Preps

Wednesday, Sep 12 2012 10:38 PM

Yet another running star steps up for the Mustangs

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Stockdale High's Connor Fisher appears to run a relaxed race to a 1st place finish of the East Bakersfield High Invitational at Lake Ming Wednesday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Ridgeview High's Lashya Morgan takes a commanding lead to the finish line of the varsity girl's cross-country race at the East Bakersfield High Invitational at Lake Ming Wednesday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield High's Evan Bowman, left, and Frontier's Brandon Kan battle for 3rd place of the boy's varsity race at the East Bakersfield High Invitational Wednesday. Bowman held off Kan for 3rd place.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The boys varsity race at the East Bakersfield High Invitational at Lake Ming gets off to a fast pace as the sun begins to set Wednesday.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

Connor Fisher, come on down. You're the next Mustang with the best time of the night.

With Cameron Miller and Curtis Kelly graduated and Blake Haney nursing a leg injury, it was up to Fisher to continue Stockdale's recent tradition of dominating local cross country races in Wednesday's East Bakersfield Invitational at Lake Ming.

Fisher finished all by himself in 14:45, and it was another 42 seconds before the runner-up, Jesus Salas of Porterville-Monache, crossed the finish line.

"It was nice to be in the spotlight," said Fisher, who spent most of Stockdale's section-championship run a year ago as the Mustangs' No. 3 or 4 runner. "We're still a team first, though."

Without Haney -- who has iliotibial band syndrome, a common running injury from stress or overuse, below his left knee -- the Mustangs finished second to Monache in the team race.

Haney, who attended in a T-shirt and shorts and a small amount of athletic tape around his injury, said he has targeted Sept. 29, the day of the Stanford Invitational, as his return date.

"I'll be OK," said Haney, a junior who won the Central Section individual title last year. "Just haven't really been able to test it out yet."

First, the Mustangs head to another prestigious meet, the Woodbridge Invitational in Costa Mesa this weekend, with a new No. 1 runner. That'd be Fisher, who said running with Miller (now at Stanford), Kelly (Mississippi State) and Haney has undoubtedly helped him.

"It's given me a lot of motivation to run with them," Fisher said. "They have exponentially pushed me in practice. Every workout's like a race."

Bakersfield's Evan Bowman finished third (15:54), just ahead of Frontier's Brandon Kan (15:55), Ridgeview's Ivan Gonzalez (15:56) and Stockdale's Tyus Thompson (15:57).

In the girls race, Ridgeview's Lashya Morgan won her third consecutive invitational title, finishing in 18:24, just nine seconds behind the personal record she set at last week's Wasco Invitational.

"I was pretty comfortable today," Morgan said. "I need to push it a bit more in the last mile."

Morgan might say that because of the last close race she lost -- last year's Division III section meet, where she was caught just yards from the finish and settled for second.

"I was soooo close," she said Wednesday. "I've been pushing it a lot this summer, thinking about that."

Morgan even used the unorthodox and aggressive strategy of running with Ridgeview's boys during practice.

"They push me every practice," Morgan said. "They push me so much."

East's Sydney Roman, the defending Division II section champion, finished second in 18:36, just ahead of Stockdale's Tori Blackmon (18:38). Molly Pruett of Centennial was fourth in 18:46.

Blackmon led a 3-9-10-13 finish for Stockdale, which edged McFarland 73-78 for the team title.

"I didn't even know whether we had won it until I just heard the annoucement," said Stockdale coach Bree Tape, who pushed around her five-month-old, Alexa, throughout the meet in a running stroller. "We didn't graduate anyone from our top 10, so we're hoping that this is a good year."

The Mustangs appear to have all of the elements -- senior experience from Blackmon and Riddhi Patel (ninth in 19:19), youthful energy from sophomore Bailey Klepacki (10th, 19:21) and plenty of depth in between.

"We want to go back and defend our Kern County Championship, compete for a top spot at Valley and make the state meet," Tape said.

To knock off the first item on that list, they'll have to again contend with McFarland, which was led by Yasmine Felipe (sixth, 19:04) and Veronica Garcia (eighth, 19:18).

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