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They Want to Continue Their Run of Titles

Prep cross-country: Riverside Rubidoux's boys' team is favored to repeat as Southern Section and state Division II champion.

September 05, 2002|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Members of the Riverside Rubidoux High boys' cross-country team didn't fall off the face of the Earth during the 2002 track and field season.

It just seemed that way, especially when one looked for their names among the top performers in the 800-, 1,600-and 3,200-meter races.

Rubidoux, which romped to Division II titles in the Southern Section and state cross-country championships last year, is looking to do the same this year under its longtime coach, Sam Gee. The Falcons earned a No. 19 ranking in Harrier magazine's final national poll.

However, no Rubidoux cross-country runner was listed among the top 100 in the state in any middle-or long-distance running event during track season.

Part of that was because runners Mobin Ghoury and Jose Lopez simply didn't perform as well in track as they had in cross-country.

But runners Lino Flores and Antonio Jimenez chose not to compete for their school because they felt they wouldn't receive the type of training they were used to from Victor Centeno, the track team's distance coach.

"I just felt that I wouldn't really be comfortable with the training," Jimenez said of his decision. "I knew that if I ran track [for Rubidoux] I wouldn't run that well."

Flores, who is now at San Bernardino Valley College, ran a noteworthy 4 minutes 16 seconds in the 1,600 last season. And Jimenez, who finished 12th in the Southern Section Division II cross-country final last year, clocked 4:19. But those efforts came while competing unattached in invitationals.

Bob Maimbourg, track and field coach at Rubidoux for the last seven years, says what happened with Flores and Jimenez was nothing new.

"Ever since I've been here, there have been kids who run cross-country but don't come out for track," he said. "Part of that is because the cross-country and [distance coach in track] are different people.

"And part of that is because some runners try to run the three-mile pace they do in cross-country on the track and end up getting their butts kicked. The longest race in track is two-miles so you have to be able to run a faster pace to succeed."

Maimbourg, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience at the high school and collegiate level, said he has no ill feelings toward Flores and Jimenez.

Jimenez, a senior, doesn't intend to run track for Rubidoux next year either. But he and his cross-country teammates are excited about trying to duplicate their section and state cross-country championships.

"We feel good," Jimenez said. "We're not feeling pressured or nothing like that.... I feel like we can be better than we were last year.

"I'm running faster than Lino was [at this time last year] and our second and third runners are going to be pretty strong."

Gee isn't quite so confident.

He says that Jimenez and senior Victor Ortiz, Rubidoux's Nos. 1 and 3 returning runners, are fit. But Ghoury and sophomore Jose Maganda, the Falcons' Nos. 2 and 4 returnees, are still rounding into shape.

"I'm feeling nervous because the polls have us ranked so high to start the season," Gee said.

"They're already talking about us winning the state title again and about how much depth we have. I kind of liked it better last year, when people didn't know that much about us."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

THE TIMES' RANKINGS

A preseason look at the top 10 boys' cross-country teams in the Southland:

1. Dana Hills (SS-Division I) - Dolphins are ranked fourth in Harrier magazine's national preseason poll and favored to win their first state title since 1988 after placing third in the state meet last year with a team that included only two seniors.

2. Long Beach Poly (SS-Division I) - Jackrabbits should battle for fourth state title in six years as they return six of top seven runners from team that finished fourth last season.

3. Rubidoux (SS-Division II) - Falcons return four of top seven runners from last year's section and state champions and have talented transfer in Adam Heredia.

4. Barstow (SS-Division III) - Adam Rodriguez is expected to lead Aztecs to their second consecutive section and state titles.

5. Canyon Country Canyon (SS-Division I) - The Cowboy duo of Luke Llamas and Jameson Mora graduated in June, but Ryan Morgan gives defending state champions another elite runner.

6. Placentia Valencia (SS-Division II) - Juan Robles will lead Tiger team that placed a surprising second in state championships after finishing fifth in section finals.

7. Orange (SS-Division II) - Panthers return six of seven runners from team that finished third in section and eighth in state championships.

8. Temecula Valley (SS-Division I) - Golden Bears could reach state championships for first time since 1997 if they can avoid the injuries that hampered them last year.

9. Loyola (SS-Division I) - Cubs return top three runners from team that placed seventh in section championships.

10. Murrieta Valley (SS-Division I) - Kellen Acosta will try to lead Nighthawks to their third state-championship appearance in four years.

John Ortega

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