CLASSIC SEASON FOR BEI, MONTY

DATE: Tuesday, December 26, 2000
BYLINE: Ralph Leef, Rich Rupprecht and Erick Studenicka
The Press Democrat
EDITION: CITY
SECTION: SPORTS
PAGE: C1

MEMO: Year In Review - Top Ten Empire Stoires of 2000

MONTGOMERY HIGH'S STATE TITLE FOLLOWED BY 
BEI'S NATIONAL CROWN TOP LIST OFYEAR'S BEST STORIES

   Before the gun went off at the start of the state cross country meet in
Fresno on Nov.25, Montgomery High coach Larry Meredith was searching for
the right words.
   What could he say to the Montgomery girls to let them know that -- even
though they had been ranked No.1 in the state for much of the season --
they probably were not going to win the state championship? What could he
say to the girls following their race to make them feel good about their
second- or third-place finish?
   ``How could I tell these girls that they had done a fantastic job at
shooting for the stars but I hoped they could be happy in settling for the
moon?'' Meredith recalled.
   Of course, Meredith never said anything to put a seed of doubt in the
Vikings' minds.
   Instead, he sent them off reminding them how Sara Bei, now a senior
chasing her record fourth consecutive California state title, had run to
first place in the 1996 state meet after crossing the mile mark in 46th
place. And he asked them to recall the feeling they had earlier in the
season at the Mt. Sac Invitational, where they turned in their best race of
the season to earn the No.1 ranking in the state.
   About 20 minutes later, as the Viking runners, led by history-making Bei
in first place, began crossing the finish line ahead of schedule with
unexpectedly quick times for the 5,000-meter course, Meredith suddenly
realized there was no need for a consolation speech. Every member of the
team had turned in a remarkable, performance and it was no longer important
to him whether the Vikings had won the meet or had placed second or third
-- they all were champions in his mind.
   When the score was tabulated, the Vikings were the official state
champions. They had edged Sultana by nine points on a day when all seven of
the Vikings -- Bei (first, 17:13), Sarah Bashel (14th, 18:38), Elisa
Pedersen (25th, 19:02), Kim Conley (29th, 19:04), Joy Terribilini (55th,
19:32), Christy Sweaney (65th, 19:38) and Amelia Thomas (150th, 21:01) --
had run their best race of the year.
   No other Empire team had even placed within the top five in previous
state meets. The margin of victory was so slim, had any of the Vikings'
five scoring athletes ran just 10 seconds slower, Montgomery would have
lost the meet.
   ``I thought a few girls might be able to get some personal records, but
we had four girls cut 40 seconds off their previous best,'' Meredith said.
``The idea that five, six or all seven of the team members could have their
best races on the same day in the most important meet of their lives was
something that never entered my mind.''
   Two weeks after the state meet, Bei went on to become the second Empire
girl -- in addition to Santa Rosa's Julia Stamps -- to win a national
championship when she outsprinted Glendale's Anita Siraki at the Foot
Locker National Championship in Orlando, Fla., to conclude her own
fantastic season.
   ``Once every few years in this sport I am reminded that dreams, however
unlikely, can indeed come true,'' Meredith said.

HIGH SCHOOL TRACK
   Eleven times in her past, Maria Carrillo's Jenny Aldridge had raced
Montgomery's Sara Bei. And 11 times she had come up short against her NBL
distance-running rival.
   But in their 12th meeting at the CIF state track and field championship
at Cerritos College on June3, Aldridge picked exactly the right time to
record her first victory against Bei. Aldridge outsprinted Bei down the
final stretch to win the state title in the 1,600 meters with a time of
4:49.63.
   Aldridge's father, Puma coach Dan Aldridge, had been second in the state
at 880 yards in 1975 while representing Petaluma High.
   In addition to her second-place finish in the 1,600, Bei was also second
in the 3,200. It marked the second consecutive year Bei was second in both
distance events at the state meet.

BEST OF 2000
1. MONTGOMERY CROSS COUNTRY
Sara Bei leads the Vikings to the state championship, then wins the
national title to cap a brilliant four-year run.
2. SANTA ROSA JC SOCCER
Bear Cub men take a perfect season to the state final four while the
women's team comes within minutes of a statetitle.
3. KEVIN MITCHELL
The former National League MVP dons a Crushers uniform and gives Sonoma
County a memorable season.
4. PETALUMA GIRLS BASKETBALL
The Trojans ride a late season wave all the way to the state title game.
5. HIGH SCHOOL TRACK 1,600 METERS
Jenny Aldridge and Sara Bei battle at the state track finals.
6. TURMOIL AT SANTA ROSA JC
With the team on probation, the school fires men's basketball coach Steve
Done.
7. MONTGOMERY FOOTBALL
The Vikings finish a fabulous season with the 3A Redwood Empire NCS
championship.
8. SOFTBALL LEGEND DIES
Walt Guanella, a name synonymous with Santa Rosa fastpitch softball, dies.
9. HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS SOCCER
Ursuline upsets Maria Carrillo to win the section title.
10. ERIN BUESCHER
Former Rincon Valley Christian basketball star leaves Div. I UC Santa
Barbara for The Master's College, an NAIA school.