Staying focused: Coach Rich Medellin of Esperanza is pleased that the Aztec girls have moved to eighth in Harrier magazine's national rankings, but he knows a lot could change in the next four weeks.

"It's nice," he said of the national ranking. "But let's see where we're at in a month. If we're still eighth, I'll be a happy camper."

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Rolling along: His performance didn't rival the 8:58.6 clocking by Ryan Hall of Big Bear in last year's meet, but senior Mark Batres of Rosemead Bosco Tech ran a career best of 9:18 to win the high school portion of the Cougar Two-Miler track race on Saturday at Azusa Pacific.

Batres' performance was particularly satisfying to him because he ran the second mile in 4:36 after running the first in 4:42.

"I think he was a little surprised with his time," Coach Sal Perez said. "I don't think he thought he was ready to run that fast."

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