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Cross-country runners face risk on L.A. streets

October 20, 2010 | 10:33 am

Fabiola Holland walked up to a makeshift memorial near her Sherman Oaks home Wednesday morning and placed a single white rose next to the mountain of flowers.

She did not know the young man being mourned, but she had seen his cross-country team jogging through the neighborhood.

Conorlynch Conor Lynch, a 16-year-old junior at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, was killed Tuesday by an 18-year-old hit-and-run driver who was later apprehended. Police determined Conor was jogging across Woodman Avenue midblock, and not at a crosswalk.

Running cross-country in Los Angeles can be a risky endeavor because much of the training takes place on streets, and teenagers have to be cautious about cars, said Lake Balboa Birmingham Coach Scott King.

"It's a danger inherent in that sport," King said, adding that an accident like Tuesday's is "my greatest fear as a coach."

"I never feel good until everyone is back," he said.

Despite the risks, King said coaches have few options other than to allow their runners to train on streets.

"You wouldn't have anyone out for the sport if you just ran circles," King said. "You can't run 10 miles in circles. That's 40 laps. The kids wouldn't do it."

Many cross-country teams take precautions by asking runners to follow traffic laws and watch out for each other. But even the best of intentions doesn't always protect runners.

Last October, a runner at North Hills Monroe, Hernan Herrera, was seriously injured when a driver ran a red light and struck him on a street in Northridge, said Coach Leo Hernandez. Herrera survived but suffered a broken pelvis and knee injury.

Hernandez himself was injured when he was hit by a car as a runner for Cal State Northridge. He said he was thrown 50 feet and injured his lower back.

-- Eric Sondheimer and Kate Linthicum

Photo: Conor Lynch. Credit: Family photo via KTLA News

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