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Golden Valley's Chelsey Totten: Storming out of the gate

Golden Valley junior Chelsey Totten is set for a big season given some impressive results early

Posted: March 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 18, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Earlier this season, Golden Valley junior Chelsey Totten ran a 1,600-meter time of 5 minutes, 6.5 seconds in bad conditions at Golden Valley High School. The mark is a strong sign of future success.

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The wind was whipping, as it usually is at Golden Valley High School. The air was cooler, as it usually is in early March.
Golden Valley junior Chelsey Totten stepped onto the track to run the 1,600-meter race, as she usually does. What she did next is quite unusual.

Totten uncorked a time of 5 minutes, 6.5 seconds to win the event in a dual meet against Crescenta Valley. That time is a little more than six seconds shy of the state qualifying time from a season ago, run during less than ideal conditions.

“I could not believe it,” Totten says. “(The coaches were) yelling at me, ‘You could run sub-5!’ And I looked at them and was like, ‘What the heck? He must not be talking to me. Is there someone behind me?’”

There were indeed runners behind her, as there figure to be for much of this season.

Her time against Crescenta Valley doesn’t qualify her for the CIF State Track and Field Championships, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee a championship in the deep and ultra-competitive Foothill League.

But it’s a reason to get excited for the upcoming season, an indication of how big a jump she could make in track and field.

“We knew she could run a fast time,” Evans says, “but we didn’t think she was going to run that fast, that quick. It just shows that commitment to being consistent that’s kept her healthy and that’s kept her training every single day, which we haven’t had in the past.”

Totten has learned a total approach to running, such as strengthening her legs so she avoids injury and running at the right pace.

She didn’t have to look far to learn those things. Her older brother Seth, who now runs for University of California Riverside and is arguably the most important runner in Golden Valley program history, practiced healthy and smart running habits right in front of her.

She still talks to Seth on a regular basis.

“I saw everything he did, right and wrong,” Totten says. “Not just the runs, but also the little stuff. He taught me how important the little stuff in running is.”

It could mean the difference between winning and losing, between making it to state and not making it to state.

Totten is all too familiar with that experience.

She’s made the CIF-Southern Section finals in cross country the last two seasons, first with her team in 2010 and then as an individual last fall. Both times, she came up short of qualifying for state.

“I feel bad because she’s always so close, and when you’re really real close, there’s more disappointment because you’re right there,” says twin sister Weslie, who also runs for Golden Valley.

There’s disappointment, but there’s also something else.

“For her, it’s motivational,” Evans says. “She wants to be in that next group. We always say that being in a league with Saugus and West Ranch with their girls in track, she’s never been able to rest on her laurels. Because we have the best runners in the nation in our league, for her, just to get out of league means that she can compete at a state level.”

Last May, Totten finished fifth at the Foothill League finals in the 1,600 with a time of 5:11.98 and eighth in the 3,200 in 11:18.99.

She’ll be asked to run different events for Golden Valley this season, although the 1,600 will be her main focus.

“It’s kind of quick but it’s not too short,” Totten says. “The two-mile is kind of long and it just drags on. The mile, it starts, you’re getting tired and then you’re done.”

Hopefully for the Grizzlies, Totten’s season won’t end until June. Only one Golden Valley track and field athlete has ever qualified for the state meet — Joey Darko went in the 110 hurdles two years ago — and no female athlete has ever done it.

Totten isn’t thinking that far ahead, at least not about state. She feels like she has yet to run a signature race in her career, that her signature race is still out there.

Others disagree.

“I think she’s had a lot of races like that,” Weslie laughs.

It’s going to take several excellent races to navigate the Foothill League and Southern Section, which is loaded with top distance-running talent.

Totten has also become one of the leaders of the Golden Valley girls team, which finished second in league last season but graduated several standouts.

And then there’s her lineage. If her last name was Smith, it might be a different story. But her last name is Totten, which carries more weight around Golden Valley.

Nobody in the program puts that pressure on her. She puts it on herself, because she can handle it.

Because after years of competing against the best and coming up just short, Totten’s ready to realize her potential.

“You have to be mentally tough,” Evans says, “and if you’re mentally tough, eventually it’s going to pay off.”

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