Remembering 1987: First CIF-State XC Championships

The photos from 1987 are weathered and faded but history is forever crystal clear in that the first six California Interscholastic Federation State Cross Country individual division champions are (l-r) Bryan Dameworth (Agoura, Division I), Scott Hemple (Walnut, D-II), Reggie Williams (River City, D-III), Katy McCandless (Castilleja, D-III), Kira Jorgensen (Rancho Buena Vista, D-II) and Deena Drossin (Agoura, D-I). (Photos by Keith Conning courtesy of Hank Lawson)

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This begins a series of articles looking back at the 1987 CIF-State Cross Country Championships, the first in California. 

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Although cross country had been a thing for decades in the Golden State, it wasn't until 1987 that California became the last state to add a full state high school cross country championships for boys and girls. This little slice of trivia is based on A Historical Timeline of the Sanctioning of High School Cross Country in the United States

Many states conducted boys meets early on and later included girls, mostly throughout the 1970s -- as CA had done with the state track and field championships. But when California approved a statewide championships for cross country in October 1986 to begin in November 1987, it did so for both boys and girls. 

The Southern Section had conducted competitions for years, as did sections in the north leading to an overall Northern California Championships. But who was the best of the best from this vast state? 

Hal Harkness, the Los Angeles City Section Commissioner in those days, said there were two conditions attached to the legislation that approved the first state cross country championships:

  • 1. The meet would always be held on Thanksgiving weekend to ensure no loss of school time.
  • 2. The meet would always be held in Fresno to minimize extreme travel to one end or the other of the state. 

"Obviously, the COVID19 reschedule (to March of 2021) is a temporary adjustment," Harkness wrote to MileSplitCA Northern California editor Albert Caruana.  

Woodward Park in Fresno, with its 5,000-meter cross country course that had already played host to championship meets at other levels, was selected for the CIF-State Championships. Woodward Park has played host to every one of the past 32 State Meets. 

As legendary coach Ken Reeves wrote for the State Meet program: "Woodward Park has been in the hopes and dreams of California high school cross-country runners since 1987."

Reeves coached Nordhoff (SS) in 1987. His girls team did not win a title that year but, between Nordhoff and Foothill Tech (SS), Coach Reeves as accumulated 14 state titles (7 boys and 7 girls). Walt Lange has been at Jesuit (SJ) since 1970. His boys team did not win in 1987, but since, Coach Lange has accumulated nine state titles. 

The first CIF-State Meet for cross country held championships for boys and girls in three enrollment-based divisions. Division IV was added in 1990. The meet expanded again in 1996 to its current five-division configuration.

More than 200 schools were represented at the first state meet from nine of the state's 10 sections. The Los Angeles City Section did not participate in the first state meet, but has since 1988, Harkness said.

Below is a division-by-division look at the individual and team races at the 1987 CIF-State Championships. 



Bryan Dameworth, a sophomore at Agoura (SS), edged a pair of seniors in Goshu Tadese of Crawford (SD) and David Scudamore of Palos Verdes (SS).

That first D-I race remains one of the closest 1-2-3 finishes in state meet history with Dameworth crossing in 15:12, Tadese in 15:13 and Scudamore in 15:14. 

A mere 16 seconds back of Scudamore was freshman Luis Quintana from Arroyo Grande (CS). The future champion placed seventh as a frosh. 

Crossing between Scudamore and Quintana was the senior duo of Jamie Ortega and Jeff Gilkey in leading Arroyo (SS) to the Division I team title for coach Tim O'Rourke. Ortega was fourth in 15:23 with Gilkey sixth in 15:29. Arroyo, the Southern Section 3A champion, put up 41 points to blow out runner-up Dana Hills, the CIF-SS 4A champ for coach Tim Butler, by 74 points. Bellarmine (CC) was third, nine points behind Dana Hills. 

Arroyo's 41 points still ranks among the top five lowest totals for a Division I team at the State Meet. That victory remains the only title for Arroyo's boys. 

Dameworth's 15:12 would remain among the top-five fastest for a sophomore at the State Meet until a pair of 2022s -- Colin Sahlman of Newbury Park (15:09.80) and Jai Dawson of Dana Hills (15:09.90) -- would knock him off the list in 2019.

Dameworth would go on to become one of just four boys in CA State Meet history to win three divisional titles. His second one would be no easier than his first with another narrow finish, 15:03-15:04-15:05 .

Quintana's 15:30 remains the second-fastest time ever run by a freshman boy at the State Meet.


Dameworth wasn't the only super-talented young runner at Agoura in 1987. A freshman by the name of Deena Drossin equalled Dameworth's result with an eight-second victory over Rayna Cervantes, a junior from Montebello (SS). Leland (CC) senior Jennifer Ashe was third in 17:45, two seconds behind Cervantes.

