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High Schools | CROSS-COUNTRY

Maldonado Saves His Best for Last

November 30, 2001|John Ortega

Erick Maldonado of Chino Don Lugo High picked a nice time to finally beat Luke Llamas of Canyon Country Canyon.

Maldonado, a junior, had finished behind Llamas the first four times they raced this season.

But he defeated his senior rival to win the Division I title of the state cross-country championships at Woodward Park in Fresno last Saturday after taking the lead with three-quarters of a mile left in the 5,000-meter race.

The victory came a week after Llamas edged Maldonado by two seconds to win the Southern Section title at Mt. San Antonio College.

Llamas surged past Maldonado with about a half-mile left in that race, but Maldonado refused to let that happen again while running on a sloppy course that had been soaked by heavy rains earlier in the day.

"He came up on me a couple of times [in the last mile]," Maldonado said. "But I said, 'You know what? It's not going to happen again."'

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Smart buy: Maldonado's victory came in a pair of shoes that Coach Don Salyers purchased from a vendor at the meet 10 minutes before the start of the Division I race.

"The [racing flats] he had weren't designed for running on a muddy course," Salyers said.

"They were designed for running on the roads. The soles were going to get all caked with mud and give him no traction at all. So we bought a pair with waffle soles."

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Slip, sliding away: Both Llamas and fourth-place finisher Michael Poe of Etiwanda slipped and fell during the Division I race.

Llamas hit the deck after rounding a curve shortly before the two-mile mark and Poe went down with about 250 meters left while in third place.

"I fell on my whole left side," said Poe, a junior. "But I tried to get up as fast as I could."

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Fast company: Maldonado, Llamas and Poe will join other Southern Section standouts such as Henry Hagenbuch of Carpinteria Cate, Michael Haddan of Irvine Woodbridge and Juan Robles of Placentia Valencia in the seeded boys' race of the West region championships at Mt. SAC on Saturday.

But they will be big underdogs to junior Yong-Sung Leal of San Lorenzo Arroyo.

Leal, the defending state champion in the 3,200 meters in track, won his second consecutive state Division II title in Fresno and is undefeated this season.

State Division I champion Amber Trotter of Ukiah is favored to win the girls' title with Emily Vince of Palos Verdes Peninsula, Julie Allen of Corona del Mar and Liza Pasciuto of Murrieta Valley heading the list of entries from the region.

Pasciuto, a sophomore, finished sixth in the national championships last year, but will be running her first race since she collapsed before the two-mile mark of the Southern Section Division I final.

The top eight finishers in each race qualify for the national championships in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Dec. 8.

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Costly decision: Senior Dan Lyon of Hesperia Sultana was expected to contend for a top-10 finish in the Division II boys' race of the state championships, but dropped out after twisting an already tender ankle twice during the first mile.

"He thought he felt something pop when he twisted it the second time," Coach John Mahr said. "He thought it was more serious than it was."

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Streak intact: When senior Maria Blazquez of Los Angeles Roosevelt finished 12th in the Division I girls' final of the state championships, it marked the fifth consecutive year that at least one City Section runner had finished 13th or better.

Before the streak--which includes fifth-place finishes by Valerie Flores of San Pedro in 1999 and by Natalie Stein of North Hollywood last year--no City runner had finished higher than 19th in the Division I girls' race.

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