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2012 OHS Girls Cross Country Preview - On Course: Lady Mustangs Put Focus On Youth
9-12 OAK XC Prev Erwin
Outside the setting of an opera house, Oakdale High cross country runner Liz Erwin is portrayed as one of Oakdales Most Wanted students. Clothing provided by Bucksworth Western Wear. - photo by Photo illustration by IKE DODSON/THE LEADER

Liz Erwin has more varsity letters than she needs to spell her first name.

The four year standout on Oakdale High’s cross country team is again the top female harrier on campus, with all the experience she needs to mentor a group of seven sophomores slated below her on the off road running spelling bee.

“We have an impressive array of sophomores on the varsity team,” Erwin said on Sunday. “I am looking forward to seeing what they can do in the future.

“There is a lot of pressure on me, not just in informational support, but going person to person to work with them.”

The sophomore seven include returning runners Anna Ogden, Alexis Halsey and Denise Thompson. They are joined by the exploits of first-year cross country athletes Julianne Kummer, Connie Speer, Emilie Crossman and Katelyn Aguilar. Since everyone but Erwin is in the same class, the lineup creates a lot of intersquad rivalry.

“These girls do not like to lose to one another,” coach Guy Fowler said. “I am very excited about this year. The kids are great and want to work hard.”

The influx of new runners and the return of past ones have created an interesting roster prospect for Fowler, who is in his fourth year with the program.

“We are also boasting the biggest team number-wise (49 runners) since I took over the program three years ago,” Fowler said. “With numbers comes success, at least in cross country.”

The Oakdale girls had another 13 runners take on the 3000-meter open run during the Sierra Invitational on Saturday. Freshman standout Kyannah Hernandez led the way with an impressive 14 minute, 47 second time to end 10th overall in the freshman girls race. Her effort led other Oakdale freshmen Jordyn Garcia, Ana Jacobo, Cayley Elswick, Destiny Perez and Mariah King to a shocking second place finish in the small school division.

The race was a clear indication that youth is in at OHS.

“The team is progressing very well considering how young we are.” Fowler said. “The energy is high with this group and I am looking forward to how they do against the rest of the league.”

No time is better than the present to produce strong young runners. The Valley Oak League only brought one underclassman (Manteca’s Blake Lamoreaux) to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 frosh-soph championships in 2011 and all but five of last year’s varsity section qualifiers from the conference have graduated.