Damien’s Tom Ebiner leads locals at Cross Country state championships in Fresno

By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
Two days after Thanksgiving, Tom Ebiner was thankful for his Damien High School teammates. When the Damien senior appeared to be down and out at last week’s CIF-Southern Section championships at Mt. SAC, it was his teammates who were there to lift his spirits. On Saturday, Ebiner repaid the team by finishing seventh in the CIF State Championships at Woodward Park. (To continue click thread)

“With my performance last week, if I was an individual, I wouldn’t have been going on,” he said. “I have to thank my team. It was a great way to end my cross country career.”

When he was sick at Mt. SAC last week, Ebiner went out too fast and struggled to the finish.

“That was no excuse,” he said. “You have to deal with those things.”

Glendora, led by Mike Duke, finished 11th. Bonita, led by Marissa Scot, finished 13th and Bishop Amat freshman Emily Hubert was 89th.

Ebiner covered the 5-kilometer course in 15:30 in the Division III race. Teammate Doug Negrete finished 17th in 15:40. The Spartans finished eighth. Ebiner was 20th after the first mile and ninth with 600 meters to go.

“I thought Tom had a great race,” Spartans coach Dr. Michael Williams said. “He wasn’t sick and the team got him here. We’re really happy for him. He’s worked really hard. He executed exactly as we told him to do.”

It was his first time on the course.

“I wanted to run a smarter race,” Ebiner said. “I wanted to go out and not be leading or anything. I want to place myself strategically up there and trust my endurance.”

Glendora, like Damien, was glad to be running in the state meet gain.

Duke was 58th in 16:18. But what was impressive was the Tartans’ 13-second gap between Duke, a sophomore, and fifth-place Aaron Forburger in Division II.

“We were kind of working on the gap, but the time was a little slow,” Glendora coach Don Sumner said. “We were talking a 10-second gap.”

Sumner said he was hoping the team would all be under 16 minutes. That would have put the Tartans in the running for the top five.

“We gave everything we’ve got,” Duke said. “We’ve gotten better on the gap over these races.”

Bonita finished 13th in Division III to earn a trip to Fresno’s skating rink on Saturday night.

“You race hard and then you have a lot of fun,” Bearcats coach Lonny Carr said. “We’re happy to take them. You don’t have fun until the second night. You do not just race and go home. You enjoy it, and it’s always better when you run well first.”

Junior Scott finished 20th in 18:44, her personal best for the course, and her sister, freshman Kailyn, was 50th in 19:09.

Marissa Scott was 12th with 1.1 miles to go and later said she tired down the stretch.

“We overcame about every obstacle we could to make state,” Carr said. “When we started the season, I would have said, `This team to state? No way.’

“I’m not unhappy at all. The first-timers, I was very proud of them. We’re going to cherish this and enjoy it.”

That big-race inexperience showed when the Bearcats almost were late to the starting line. Carr said they did not realize they had to put two scoring chips in the laces of their shoes and pin numbers to their hips.

“We were a little rushed,” he said. “We had to hurry and say our prayer and get up there.”

Junior Lexie Jackson had her best race of the season and finished 55th in 19:43. The Bearcats’ No. 3 runner has been running in a lot of pain, Carr said, because of a six-inch growth spurt.

Amat freshman Hubert finished 89th in the Division III race.

“I’m here for the experience,” she said. “I’ll be back next year. I learned I need a lot more training.”

She said the pace threw her off.

“They kept the same five-minute pace and I couldn’t keep up,” she said.

Arcadia’s Sergio Gonzalez won the Division I race in 15:05, the second-fastest time of the day. His team finished second.

Maranatha’s Kyle Bueckert finished second in Division IV with La Salle’s Daniel De La Torre third.

“I don’t know what happened out there,” said Bueckert, a junior. “I was feeling really, really good. Going up killer hill I realized at that point that I was feeling good and I could throw in a surge. It feels awesome.”

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