N.H.'S TWO-WAY PRODIGY; STEIN SPRINTS IN RACES, STUDIES.
Natalie Stein, a freshman in North Hollywood High School's magnet program for the highly gifted, took algebra in the sixth grade and completed calculus as an eighth grader at Walter Reed Junior High last year.
Stein has also been a step ahead when it has come to cross country at North Hollywood this fall.
The 5-1, 98-pound Stein is among the favorites in the City Section championship race today at Pierce College. Twice she has produced the section's best time of 17 minutes, 57 seconds on the three-mile Pierce course and was victorious by nearly two minutes in the Valley Pac-8 Conference championships.
``I really don't worry about times or names,'' Stein said. ``I just run my race and try to beat my time.''
The same goes in practice. The diminutive, pony-tailed and bespectacled Stein trains with and would have been the No. 2 runner for the Huskies boys' team in the Valley Pac-8 Conference finals.
``The first time we went on a medium-distance run and I thought there was no way she was going to keep up and she'd better slow down,'' junior Chris Bersbach said. ``I can't say she's like one of the guys, but we're used to her now. I have to admit I'd love to run as fast as her.''
Attempting to keep pace in the classroom might be a different story for her teammates. Stein, 14, a member of the math club at North Hollywood, took accelerated, independent-study mathematics courses in the seventh and eighth grades. She even helped tutor her father, Robert, in calculus over the summer.
``We kind of learned together,'' Natalie said sheepishly.
Stein this fall enrolled in discrete math (the course that follows calculus) and a class in career planning. Stein also played violin for three years in her school's orchestra before giving it up this semester to concentrate on running.
Stein began running about two miles twice a week in the sixth grade. As an eighth grader, she ran 5:50 for a mile in a school track meet and began training daily about four miles this summer on her own.
North Hollywood coach Gary Smith sensed something special about Stein from the start.
``I've been coaching a long time and a runner like her comes around once in a lifetime,'' said Smith, in his 19th season as coach. ``She's a natural talent and puts in an incredible amount of work. My primary objective is not to overdo it with her. She's still growing and I don't think it's necessary to push her.''
Stein figures to be pushed today by San Pedro sophomore Valerie Flores in her bid to become North Hollywood's first girls' cross country champion.
Flores and Stein turned in the two fastest times in the City preliminaries Nov. 12, with Flores overtaking Stein in the final mile for a 22-second victory to hand the freshman her first defeat after five runaway wins.
``I was a little nervous; I guess I went out too hard,'' Stein said.
Stein's only other loss came against Jamie Newman of El Camino Real, the 1995 City champion. It was Stein's first competition and she took a wrong turn after leading midway through the race. Her race against Flores, however, was the first time Stein had anyone within striking distance after the first half mile.
``She is so much faster than everybody and so far ahead, you don't give her a strategy,'' Smith said. ``You don't mess with success. There is not much to say to her but leave her alone. It was quite a surprise for (Flores) to catch her, and how she deals with it will be a growth process.''
Photo: Freshman Natalie Stein has displayed brilliance on and off the running course in her bid to be North Hollywood's first City champ.
Kirby Lee / Special to the Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Nov 22, 1997|
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