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Tennison strives for more on the course

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Newport Harbor senior, who won at O.C. Championships for second straight year, has a state title as her ultimate goal.

October 19, 2012|By Matt Szabo
  • Newport Harbor High senior cross country runner Paige Tennison is the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week.
Newport Harbor High senior cross country runner Paige… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Paige Tennison still has those conversations with her mother, the ones she has been having since her sophomore year at Newport Harbor High.

Tennison sees a cross country time and is amazed by it, perhaps temporarily forgetting the times that she is now capable of producing as a senior.

"I'm just going out and working as hard as I can," Tennison said. "I'll tell my mom, 'Oh my gosh, she's amazing!' And my mom will be like, 'Paige, you've ran faster than that.' And it's like, 'Oh, right.' It hasn't clicked still, I guess."

Not too many people in California can touch Tennison on the course. She is the top-ranked Division 2 girl in the state by longtime cross country and track guru Rich Gonzalez of prepcaltrack.com. She again proved she was Orange County's best at the Orange County Championships last weekend.

Tennison won the girls' sweepstakes race for the second straight year at Irvine Regional Park. She became the first repeat winner since former Woodbridge standout Christine Babcock accomplished the feat in 2006-07.

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Tennison still considers it an honor to be compared to someone like Babcock, or her friend Laura Hollander. Hollander, who graduated from Marina last year, is a freshman runner at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. On the same day that Tennison won, so did her former Sunset League foe Hollander, at the 6K Wisconsin Invitational.

"She beat people that were in the Olympic Trials, people that are expected to win the NCAA championship," Tennison said. "She beat all of them. It was amazing. She's probably my idol, one of them. She's inspirational."

Tennison is plenty fast herself. Her time at the Orange County Championships was 16:56, three seconds better than last year.

Not bad, considering recently she missed nearly a week of training due to an allergic reaction from a wheat-like substance in a drink.

"Who puts wheat in a Frappuccino?" said Tennison, whose illness caused her to miss the Clovis Invitational on Oct. 6.

Newport Harbor Coach Eric Tweit notes that Tennison also didn't race at the Dana Hills Invitational earlier this year. He expects his top runner to be fresh for the end of the season. The Sailors competed at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday. Then, next weekend, they will take part in the Sunset League finals.

Tennison will be favored to win the individual title there; last year she was second to Hollander.

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