Malibu High XC makes history

Cameron Burrell (right) races head to head with Culberston.

The Malibu High School girls cross country team had a good week, placing second in the opening league meet on Thursday and the Brentwood Invitational on Saturday. The boys also performed well in the league meet, but had a setback at Brentwood.

The girls team, led by senior Becki Ottusch, has new blood this season. Freshman Danielle Bush and sophomore Claudine Book join the ranks of varsity runners sophomore Gianna Fote, senior Caitlin Sherry, junior Katie Rollins, and seniors Nallely Ruiz, Emily Woodworth, and Jessica Kaplan. Rounding out the squad are seniors Rebecca Nassimi, newcomers Sarah Dahlinger, Isabelle Radoyce, sophomore Leaza Saladin and freshman Narcis Marshall.

First year head coach Katie Dahm said, “Each and every one of [them] ran extremely well and should feel so good about our first league meet.”

Ottusch won, finishing 30 seconds ahead of the runner-up. Fote placed fourth and Sherry finished 10th Other top finishers included Rollins (13th), Ruiz (15th), Woodworth (16th) and Kaplan (18th).

The boys team, led by senior Cameron Burrell, in a repeat of last year’s performance, also captured second place in the league. The race was easily won by Santa Clara’s Robert Garcia, but the race for second by individual was a blistering sprint between Burrell and Carpinteria’s Andrew Culbertson. On the home stretch, Burrell was ahead by 30 feet. Culbertson closed the gap. Running side by side with arms pumping mightily, legs nearly spent to capacity, eyes focused on the finish line, the athletes dashed the last 200 yards. But Culberston was able to finish just ahead.

“We were just running, running all out,” Burrell said. “He [Culbertson] was taller and had long legs. We were side by side, and then I saw his knee come up at the finish line. We were so close.” Senior Ryan Needle followed nine seconds later, with Nick Burrell coming in fifth, John Ottusch placed 10th. Other top finishers were Chris Peck (12th), Gabe Sloggy (21st) and freshman Sean Needle (25th).

The girls team extended their high into Saturday at the Brentwood Invitation, a competition for small schools. Fote won the race. Newcomer Danelle Bush placed 15th. She was followed by Sherry (20th) and newcomer Claudine Book (25th).

The boys did not do as well. Nick and Cameron Burrell both medaled, but the team overall was hurt by the absence of fast runners Ryan Needle, Chris Peck, John Ottusch and Dylan Gil-Gomez. They were all sidelined by injuries.

The teams compete again at 3 p.m. on Thursday at Malibu Creek State Park.