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Cross Country: Newport girls break through

Sailors have best race of season, winning Division 2 title at Orange County Championships.

October 19, 2013|By Matt Szabo

ORANGE — Even for a good cross country team, running in the sweepstakes race week after week can be a drain.

For the first time this year, the Newport Harbor High girls didn't qualify for a sweepstakes race. They instead raced in the varsity Division 2 race at Saturday morning's Orange County Championships.

The Sailors didn't mind. They responded with their best race of the season.

Newport Harbor easily won the 25-team race at Irvine Regional Park with 102 points, highlighting Back Bay athletes competing in the second day of the three-mile meet, which now runs Friday and Saturday. CdM's girls placed ninth in the sweepstakes race on the course, which features two hills but is generally considered pretty fast.

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The Sailors also were fast Saturday. Junior Erin Barth finished sixth in 18 minutes, 28 seconds in the Division 2 race. Senior Leah Van Dyke was 17th in 18:45, and sophomore Lauren Loucks placed 26th in 18:56. Other Newport Harbor placers included sophomore Emily Bacon (29th, 19:02), senior captains Katelyn Mead (30th, 19:03) and Ashley Ima (36th, 19:10), as well as sophomore Holly Clemence (47th, 19:22).

Six of the seven Sailors earned medals for placing in the top 40. Sure, the Sailors recently have had standout individual talent like graduate Paige Tennison, who won the girls' sweepstakes race at the OC Championships each of the last two years. Still, Newport girls' Coach Eric Tweit said Saturday's race could be his team's best overall showing in about five years.

"It was by far our best race of the year, as a team," Tweit said. "We were right on the cusp of being in the sweepstakes race. The sweepstakes takes the top 15. If they would have gone to 18, we would have probably been in that race, but this was perfect for us. We've been running every week against the best teams, so it was good for the kids to go in and be able to run a little more relaxed and with a little less pressure on them.

"All seven girls ran really well, and we had three really good frosh-soph girls. Right now, the program's the best it's been in a long time ... I haven't been this happy after a race in a long time."

Barth said she was happy with her individual race, considering she battled chicken pox two weeks ago and also recently had a really bad cold. Overall, the Sailors hope to carry the momentum forward to the Mt. SAC Invitational next weekend.

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