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CdM's Keith rises to the top

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Sea Kings' No. 1 runner is eyeing his first CIF State Meet appearance.

November 22, 2013|By Matt Szabo
  • Corona del Mar High senior cross country runner Spencer Keith is the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week.
Corona del Mar High senior cross country runner Spencer… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Before Corona del Mar High senior Spencer Keith ever was a runner, he was a rock climber.

Before he worried about his mile time, he worried about making it up the rock wall in a gym in monthly competitions.

When Keith came into high school as a freshman, that changed. Rock climbing is not a CIF sport.

"I needed to play a sport in high school, so I started running," Keith said. "You play a sport or do P.E., and I didn't really want to do P.E."

Throughout his career with the Sea Kings, he hasn't always been the fastest. But he always has been one of the strongest. Where others might not look forward to the hills on any given course, Keith loves them.

The course at Mt. San Antonio College has three of them. Keith didn't really listen to music or do anything else to get ready for the challenging three-mile race last weekend at the CIF Southern Section Division 3 preliminaries.

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"I just kind of show up and run," Keith said.

The run was impressive. Coach Bill Sumner said Keith led for about half the race, and he tied a CdM boys' course record. Keith finished second in his Division 3 heat in 15 minutes, 24 seconds, which equaled Brian Slingsby's time from 1994.

After the race, Sumner told Keith that he had tied the record. Sumner couldn't really be sure how Keith would respond.

"He doesn't talk a lot," Sumner said. "He chooses his words pretty wisely. He's kind of an old soul."

Keith told Sumner that Slingsby could keep the record, since he ran the time first. Keith aims to break the record Saturday, when he races back at Mt. SAC in the Division 3 race at 10:05 a.m. He needs to be one of the top five individuals not on a team that qualifies for state, as well as in the top 20 overall, to make his first CIF State Meet on Nov. 30 at Fresno's Woodward Park.

"[Slingsby] broke the record," Keith said. "I just tied it. We'll have to break it this weekend. I think I'll need to get the record, too, to move on to state."

He's definitely willing to go all out. For much of the season Keith has been doing two-a-days, running with Sumner at 5:40 a.m. a couple of times a week in addition to his usual afternoon runs.

On one of those morning workouts, though, Keith sprained his ankle.

"He stepped off a curb wrong," Sumner said. "I was with him and I saw the curb, but he didn't see it. I thought, 'Oh this is all going to work against us now,' but he recovered from that pretty good. It could have been disastrous."

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