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Cross Country 1999

Foot Locker West Results

Seeded Girls - Analysis

by Doug Speck

Foot Locker Western Regional Cross-Country Seeded Races

Some great racing took place on a dry, and many runners commented it being a very dusty, day at the Mt. San Antonio College course, Saturday, December 4th, with over 3000 runners competing in twenty-five races to sort out eight male and female athletes who would head for Orlando in a week to see who would earn national bragging rights. With the strength and breadth of this area of the country, with schools spread from Wyoming to New Mexico, from Alaska down to California, and all across, there was no shortage of people with solid credentials from this year and last.

Girls race:

Main pre-race discussion had a good race between last year's third and fourth placers nationally, Sara Bei (Ca) and Felicia Guiliford (NM). Both were undefeated this Fall, with Guiliford handling a great group in the Great American Cross-Country Festival in North Carolina in September, and Bei emerging from late October's Mt. SAC Invitational with the day's quickest time on the tough course. A flock of other great athletes would grace the field, with even the deepest thought on a top eight prediction list would change fifteen seconds later upon some other ideas on the order. This is why we settle it on the course!

A field of nearly 140 athletes zoomed out, with Madera (Ca) star Heather Hanson, usually a quick starter (she led the California Division I race early on the week previous), shooting out into the lead. Hanson was just over 2:40 for the first 880, quite honestly a bit slower than it would have seemed the pack would go out. Last year 1997 National Runner-up Mariel Ettinger (Or) raced the fastest first mile ever during this event of 5:05, only to fade later on and not qualify for the Nationals. Maybe people wanted to wait a bit, maybe they learned from last year, or whatever, but the slower start appeared quite deliberate by most this year. Just at the mile mark, Abby Miller (Nv), a two- time National Qualifier, shot by Hanson (5:25 there), and the racing was on. Julie Allen (Ca), Sara Gorton (Az), Felicia Guiliford (NM) and other expected stars were up in the front pack just behind Miller, with Sara Bei back just a tad, but in good shape there, a position she typically races in early in the big affairs. Up over the switchback loop Bei moved very strong, steadily up through the lead pack of runners, not an easy task with this quality of athlete ahead of her. As the group headed down on to the concrete airstrip at a mile and a half, Bei had broken away from the entire field, with her move on the up and down switchback hill section more than a slightly bold statement. At that point Guiliford held second, with a pack following the New Mexico athlete--Laura Ziegle, Alejandra Barrientos, Sarah Gorton, Alicia Craig, Abby Miller, Julie Allen, Valerie Flores, and Victoria Chang. Bei's lead continued with a report from behind Reservoir Hill, with spectators shocked when the race up Reservoir Hill suddently had Felicia Guiliford out into the lead and Bei fading back through the top placers. Down on to the airstrip, with 650 meters to go until the 5000 meter finish line, it was Guiliford with a narrow lead over surprising Wyoming athlete, Alicia Craig, leader of the nation's top-ranked 1998 prep squad, Campbell County HS of Gillette under Coach Orville Hess. Down the airstrip, and up past the regular course finish line put the field up onto the track, with Guiliford there a 20 meter lead over Craig. As the pack came onto the track Sara Bei was in ninth place, with a stride that showed no ability to up the pace and pick someone off for a qualifying spot. The next excitement came when Guilford, running clockwise around the track and into the north turn, 150 meters from home, suddenly falling. Craig was in full stride by that time, zooming by, with Guiliford rising to her feet, and suddenly regaining a respectable pace that showed the ability to finish in the top eight if she could make it across the line. Craig sailed in a thirty-five meter winner over Guiliford 18:07-18;13, with Victoria Chang (18:14), Laura Zeigle (18:16), surprising Valerie Flores (18:21), Alejandra Barrientos (18:21), Anita Siraki (18:23), and Abby Miller (18:24). The top eight had mightily broken away, with 27 seconds after Miller under Phebe Ko in ninth (18:51), with Sara Bei 10th at 18:53.

Craig's win, following a state meet of over a month ago, was quite shocking.   She was a ways behind Guiliford at the Great Cross-Country Festival in September in North Carolina, with obviously some great work done since the end of her regular season under Coach Orville Hess.  Chang raced two miles all Fall, with Flores sick last week for the California State Meet, bouncing back nicely.  

Most in the top group needed some assistance afterwards. The dry weather had dust from the course mixed in this day. One's natural reaction would think that Guiliford, racing the wrong way (clockwise instead of counter), simply tripped at the end of a long race on the curb. Not so, as she indicated that she has asthma, and the dry day and dust really added to problems in addition to the natural running fatigue racing at this level, and she simply collapsed. Amazing athlete, as she rose to give it a great effor the final 150 meters. It was definitely a tougher day to race on than last year, where Bei won at 17:51, with the December crispness this day replaced by probably 8-12 degrees and a level of dryness and dust that turned the contest into a surprisingly tough one.  Sarah Gorton, who had problems here last year, but emerged in the Spring and Summer as the National Junior 3000 meter champ in 9:33, also surprised by falling back, with the Arizona star not even listed as a finisher.   

Many of the qualifying group know each other well, with Abby Miller the acknowledged qualifier's "official greeter," congratulating all on their efforts, and expressing dismay at buddy Bei's non-qualification. Sara showed her total class, patiently answering questions and smiling for pictures at the awards ceremony. The Montgomery of Santa Rosa junior is human, and that couple of percent off her act this day against this quality a field she faced her, made it impossible to qualify. Last year's top eight group had a gap of 46 seconds, this year it was down to 17 seconds--the same gap this time around would have had Sara as the final qualifier. The west has a super group this time around, with the 1998 squad dominating the national competition with five in the top ten. Off of today, the 1999 group should not be far behind.


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