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Hansen runs away from the pack

Madera High's Heather Hansen makes her move in the second mile to win the girls title.

By David White
The Fresno Bee

(Published November 10, 2000)

Heather Hansen feels like her old self, and that is never happy news for the other Division1 cross country runners.

The Madera High junior broke away after the one-mile mark and left behind the competition and lingering health questions to win her second Central Section championship Thursday at Woodward Park.

Other top individuals included J.J. Duke of Clovis in Division1, Corcoran's Hector Figueroa in Division3, and Granite Hills' Cary Mercer and Angela Reynaga in Division5.

Team winners included the Buchanan girls and Clovis boys in Division1, the Corcoran boys in Division3 and the McFarland boys and girls in Division4.

The Division1 girls' rivalry between Hansen and Buchanan's Kelli Vanderburg was the most anticipated, but it was only close for a mile.

Just as the two entered the second-mile loop, Hansen kicked it into high gear for a 10-second lead. Her time of 18:36 on the 3.1-mile course was 14 seconds ahead of Vanderburg.

Last week, Hansen barely held off a late charge by Vanderburg for a five-second win in the Tri-River Athletic Conference meet. To make sure Vanderburg didn't get within closing distance this time, Hansen practiced second-mile sprints all day Monday.

"We were working on that part a lot," Hansen said. "I was real comfortable there."

Comfort has eluded Hansen all season. She sprained her ankle at season's start, and didn't find her stride until this month. The TRAC finals marked her first victory in four tries against Vanderburg.

"The whole year, I haven't been myself," said Hansen, who was fourth in the state last season. "I've been working hard just to get back where I was last year. Last week, I was somewhat close. This week I'm pretty close, if not there."

First-year Coyotes coach Carlos Sanchez knew it would happen once Hansen forgot about her bum ankle.

"Before, she was concentrating on her injury," Sanchez said. "Now, she's focusing more on being a better runner than she was last year. A girl of her stature, she's got a lot of guts, and she's not afraid to throw down with the big guns."

That explained her early break from a closely huddled pack at the one-mile mark. The plan was to create a margin of error against Vanderburg and Kim Smith of Clovis West, who both have outstanding closing speed.

"She made her move a lot earlier this time," Vanderburg said. "She took off, and I was, 'Oh, my gosh.' It caught me off guard. I couldn't stay with her, so I worked hard to stay in second."

No shame there. The Bears senior missed virtually all of last season with stress fractures and ankle injuries. Even when she finished fourth in the section as a sophomore, it came during an injury-riddled season.

"This is the first time I ran uninjured, which is a big accomplishment for me," Vanderburg said. "And, we won Valley, and that's a big deal."

Buchanan cruised to its fifth section title, and placed five runners in the top 10 for 25 points. Clovis was a distant second with 62.

The Clovis boys fared considerably better behind Duke's 15:37 victory, 22 seconds ahead of Madera junior Chris Britton.

"I was really nervous because I could hear people cheering for Chris," Duke said. "I was thinking, 'Dang it, I hope they're not catching up with me.' If you don't get nervous in these races, you're not human."

In Division5, two-year-old Granite Hills crowned its first two section champions.

Sophomore Mercer won the boys' race, and freshman Reynaga won the girls' race. Mission won both team titles.

In Division3, Corcoran teammates Figueroa (16:27) and Luis Jaramillo finished 8 seconds apart, and Adan Gonzales was fourth for the team champions.

The State Championships are Nov.25 at Woodward Park.

The reporter can be reached at or 441-6617.

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