Pasadena Star-News Online
College: Mt. SAC thrown a curve
Course improvements call into question the validity of new marks
October 18, 2001
By Richard Gonzalez
October, 2000: Glendale Hoover High's Anita Siraki stuns the national prep
cross country community when she breaks the Mt. San Antonio College course
record by a stunning 17 seconds.
November, 2000: Big Bear High's Ryan Hall runs the Mt. SAC course in
14:28, slicing four seconds off Jeff Nelson's 22-year-old boys course
November, 2000: Don Lugo High's Erick Maldonado smashes the sophomore boys
course record as five of the six fastest 10th-grade course times in
history are achieved. All told, a whopping 39 revisions are made to the
all-time grade lists.
Oddly enough, these standout runners have enjoyed ample success before and
since, but not quite to the degree achieved recently along the revered
2.95-mile Mt. SAC course.
Well, maybe it's because the course had been shortened to 2.91 miles.
Mt. SAC cross country women's coach Doug Todd has confirmed in three
separate interviews since last November that the course has indeed been
shortened, an end result of safety concerns, course upgrades and
"We struggled not to make the changes, because the Mt. SAC course and the
meet are so steeped in history," said Todd, who oversees this weekend's
conclusion of the 54th annual Mt. SAC Cross Country Invitational, the
"Some changes were unavoidable, but it doesn't make accepting the changes
The most notable change was reconfiguring a portion of the "Valley Loop"
as a safety matter. With the number of entrants swelling to match the
meet's growth in popularity, maneuvering along the original course's
sharp, jutting turn less than a minute into the race created logistical
Mt. SAC staff changed it to a sweeping and easier to navigate path, which
Todd estimates cut about five seconds off each loop or 10 seconds per
runner off the double loop. If his estimate is accurate, that translates
to roughly a 50-second team-time (five runners) improvement over
Additionally, heavy rains a few years ago caused erosion along some
patches of the course. Throw in the beautification steps imposed in recent
years a wider running path, planting of shade-producing trees along the
route, and considerable landscaping to improve footing and the
once-imposing course becomes a more inviting one.
"We try to respect history and tradition, yet safety becomes a factor too
... a much more important factor," said Mt. SAC men's coach Mike Goff, who
is the one entrusted with the upkeep of the course.
"If course historians have a problem with it, I understand," Goff added.
"At the same time, if we can improve the course to maximum conditions for
runners, that's great, too. Bottom line, the best teams and runners will
The only drawback now is that the ever-popular time comparisons by
generations of runners might lack integrity, since the course has changed.
It used to be when one California runner would meet another, the first
question was: "What's your best time at Mt. SAC?"
Regardless, the course still offers a tough test to challengers.
"Well, Mt. SAC's been too hot, too dusty, too slow, too crowded, too
hard," said Goff, echoing some critics over the years. "And now... they
say it's too fast. That's a new one."
Here is an article on the race: