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Royal Wins Again in Division I Race

November 27, 2005|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

FRESNO — Although most of the teams competing Saturday at the boys' state cross-country championships were satisfied just to be there, Simi Valley Royal was already looking forward to the Nike Team Nationals next week in Portland, Ore.

But that didn't prevent the Highlanders from becoming the first team in seven years to repeat as Division I champion. Royal's five scoring runners finished in the top 19 on the 3.1-mile course at Woodward Park and the Highlanders easily defeated Lake Forest El Toro, 24-133.

"Last year, we were more focused on state," said junior Michael Cybulski, who was third in 15 minutes 22 seconds. "This season, the focus is more on nationals."

Diego Mercado, who finished third in Division I last season and won the Southern Section Division I title last weekend at Mount San Antonio College, pulled off the course just past the mile mark and fell from an apparent hamstring injury. Mercado, who figured to be a favorite at the Foot Locker West Regionals next week, said he first felt the injury in the Southern Section race last week.

"I think it has just worsened," he said.

Mercado wouldn't count himself out for the regional championships, where he finished third last season.

"I'm still going to be running, I don't care," he said. "I'll run without a leg, it doesn't matter to me.''

Nathan Sellers, a senior at Crescenta Valley who was injured for most of last season, was the top Southland finisher in Division I, placing second in 15:18.

Cybulski said the Highlanders hoped to make a run at the state course record of 77:59, set by Thousand Oaks in 1993, but they came up 12 seconds short. In addition to two restarts caused by fallen runners, Cybulski said the wind was also a factor.

Michael Coe of Lompoc Cabrillo ran the fastest time of the day for the second week in a row. Coe won the Division III race in 15:04, a 25-second victory over his biggest challenger, Ben Sitler of Mountain View St. Francis.

"I've been eyeing this meet since the beginning of the season," Coe said. "It's one of the meets where I just wanted to hold nothing back."

Coe said he was surprised to pull away from Sitler at the halfway point of the race.

"I was happy to break him early because I know I have the speed," said Coe, the Division III champion in the 1,600 meters last spring. "I didn't know if he was holding back or he was just tired, so I took advantage of it and, by the two-mile mark, had a 50-yard lead already."

Barstow was able to knock off Cabrillo in the team race, however, finishing with five runners in the top 33. The Aztecs scored 80 points to Cabrillo's 117 to win their third state title in the last five years.

The teams combined to produce two of the three fastest times ever at the Division III state finals.

Chad Hall of Big Bear finished second in Division IV as a sophomore last season and was expected to challenge for the title, but a pain in his side forced him to give way to German Fernandez of Riverbank near the two-mile mark and Hall finished second in 15:51, three seconds slower than his time last season.

"It's very disappointing. It's my last race of the year," said Hall, whose brother, Ryan, won back-to-back Division IV state titles in 1999-2000.

Tim Burdett of Riverside Woodcrest Christian finished fourth in the Division V race (16:21) and teammate Kody Petersen was fifth (16:27), leading the Royals to their second team title in five years.

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