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Tars shine in rain

Cross Country

Newport Harbor girls' team qualifies for finals, Barber advances in boys. CdM, Sage boys' and girls' teams also move on.

November 12, 2011|By Bruce Bourquin, Special to the Daily Pilot

WALNUT — Flying toward the second-fastest girls' time of Saturday's CIF Southern Section cross country preliminaries at 16 minutes, 13 seconds, Newport Harbor High superstar runner Paige Tennison won her heat in dominating fashion.

But that wasn't the best news Tennison and her Sailor teammates received at Mt. San Antonio College, although the junior's teammates congratulated her soon after her 2.91-mile run.

It was the fact Newport Harbor qualified for next week's finals, which will also be held at Mt. SAC. The Sailors made it to the Division II finals by qualifying fourth in their heat with 91 points, as four teams per heat qualified for the finals. It was the first time the team reached the finals in Tennison's career.

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"We're really excited," Tennison said. "I'm proud of our team. Just seeing all the runners prepares us for next week."

Tennison heard Simi Valley sophomore Sarah Baxter set the fastest time of the day (16:09, which she could be competitive with on Saturday.

Newport Harbor got great support from Leah Van Dyke, who finished 19th (17:47), along with Katelyn Mead (25th, 17:59), Katherine Maddox (26th, 18:00) and Maggie Goodson (28th, 18:01).

Every runner who ran Saturday was handed the challenge of having to run the shorter, much flatter 'rain course', which featured more parking-lot running, along with running on the track at the halfway point in front of thousands of fans. There was a slight uphill with around 800 meters left.

Most coaches and runners weren't told until the morning of their races, as the rain didn't hit the regular hill-featured course until late Friday night, which drenched the dirt on the hills on the regular course.

"I knew right when I got here and I saw everyone running it," Tennison said. "We were training to run the regular course. I was happy about this course."

Tennison won her heat by 27 seconds over Serrano's Melissa Fairchild, who pushed Tennison before the Sailor turned on the afterburners after the second mile.

Throw in the fact that Newport Harbor's Jake Barber finished third in his heat to qualify for the boys' finals as an individual — he had to qualify at least eighth — and the Sailors had a banner day.

In other races, both Corona del Mar teams and both Sage Hill teams also qualified for Saturday's finals.

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