Malibu XC runs well in season debut

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Photos by Sonia Ottusch Shark runners from left: Rebecca Nassimi, Jessica Kaplan, Emily Woodworth, Becki Ottusch, Nallely Ruiz, Caitlin Sherry, and Katie Rollins (seated).

The Malibu High School boys cross country team was ranked in the top 10 for Division IV schools, CIF Southern Section the past two seasons. So hopes ran high for the squad’s top runner, senior Cameron Burrell, at last Saturday’s Kiwanis Seaside Cross Country Invitational. The Sharks competed in Ventura against huge Division I, II and III schools, where the freshman teams are often bigger than Malibu’s entire boys’ team. The Seaside Invitational staged its contests by class, and in a field of 220 runners, Burrell faced tough competition against defending Division I boys’ cross country state champion Trabuco Hills. But in a surprise for the season opener, senior Nick Burrell ran fast and came in first among the Sharks.

“They all ran really fast from the start!” exclaimed teammate Chris Peck, a senior, who finished after the Burrells.

“That was a fast race,” echoed senior John Ottusch, who came in fourth for the Sharks, followed by seniors Forrest Alsobrook, Dylan Gil-Gomez, and newcomers Sam Kaplan and Taylor Whitfield. The varsity runners placed in the top 200, positioning the boys’ team well for upcoming league competition.

Freshman Isaac Nassimi made his running debut.

Competing against the state’s top-rated Division I girls’ XC team, Saugus, six seniors represented the Sharks: Jessica Kaplan (no relation to Sam Kaplan), Rebecca Nassimi, Becki Ottusch, Nallely Ruiz, Caitlin Sherry and Emily Woodworth. Fingers were crossed for top runner, senior Becki Ottusch. Ottusch had spent much of last XC season slowly rebuilding her fitness and running legs from what coaches had called a career-ending injury, though somehow she did well enough to win every league meet and earned the League Champion title, Division IV.

Ottusch medaled at 20th in a field of 230 female runners ranging from mostly Division I – III schools, and a few Division IV schools. Sherry ran competitively, coming in at 66th, and barely missed a 65th place medal. Sharks’ junior, Katie Rollins finished strongly at the middle of the junior pack.

Another Sharks’ fast runner, sophomore Gianna Fote, was sidelined by injury.

“I fell off my moped and got four stitches on my leg and four stitches on my arm. I still want to run,” quipped Fote.

“The whole team did well,” summed up new head coach Katie Dahm.

The Sharks face stiff competition in their next meet at Wednesday’s Oak Park Invitational. Oak Park dominates the Division III schools, and it will test the Sharks’ race strategies. The Sharks will compete in their first league meet at La Reina on Sept. 27.