Junior Ashley Black placed sixth (17:51) in leading Palos Verdes to a 21-point victory over Agoura in the team competition. Hesperia was third with 112 points led by sophomore Nicole Robbins, who was fourth (17:50), and senior Robbyn Bryant, who was fifth (17:51).

The key to the team win for Palos Verdes and coach Joe Kelly was the 3-4-5 runners. Sophomore Heidi Di Libero and senior Leslie Fill finished 30th and 31st overall, and junior Traci Goodrich was 38th as the fifth scorer, one place behind Agoura's No. 3 Tally Rowland. 

It was the first of three consecutive titles for the Palos Verdes girls.

Drossin's 17:35 still ranks among the top-five fastest times by a freshman girl at the State Meet.



Junior Scott Hemple won and senior Coby Polite placed eighth overall in leading Walnut to the team title. Hemple crossed in 15:23 to defeat Ben Ayers, a senior at Christian Brothers (SJ), by six seconds with Mike Glaze, a senior at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, crossing third in 15:32. 

In winning the team title for coach Jim Polite, Walnut scored 40 points to beat Corona del Mar by 23 points. Junior Eddie la Valle placed sixth overall (15:39) to lead CDM, coached by Bill Sumner.

Walnut went 1-3-5-6-8(tie) in its head-to-head with CDM. Senior Jim Robins was 10th overall as CDM's No. 2 but then Walnut juniors Eric Christopherson and Matt Hemple crossed 11th and 12th overall ahead of CDM's No. 3 Greg Shryock. Senior Darren Walker clinched it for Walnut, crossing with the same 16:25 time as CDM No. 4 Paul Scott (Scott was placed in front). 

Walnut's 40 points (equalled by Katella in 1998) held up as the Division II meet record until Newbury Park broke it in 2019 with 37. It was the last team divisional meet record standing from the 1987 championships.

That victory remains the only title for Walnut's boys.


Kira Jorgensen, a junior at Rancho Buena Vista (SD), had the fastest overall time of the meet, 17:34, to beat future champion Karen Hecox, a sophomore at South Hills (SS), by 14 seconds. Tina Gorbet, a sophomore at Lassen (NS), was third in 18:01. (In 1988, Jorgensen would win the D-I title, again with the meet's fastest time, and Hecox would win the D-II title.)

Newport Harbor, coached by Eric Tweit, scored 87 points to win the team title, 19 points in front of Woodbridge (SS). Archbishop Mitty (CC) was third with 120.

Junior Stacy Pando was ninth overall (19:06) and sophomore Kim Robinson was 13th (19:13) to lead Newport Harbor. Freshman Amy Robles was 12th overall (19:13) to lead Woodbridge. Newport Harbor got its Nos. 3-4 runners -- juniors Maggie Steinhauser and Lena Dahbour -- across before the No. 3 for Woodbridge -- sophomore Cathi Peck. 

That was the first of four titles for Newport Harbor's girls.



Reggie Williams, a senior from River City (SJ), won the race in 15:29, 15 seconds ahead of Scott Cole, a senior from Yosemite (CS) and 28 seconds ahead of Brian Ochs of Mission College Prep (CS). 

Senior Thomas Valles was seventh in leading McFarland to the first of nine championships for coach Jim White. McFarland, the favorite among small schools, scored 99 points and was a 45-point winner over Robert Louis Stevenson (CC) with Yreka placing third 54 points behind the winners. 

McFarland's top four -- Valles and sophomores Johnny Samaniego, Victor Puentes and Damicio Diaz -- crossed within 39 seconds of each other, all before Stevenson's No. 2. McFarland was in with 31 points through its top four but then watched as RLS brought in four more. It wasn't until another sophomore, Danny Diaz, crossed in 68th among scorers that McFarland's victory was secure. 


Katy McCandless, a senior at Castilleja (CC), won the first D-III girls title, crossing in 17:51, with Tanya Thayer, a sophomore at Serrano (SS) second in 18:17 and Shamen Dugger, a senior at Coronado (SD), third in 18:29.

Maranatha (SS) had a 28-second 1-4 gap in winning the team title. Maranatha, coached by Ken Cronquist, scored 73 points to defeat San Francisco University High, coached by Sarah Clifford, by 21 points. Coronado (SD) was third with 118 points.

Senior Miriam Cordero (13th overall, 19:47), senior Tracey Earle (17th, 20:06), sophomore Debbie Lewis (20th, 20:13), and sophomore Frankie Rivera (21st, 20:15) led Maranatha.

Sophomore Amy McConnell (7th, 19:47), sophomore Nell Smith (10th, 19:33) and freshman Lynn Segas (19th, 20:12), led San Francisco University (which would emerge a decade later after the state had expanded to five divisions, as the dominant small school girls team, winning what remains as an overall girls record of 10 team titles). 

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Were you an athlete, coach, organizer who took part in the first CIF-State Cross Country Championships in 1987? We'd love to share your memories of that meet and that experience. Feel free to email