Tough and determined

Nick Burrell (left) and Ryan Needle run with determination on the dry uphill of the course's second mile. Photo by John Ottusch

The Malibu High School boys varsity cross country team came into Frontier League Meet 2 last Thursday with hopes to defeat rival Carpinteria. The Sharks came up short, but still had a strong second-place effort, including a third-place individual finish over the hilly three-mile course for team captain Cameron Burrell (18 minutes, 11 seconds) and a fourth-place run by veteran Ryan Needle (18:30).

When the race began Burrell, Carpinteria’s Andrew Culbertson and Santa Clara’s Robert Garcia quickly distanced themselves from the pack. But soon Needle gained his running rhythm and passed several runners. Cameron Burrell’s twin brother, Nick, shadowed Needle, with both athletes dogging the heels of those who followed the front-runners.

As the lead runners cleared past tall chaparral near the tail end of mile two, Culbertson was in the lead, with Garcia on his tail and Cameron Burrell closely behind. Needle and Nick Burrell passed three other runners on the downhill as they entered mile three, gaining positions four and five. Malibu’s Chris Peck jockeyed for a top ten position among a mini-pack of fast runners. Shark John Ottusch managed to maintain a pace that kept him ahead of the main pack of runners despite suffering from shin splint pains. Teammates Gabe Sloggy and Forrest Alsobrooke ran most of the race in the pack. Junior varsity runners Sean Needle and Jake Savas ran well enough to possibly qualify for varsity, with Atticus Anderson, Dylan Gil-Gomez, newcomer Trevern Hatfield, Ben Robbins, Sam Kaplan, newcomer and Mongolian exchange student Tamir Ganbaatar, Taylor Whitfield, Jake Spangle and Isaac Nassimi following.

In the third and final mile of the race over a gradual uphill, Culbertson visibly quickened his stride and advanced his lead over Cameron Burrell and Garcia. Trailing close behind were Needle and Nick Burrell. Peck continued to fight in the top 15. As the finish line reared, through sheer determination, Ottusch stuck with the race, grimacing with his leg cramps.

Culberston won the race, with Garcia finishing behind 10 seconds later. Cameron Burrell led the Malibu contingent in third, followed by Needle and Nick Burrell (fifth). Other top Malibu finishers included Peck (14th), Ottusch (22nd), Sloggy (25th) and Alsobrooke (26th).

The Sharks as a team are well on their way to earning a solid berth at the starting line in CIF. The Sharks compete again on Friday at the Mt. Sac Invitational, where hundreds of school teams from throughout the United States race every eight minutes over several days.