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High Schools | SPOTLIGHT ON CROSS-COUNTRY

No Transfer of Power for Fountain Valley

November 09, 2001|John Ortega

There is life after Julie Allen.

The Fountain Valley High girls' cross-country team has proved that this season.

Allen led Fountain Valley to its first Sunset League title in 20 years and a sixth-place finish in the state Division I finals last year, but she transferred to Corona del Mar before the start of track season.

"A lot of people thought we were in trouble," Fountain Valley Coach Barry Migliorini said. "They thought that with Julie gone and with [our No. 5 runner] graduating, we weren't going to be that good."

The Barons are doing just fine.

They're the fifth-ranked Division I team in the state entering the Southern Section preliminaries Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College, thanks in part to the leadership of junior Bethany Nickless.

Nickless, who grew up playing soccer, basketball and Little League baseball, ran the first cross-country race of her life in the Orange County championships last year, but ended up being Fountain Valley's No. 2 runner in the state meet.

She ran 4 minutes 59.92 seconds in the 1,600 meters and 10:53.29 in the 3,200 during track season to move to third on the school's all-time lists in those events. She then ran 55-60 miles a week during the summer while also playing soccer at the club level.

"She set a great example for the rest of the team," Migliorini said. "She showed that it doesn't matter if you're the best runner on the team or the 50th-best runner, you still have to work hard. That's something that had been missing in this program."

Nickless, who has been known to scold teammates if she feels they're loafing in workouts, opened the season with a second-place finish to highly regarded Emily Vince of Palos Verdes Peninsula in a dual meet on Sept. 4 and since has steadily improved.

She finished seven seconds behind winner Maryann Pynchon of Huntington Beach Edison in the Sunset League preview meet on Oct. 2, but out-kicked Pynchon to finish second to Allen in the Orange County championships 11 days later.

She finished two places ahead of Pynchon to win the league finals on Oct. 27 and lead Fountain Valley to a second-place finish behind Anaheim Esperanza, the eighth-ranked team in the nation.

"Beating [Pynchon in the Orange County championships] got me ready for the league finals," Nickless said. "To beat her with 15 yards left in that race really boosted my confidence a lot."

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Lucky break: Amanda O'Neal's recent transfer from Quartz Hill to Fountain Valley has also played a part in the Barons' success.

O'Neal, a sophomore, won the Golden League title last year, but she and her mother moved to Fountain Valley to be closer to her ailing grandmother. She ran at the sophomore level during her first three races for Fountain Valley but was the Barons' No. 2 varsity runner in the league finals.

"A really unfortunate situation for her has turned into a very good situation for us," Migliorini said.

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Wrong-way Reid: Phillip Reid of Oxnard Rio Mesa won his third consecutive Pacific View League title last week, despite taking a wrong turn that added about five seconds to his winning time of 15:01 over the three-mile course.

It was the second time this season that Reid went the wrong way on the College Park course in Oxnard. The first time occurred in the Channel Islands Invitational on Sept. 29, when a wrong turn added about 17 or 18 seconds to Reid's winning time of 15:41.

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