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Tiger with an American dream

After enjoying a banner season in 2009, Crescenta Valley High graduate Eric Kleinsasser seeking additional All-American accolades once again with Occidental College.

August 03, 2010|By Charles Rich, charles.rich@latimes.com
  • Former Crescenta Valley High runner Eric Kleinsasser is now at Occidental College.
Former Crescenta Valley High runner Eric Kleinsasser… (Courtesy of Tracy…)

In the middle of a day-long hike in the expansive San Gabriel Mountains last summer, Eric Kleinsasser briefly stumbled. He wasn't sure what the consequences might lead to from his unexpected mishap.

While walking on a slight incline on a dirt trail near Claremont, a rock popped out of the ground and bruised Kleinsasser's left ankle. Kleinsasser didn't feel any sharp pain initially, but his ankle eventually swelled and bruised.

Stumbling or even taking a spill on a course isn't something that's been customary for Kleinsasser, a former Crescenta Valley High standout cross-country runner now excelling at Occidental College. Yet, it happened, and concerns arose leading up to the cross-country season.

"I was very concerned," Kleinsasser said. "I knew that I would have to look at things objectively with the season around the corner.

"When I was hiking, I didn't anticipate anything like that happening, but it did. That's just the risk you take."

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Kleinsasser met with the Occidental training staff, who treated him and got him prepared for his sophomore season — one that would see him go on to dominate in the conference and net All-American status in Ohio. The injury was nothing major and Kleinsasser spent time putting in extra practice miles and catching up on his training before enjoying a breakthrough campaign after suffering the injury.

"Things just started going well for me and it was a process from meet to meet in going over what I needed to do with my coaches," said Kleinsasser, who clocked 25 minutes 24.47 to capture his second straight Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Assn. championship on Oct. 31 at Prado Regional Park in Chino. "Putting in the extra miles helped me go on to win conference.

"[Occidental cross-country Coach] Rob Bartlett and I came up with a specific strategy in the conference race," continued Kleinsasser, who was named the conference's runner of the year for a second straight season. "We came in and were able to break it down mile by mile.

"I was able to pull away early between the second and third miles in the 8K race. Then I was able to estimate the distance and build the lead little by little."

Things didn't stop there for Kleinsasser, as he made the trek to Pomona College for the NCAA Division III Regional on Nov. 14. Kleinsasser finished second in 25:26.81, catapulting him to the Division III Nationals near Cleveland.

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