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Cougar Runners Set Personal Bests At State
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Hitting the cross country course at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday, Nov. 29, a pair of Cougars came away with solid efforts to close out the season.

"It went real well, the kids both PR'd," said coach Rick Heflin of juniors Matt Barnum and Pearl Rivers, Escalon qualifiers who each set a new personal best mark on the 3.1-mile course.

Neither came home with a medal but Heflin said the personal best marks were worth the trip.

"Pearl beat her PR by over a minute on that course," Heflin explained.

Completing the run with a time of 20:08, Rivers wrapped up her season with a 57th overall finish.

"Matt was able to improve his time to 17:02," Heflin said, adding that he just missed getting into the 16's for the state course.

"Next year, when he breaks that (16) barrier, it'll just start dropping," the coach predicted of Barnum's time.

In terms of strategy, the runners wanted to go out and put in a solid first mile, hopefully building on that in miles two and three. Rivers ran a 6:00 first mile and Barnum was at 5:15. The second mile saw the runners take a little more time, though Rivers was able to pick up her pace for the third mile. Barnum could not get back to the pace he set in the first mile, settling for coming in at just over 17 minutes.

"In the second mile, Matt started picking people off as they faded but the third mile it just didn't work for him," Heflin explained. Pearl maintained her pace on her second mile and the third mile she picked it up, that's why she PR'd by so much."

Barnum's time was good for 61st overall.

"Between 20th and 60th place, there was a difference of about 15 to 20 seconds," Heflin noted.

The two juniors will look to lead a strong program next year as well, with the majority of the varsity runners returning.