Seven Warrior girls medal at Laguna Hills Invite to open season

Fallbrook High School’s girls cross-country team opened its 2012 season at the Laguna Hills Invitational meet Sept. 8, and seven Warriors received medals for finishing among the top 40 in their race.

“We got off to a pretty good start,” said Fallbrook coach Troy Hamlin. “Overall I liked what I saw. We have a pretty solid group of varsity-level runners.”

In dual meets and in the league and CIF meets a team’s score is derived by adding the positions of the top five finishers. A team’s sixth and seventh finishers are not scored but can displace runners from other teams and add points to those opponents’ scores. Five of the 21 Fallbrook girls who ran in the Laguna Hills Invitational completed the 3.0-mile course in under 22 minutes, and the Warriors were without 2011 first-team Avocado East League runner Ciera Villegas, who spent Sept. 8 taking the ACT college admittance test instead of competing at the meet.

“It’s a good team,” Hamlin said. “We’ll be all right as a team.”

Nine of Fallbrook’s 21 girls ran a high school cross-country race for the first time while one transfer ran her first meet in California. Seven of the new runners are freshmen, and two of those medaled while two others were among the next six finishers.

“It was a pretty impressive first performance. Laguna Hills is not an easy course by any means,” Hamlin said. “Overall it’s a solid group.”

The first Fallbrook freshman to complete the race was Andrea Vela, whose time of 23:07 gave her 29th place. Vela reached the end of the first mile in 7:13. Hannah French had a time of 23:14 to take 23rd place. Ally Cote’s time of 24:07 placed her 42nd among the 130 freshmen runners while Michel Navarro was 46th at 24:25.

Emma Workman was Fallbrook’s only medalist among the four Warrior sophomores who ran, completing the course in 21:19 and taking 21st place among the 150 tenth-grade runners. Kiera Donaghue had a time of 22:35 to take 47th place.

Five Fallbrook runners were among the 116 girls who competed in the junior race, and three of those medaled. “The strength of our team right now is in our juniors,” Hamlin said.

Rosanne Lopez had a time of 21:08 to place 25th while Haley McCaffrey was 26th at 21:14. McCaffrey had a faster early pace, covering the first mile in 6:40, while Lopez crossed the mile split 6:51 after the starter’s gun was fired.

Fallbrook’s third junior medalist was Michelle Madden, who previously played volleyball for the Warriors and made her cross-country debut at the Laguna Hills Invitational. Madden posted a 37th-place time of 21:49. “It was a real good start for Michelle,” Hamlin said. “She’s going to be an important part of our team.”

Alexis Lopez finished 34th among the 91 seniors to earn Fallbrook’s final medal. Lopez posted a time of 21:48. “It was probably the best race she’s ever run in high school,” Hamlin said.

Two Fallbrook seniors were within six positions of a medal. Rachel Jones, who is in her second cross-country season, placed 42nd at 22:24. Jessica Steinhoff, who made her high school competitive running debut this past spring as a sprinter on the track and field team, took 22:42 in her first high school cross-country race to place 46th.

“The team looks like it’s going to be solid,” Hamlin said.

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