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CROSS COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: STATE MEET SMALL AFFAIR FOR A.V. SCHOOLS.

Byline: Lauren Gustus Staff Writer

The area's biggest names in cross country will not be at Woodward Park in Fresno, site of the today's state finals.

Two runners who finished in the state top 10 last year - Antelope Valley's Jose Melena and Quartz Hill's Brienna Morris - and Highland's Alyssa Craft failed to advance from the Southern Section preliminaries last weekend at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

Their Div. I races were among the day's most competitive and likely featured runners who will claim titles in Fresno.

It was the smaller schools in the Antelope Valley - Paraclete and Desert Christian - that earned berths to the state meet with strong showings at the Southern Section meet. The boys' and girls' teams from Paraclete qualified in Div. IV and the girls' team from Desert Christian in Div. V.

``I'm excited,'' Desert Christian sophomore Jessica Wick said. ``Last year, we made it and our team did pretty good, but I didn't have the best race. It was my first time. I was running as a freshman.''

Wick showed her speed at the sectional finals, completing the 2.91-mile course in 19 minutes, 24 seconds, good for sixth overall.

Desert Christian's girls finished fourth in Div. V. The top seven teams from each division moved on to the state meet.

The Knights will employ the same strategy they have all season - tight pack running - in Fresno. Desert Christian will bring seven runners to Fresno: Wick, Megan Couch, Alex Larsen, Rachel Larsen, Josie Hudspeth, Nicole Richards and Robyn Estrada.

Wick likes the Woodward Park course, despite the off run last year.

``Its easier than (Mt. SAC),'' Wick said. ``But it's still a tough course.''

--Spirited Saturday: The Paraclete girls' team placed third in its sectional final, behind Orange Lutheran and Laguna Beach.

Paraclete's top competition at the state meet likely will come from the Southern Section champion and runner-up. The Spirits finished just four points behind second-place Laguna Beach 79-75.

Senior Heidi Rocha, Paraclete's top runner, paced her team with an 18:58 finish. She qualified for the state meet as an individual in 2003.

The boys, who were fourth in Div. IV qualifying, will be paced by senior Brett Siddle.

--Looking forward: After a disappointing sectional final, Antelope Valley's Jose Melena was thinking about the next race.

Melena failed to qualify for the state meet - he ran 16:28 in the Div. I sectional final - and is not racing at the state finals. He plans to be at the Dec. 4 Foot Locker West Regional at Mt. San Antonio College.

``Hopefully, I can get in a sweeps race,'' Melena said. ``It gives me a week to train a little harder.''

As a junior, Melena finished second to Loyola's Mark Matusak in the Div. II state final. He struggled to regain that form this season.

``I guess you have your good years and your bad years,'' said Melena, who plans to run in college - he said UC Riverside was an option.

``I could see myself there,'' Melena said. ``I went down to visit, and the coach seems cool.''

Lauren Gustus, (818) 713-3607

lauren.gustus(at)dailynews.com

STATE CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS

When: Today

Where: Woodward Park, Fresno

Who: Paraclete girls, 12:15 p.m.; Paraclete boys 10:40 a.m.; Desert Christian girls, 11:10 a.m.; Jeremy Acosta (Desert Christian individual qualifier), 12:50 p.m.

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STATE CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 27, 2004
Words:572
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