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ALL-AREA BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY DAILY NEWS 2006 ALL-AREA TEAM AND SEASON REVIEW.

Byline: KEVIN CONNELLY SPECIAL TO THE DAILY NEWS

Runner of the Year

Michael Cybulski

ROYAL, SENIOR

Arguably the top distance runner from the area in years, Cybulski proved he wasn't just a track and field star this season with a first-place finish at the state Div. I meet in Fresno.

The two-time defending state champion at 3,200 meters in track, Cybulski clocked 15 minutes, 4 seconds over 5,000 meters to win his first state Div. I cross country title. He outsprinted Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo's J.T. Sullivan in the final 50 meters to win the race by a fraction of a second.

Cybulski broke a 14-year old Marmonte League record held by Agoura's Bryan Dameworth, clocking 14:51 over three miles at the league finals at Agoura High.

He has signed a letter of intent with UCLA, where he is expected to make an immediate impact in both cross country and track and field.

The one remaining challenge for Cybulski will come in the spring, when he will attempt to be the first runner in state history to win three consecutive state 3,200 meter titles.

FIRST TEAM

JEREMY ACOSTA

Highland, junior

A realtive unknown before the season, Acosta won the season-opening Seaside Invitational in Ventura by 12seconds and never looked back. The Palmdale native finished 15th in state Div. I with a 5,000-meter clocking of 15:36 and is next season's front-runner for Runner of the Year.

HUDSON ANDREWS

Royal, senior

An elite 800-meter runner in track, Andrews proved he can excel at the longer distances as well. He solidified himself as the No. 2 runner on a dominant Highlanders team, and is hands down the area's second-best cross country runner next to Cybulski.

CHRIS BAIRD

Agoura, senior

Baird has had the misfortune of competing in the ultra-competitive Marmonte League, where he has been overshadowed for nearly his entire career by the elite teams at Royal. Baird, who also is a standout as a swimmer, placed 13th in state Div. II with a 5,000-meter clocking of 15:48.

DANNY BENSON

Royal, senior

Benson was slowed by a hip injury near the end of the season, but he was the No. 3 runner for Royal when healthy.

He has NCAA Division I talent, and could be headed to UCLA next year with Cybulski.

JUN REICHL

Royal, senior

Reichl is overlooked at times because of the talent surrounding him, but he was good enough to be the No. 1 runner on nearly every other area team. He finished onesecond behind Highland's Jeremy Acosta in state Div. I, clocking 15:37 over 5,000 meters to place 17th overall.

ZACK TORRES

Crescenta Valley, sophomore

One of the fiercest competitors around, Torres is the heir apparent to Cybulski as the area's next top talent. He missed qualifying for the state meet by seconds this season, but he will be one of the top juniors in the state next year.

ARIC VAN HALEN

Oakwood, Jr.

Yes, Van Halen is the son of 1980s rock star Alex Van Halen. But he is a fantastic runner too, clocking 15:58 over 5,000 meters to place fourth in state Div. V. He likely will be the Div. V favorite next season.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR

ALEX ROUTH

Royal, junior

The only non-returning starter on a Royal team that was tops in the state last season, Routh filled in remarkably well for the Highlanders. He clocked 15:51 over 5,000 meters to finish 28th in state Div. I, and is expected to emerge as the team leader next season.

COACH OF THE YEAR

RYAN LUCE

Royal

How can you not pick Luce here? His Highlanders have been one of the top teams in the nation for three years running, and they finished second in state Div. I this season. Luce has been blessed with a lot of talent, but his runners respond well to his laid-back demeanor. He sent two runners to Division I colleges last season, and will likely send off four more this year. The Highlanders are expected to revert to rebuilding mode next season, but never count out a team with Luce running the show.

CAPTION(S):

10 photos, 7 boxes

Photo:

(1) Michael Cybulski

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

(2) JEREMY ACOSTA

(3) HUDSON ANDREWS

(4) CHRIS BAIRD

(5) DANNY BENSON

(6) JUN REICHL

(7) ZACK TORRES

(8) ARIC VAN HALEN

(9) ALEX ROUTH

(10) RYAN LUCE

Box:

(1) FIRST TEAM (see text)

(2) NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR (see text)

(3) SECOND TEAM

(4) HONORABLE MENTION

(5) COACH OF THE YEAR (see text)

(6) LEAGUE CHAMPIONS

(7) TOP 10
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 24, 2006
Words:772
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