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Off to a fast start

Annual cross country kickoff draws hundreds to COC

Posted: August 22, 2008 10:05 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Competitors race, top, during the annual Summer Series Cross Country run at the College of the Canyons

Michael Thatcher crossed the finish line three miles and roughly 15 minutes away from the starting line Thursday at Cougar Stadium on the College of the Canyons campus.

The 31-year-old from Glendale finished first in the seventh and final race of the College of the Canyons 35th Annual Cross Country Summer Series. The first one began on July 10 and continued each Thursday.

Wearing a yellow jersey with the words ‘Run With Us' on the front, Thatcher traversed the winding course that began on the baseball field. He won a close race, beating Brandon Jauregui of the Saugus High cross country team and Jose Minia.

"It's fun when you hear people scream," Thatcher said. "It's nice to have fans at a cross country meet."
A meet-record 406 runners participated in the event, ranging in ages from 4 to older than 71.

Thatcher and several others ran the first mile around campus, the second mile up "Killer's Hill" next to the Interstate 5 Freeway heading north, and the third mile came around the main parking lot and into Cougar Stadium.

"Oddly enough, the final mile," Thatcher said of the toughest part of the race. "Not because of the course, but because it was so close."

Luie Bernal, the assistant coach on the COC track and field team, was the race organizer.

"We accommodate people of all ages," Bernal said. "We had toddlers who can barely walk who run a quarter-mile in this race."

Eight-year-old Carlo Martinez of San Fernando was one of several young trailblazers. Martinez finished third in his age group.

"Going the first part of the race was hard," Martinez said. "Just winning a medal was cool."

Pam Bercorici, a 46-year-old with the Santa Clarita Runners, ran in all seven races. People received medals if they ran in at least three races.

"This is my best time," Bercorici said of her result at 22:12. "It's a challenge to beat that hill, not let it beat us."

Martin Lilly, president of the Santa Clarita Runners, also ran in the series.

"You have a lot of good races," Lilly said. "The good thing is it's a run in the summer, when everyone can participate. It's challenging, but most people will run at least 20 to 30 miles per week. They're used to the distance."

The event got runners from as far away as Big Bear Lake and Crestline. It was advertised on Web sites like


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