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Did Hart Break Canyon's Undefeated Foothill League Record?
The Preview, and Result, of a Cross-Town Girls Track Rivalry
May, 2005 - Issue #7
It's been nine years since the Canyon High girls track team lost a Foothill League meet. Actually, Canyon High has never lost a Foothill League meet.

The Lady Cowboys last fell to a league opponent in 1993, when they competed in the Golden League. For the entirety of the realigned Foothill League era, the Cowboys have reigned supreme.

That's about to change this year. At least that's what most local track aficionados are saying as the league season kicks into gear at the beginning of this month.

The Cowboys, having graduated a pair of CIF-Southern Section Division I champions in Alysia Johnson and Alisha Thompson, are down. They're vulnerable. After nine years and 45 straight Foothill League dual meet victories (62 overall), they can be beaten-according to track aficionados.

Hart girls coach Jeff Gilkey-whose team those same aficionados credit with the best shot at dethroning Canyon-isn't buying it.

"We're not taking them lightly," he says of Canyon. "They have a lot of talent. There's no question about that. It's possible they could get knocked off this year, but we don't really know what their depth is."

The Indians won't have to wait long to find out. It will be the second league meet of the young season for both teams and it will go a long way to determining who will wear the league crown in 2005.

Weighing in Hart's favor will be the depth of its sprint group. In track meets, teams score points based on how individual competitors perform across 15 events. Ten of those events involve sprinters.

"We're strong in sprints, and any coach will tell you if you have a strong sprint crew you have a good core," Gilkey says. "You take sprints, relays, long jump and triple jump-that's almost half your points right there."

As always, the Cowboys will counter with a strong distance group. But while graduation hurt them in the sprints, their distance-running corps has been decimated by injury.

Senior Kelly Corbett, one of Canyon's top cross country runners, tore ligaments in her knee playing soccer and is lost for the season. Brenda Cohen, another cross-country standout, is nursing a stress fracture in her foot.

"We've got a tough road ahead of us," says Canyon coach Paul Broneer. "We've lost a lot of talent and we've had some injuries. We're thin."

Freshman Brittany Jones will carry the flag for Canyon in the distance events, but Canyon will also see a fair amount of its points coming from elsewhere.

Cowboy Andi Behring will be the league's top discus thrower this year, and Broneer and Co. will need whatever she can give them. Thin as they are, they're going to need more.

"We're optimistic we can put something together, but it's tough to replace (Johnson and Thompson), Broneer says. "We need a few surprises. This is a whole new era."

Hart, meanwhile, is returning a group of sprinters league rivals have seen coming for years. Kelsey Livingstone, Renah Howell and hurdler Cheri Ramirez highlight a stable of runners that should dominate the valley this season.

The trio, along with the rest of the Indian sprint crew, has been training with Jonathan Patton, who coached two-time state champion Allyson Felix at L.A. Baptist and helped turn her into an eventual Olympic silver medalist in the 200 meters.

"We saw some of the fruit of (Patton's) weight training regimen last year," Gilkey says. "We have a better shot than we've had in the past. The dynamics of the league are different this year."

One element working in Canyon's favor is time. The Hart-Canyon face-off occurs early enough in the season to bump into the winter sports schedule, and several of Hart's top female runners-including Howell and Foothill league cross country champion Brooke Russell-play basketball.

"That hurts us because they're going deep into the playoffs," Gilkey says. "They won't be in track shape by the time we get to Canyon."

Another factor favoring Canyon is history. With the Cowboys' unparalleled success has come a likewise unparalleled reputation. They can be intimidating.

"There are teams that have a little of that "green fever," says Gilkey of facing the green-and-gold-clad Cowboys. "When they see that green team show up they get scared. That's what comes from winning nine straight championships."

But streaks are meant to be broken. The Indian football team saw its 65-game Foothill League winning streak snapped by Valencia this season. People forget that a few weeks later, Hart dropped a second game to Canyon.

The Indians haven't forgotten, and they'd love to return the favor.

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Editor's Note: On April 7, Hart High School's track team ended Canyon High's extensive winning streak.
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