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Girls cross country preview: Top runners to watch

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

OCVarsity’s list of the top girls runners to watch this season:

TOP GIRLS RUNNERS TO WATCH

Sapna Dholakia, Esperanza, Sr.: Formed a powerful 1-2 punch with Shannon Mac Kellar in the Aztecs lineup that delivered a CIF-SS Division 3 championship a year ago. She was seventh in that race and 19th in the state meet.

Makenna Duda, Trabuco Hills, Sr.: Duda brings strong leadership to one of the South Coast League powers and the defending Orange County champions. She started 2016 with a runner-up finish in the Fastback Shootout senior race.

Haley Herberg, Capistrano Valley, Jr.: The Cougars need Herberg to replicate her All-County sophomore campaign following the graduation of Ashley Licata, who is running for Utah. Herberg was ninth in the Division 2 state meet.

Kelli Hines, Mission Viejo, So.: She kicked off her season with the best 3-mile mark in the nation, a 16:54 to win the Cool Breeze Invitational on Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Her star is rising after a run to the state track finals in the mile as a freshman.

Sara Leonard, Canyon, Jr.: Leonard finished in the top three at the Cool Breeze Invite for the second year in a row. She was one of four runners to post a sub-17-minute time. The junior hopes to be steady after fighting iron-depletion last season.

Shannon Mac Kellar, Esperanza, Sr.: A two-time All-County selection, Mac Kellar placed fourth though she was ill to pace the Aztecs in their CIF-SS Division 3 title race. She is tough as nails. She was third in the Crestview League Finals and 15th in the state meet.

Raquel Powers, Corona del Mar, Sr.: The Sea Kings’ ace stayed sharp by competing during the summer. Powers, who finished second in the Pacific Coast League Finals, returns as the league’s top representative.

Lucina Vincent, El Dorado, Jr.: Vincent has frequently been associated with the top names in her grade level. She won the small schools race (seventh overall) at the Orange County Championships last year. She won the junior race Saturday at the Fastback Shootout.

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