Vol. 3, Issue 49, December 4-10, 2008
By Norb Garrett
San Clemente Times
San Clemente High School senior Alex Dunne wins state cross country title, leads team to third-place finish
All Alex Dunne could think about, as she crossed the finish line Saturday at Fresno’s Woodward Park to earn her first California Interscholastic Federation Division I girls cross country title, was the terrible pain in her left foot. She’d run the majority of her 3.1-mile race with only one shoe.
Two miles before the finish line in the state championship race, the San Clemente High School senior had kicked off her left shoe after a competitor accidently stepped on her heel, dislodging the shoe. True to form, Dunne, the state’s top-ranked Division 1 runner, plowed forward undeterred despite the near-freezing temperatures and rough terrain with just a sock covering her foot.
She finished ahead of the 189 other girls with a time of 17 minutes, 27 seconds-the 12th fastest time in state history. Her teammates, inspired by Dunne’s leadership all season, completed the best finish in school history by taking third place overall as San Clemente’s top five finishers came in only behind Dana Hills and Torrey Pines. Esperanza was fourth by just one point.
“Honestly, all I could think about was how much my foot hurt,’ said Dunne, 17, who wrapped up her senior season by competing in her third straight state final; she was eighth last year and fifth as a sophomore. “Winning state is very rewarding.’
Joining Dunne in Fresno were senior Ashlee Szabo, junior Sarah Darby, sophomores Katy Smith, Natalee Boyd, Kaitlyn Harrison and Ali Palmer, and freshman Molly Mann. Registering the other four scores for the Tritons Saturday were Darby (28th, 18:32), Mann (43rd, 18:53), Palmer (70th, 19:13) and Smith (77th, 19:18)-in a cross country team race, seven run with the top five scores counted.
Dave Proodian has been coaching the team since 2000. He said the girls cross country team has seen a complete turnaround since Dunne started four years ago. “When I came in, I took over a team that had not won a league meet,’ he said. “Alex raised the bar.’
When Dunne came in as a freshman, the team won its first league meet and went 1-4. The next year they were 3-2 and 4-1 the following year. This fall saw a record number of girls come out for cross country: 77 in all. And they finished this year second only to Dana Hills, the eventual state champs.
Dunne, whose father Michael also coaches the team, is a 5-foot-8, 98-pound star, and an honors student ranked sixth among her senior classmates in grade point average.
“Her drive to succeed and train hard rubbed off on so many other athletes around her,’ Proodian said. “She is so focused on being the best she can be. She does it all and can be a great role model and motivator to a lot of people.’
With a state title to her name, Dunne joins wrestler Zach Tapia (’93) as the school’s only CIF individual state champion. She’s narrowed her collegiate choices to Duke and Stanford, and now embarks on a quest to make the Foot Locker nationals in two weeks. In February she’ll compete in the Junior Nationals. She’ll compete in track in the spring, running in the 800-, 1600- and 3200-meter events and hopes to add another state title to her resume. But for now, she and her teammates are relishing this accomplishment.
“At the beginning of the season we weren’t even ranked,’ said Dunne, who credits her father’s guidance for getting her involved with running as she entered high school. “We were considered just a team from a sleepy beach town.’
Freshman Molly Mann summed up the team’s sense of achievement following a grueling season.
“We gave it our all and it all paid off,’ she said.