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MATT MASIN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Makenna Duda, Rebecca Stillman, Natalie Regalado, Alexandra Garro and Trinidee Stewart are the top runners for the Trabuco Hills cross country team. Trabuco is one of the favorites to win the Orange County Championships on Saturday.

Trabuco Hills girls look to seize O.C. title

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The South Coast League has been a hotbed of cross country talent for years.

Three of the last four girls teams to win the Orange County Championships have come from the league, and it produced the boys team champion from 2007 to 2012.

Trabuco Hills girls coach Liam Clemons is hoping this will be the year his team joins in the league’s success at the county’s annual showcase event.

“I think it would be pretty awesome for us, especially after coming up short the last two years,” Clemons said of possibly winning the O.C. title. “Two years ago, it was very close.”

Capistrano Valley beat out the Mustangs for the 2013 title in an amazingly close battle, 69-72. The Cougars repeated last year, with Trabuco Hills finishing second again.

Clemons said his team is “pretty confident, but we’re not overly confident” that it can finish first in Saturday's 49th running of the Orange County Championships at Irvine Regional Park.

“We know we have our hands full with Capo (Valley) and Dana Hills,” Clemons said.

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TODAY'S RACE

Orange County Championships
Where: Irvine Regional Park
First race: 7:48 a.m.
Fan info: Parking, $5 (exact change required). ... Overflow parking is available at Santiago Canyon College (3045 E. Chapman Ave., Orange) in Lots 1-4. A shuttle service will provide transportation to the meet.
Weather forecast: High 60s to mid 70s, sunny

What to watch for at the O.C. Championships

Fryer: Dana Hills boys capable of historic run

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The Mustangs graduated three seniors, including All-County member Sabrina Herrmann, from last year’s squad, but have remained one of the county’s top teams.

Sophomores Natalie Regalado and Trinidee Stewart have stepped up, turning what could have been a rebuilding year into a season in which the Mustangs have simply reloaded.

Trabuco Hills, which is seeking its first county championship since 2011, has thrived behind its pack running style. The comparable times of its scoring five have given the Mustangs one of the county’s tightest spreads. Junior Makenna Duda has been the team’s first-half leader, while seniors Rebecca Stillman and Alexandra Garro have been the consistent anchors.

Without an elite individual, the Mustangs must push each other to finish in the first third of the race. Trabuco Hills could benefit from a highly competitive field, which should elevate the meet-winning score to higher totals.

“Having a higher point total with more depth at the front of the race favors us,” Clemons said. “If any of the other teams have a gap in their scoring five, it’s going to help us out.”

The Mustangs received a big boost of confidence in the South Coast League Cluster last week. Trabuco Hills placed five runners in the top 12, defeating Dana Hills, 37-53, and topping then-No. 1 Capistrano Valley by 20 points. All three teams are considered contenders for county supremacy.

“Seeing them (at the preview meet) definitely gives us an idea that we want to go after them,” Duda said of the league’s other contenders. “We want to go out there and perform as well as we did in cluster and maybe even better.”

As for how the Mustangs plan to keep the field at bay, the plan won’t change much. The pack plans to stick together.

“I think working off of each other helps us a lot,” Regalado said. “As a team, we would like to be relatively close to each other. We want to push each other throughout the race at different spots.”

The Mustangs’ goal is to have multiple runners finish in the top 15, which they might need to offset potential high finishes by Capistrano Valley’s Haley Herberg and Ashley Licata.


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