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

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

Comments () | Archives (12)

I hope this never happens at Cal State Northridge, but if it does the school staff would be to blame. They lock their track and no student, except for those on the track team, are allowed. Even places like Drake Stadium at UCLA or Pierce College have open hours. As a result, runners are constantly seen at the perimeter of CSUN.

Not only cross-running is dangerous in L.A. It is dangerous for pedestirans like no other sity I ever was/lived in (including NYC, London, Rome, Paris and alike) Driving on crossing pedestrians is a NOORM in L.A., and I mean pedestrians crossing on their GREEN LIGHT (Red for vehicles) This habit includes city BUS drivers. I walk a lot, and on an average, I have a near-death experience 3-4 times a day! All of these times, DRIVERS keep driving on their RED! L.A. is extremely pedestrian un-friendly city. Youths on skate boards and byciclists are whizzing on sidewalks and when a pedestrians crosses street on his GREEN, there are always more than one car trying to BEAT THE RED!!! Crazy town, indeed.

Wow. We have so many other options here in LA for places to run. We have Griffith Park trails, Sepulveda Dam Basin Recreation Area, miles of park and trails at the Rose Bowl, Reseda Avenue trails, Santa Monica Beach trails. Why do these kids have to run the streets? Really Coach King? Why aren't we talking about the traffic around schools as well? Would speed bumps and traffic gaurds help? Peope still speed near schools even with posted 25 mile per hour school zone signs. We still have people driving while texting and talking on cells phones. Shouldn't our children be protected better?

The article says that the student crossed in the middle of the block, not in a crosswalk. That is a major factor in this unfortunate incident, and the student's death. However, the driver clearly should have stopped to tend to the student.

Running around neighborhoods is a safety issue. Children no longer walk to school for their safety, but running the streets of Sherman Oaks is O.K. Think again. Many days a week I see the boys and girls in groups running down residential streets in my area. The cars whip around the corners, or drivers are blinded by the sun and could easily crash into the large group of runners. Why not bus or walk the children to the local park and let them run, or let them loose on the schools expensive fields and grounds, but not on the dangerous streets of Sherman Oaks.

Yeah, why not bus all the pedestrians to a safe place where they can walk? Never mind that maybe elderly or disabled people may have to walk to the corner grocery store. This is not realistic. It should be safer for pedestrians, runners, bicyclists, skateboarders in our neighborhoods. Get the suicidal and homicidal maniacs off our roads!

Its funny to read the comments. Its all about a 3000 to 5000 pound vehicle's right of way? I realize I've lived in the "car capital" for most of my life, but I am truely shocked by this attitude.

When I started driving in the 70's, you'd get to a 4-way stop and people would be fighting about giving the right of way (no you go, no no you go). Since the mid / late 80's its been a downward sprial. Now its near live warfare. Over what? A driver (and cars) precieved rights.

Cars and driving one is a privolege (and a necessity), that doesn't mean the motoring public is the only one with rights.

My greatest fear as a driver is to collect a human hood ornienment. I'm surprised to find I might just be in the minority in this regard. How is it that we condon such lack of respect for people. The comment about this poor boy being out of the cross walk is nearly obsene. Its a fact but not necessarily a mitigating fact. By the shear fact the kid that was driving split the scene is the real factoid of interest. What does this really say. Scared kid? Maybe. Or a driver that thinks its the guys fault for being in the road? I'd say 50-50. No way is that an acceptable attitude.

People have a right to walk or run down the street without worring about cars. Paticularly on the sidewalk which isn't even safe. Go run in a locked down track, Go run in East Los, when you live in the valley. That attitude is just plain wrong. The cars and drivers have the responsiblity, they are the lethal weapon. Stop avoiding responsibility. Maybe just maybe we'll figure out how to co-exsist. Until then remember the caltrans moto:"Give 'em a brake"

Hey Alan, your comment is the first real response I've read yet since this tragedy broke.

I feel bad for the family and friends of the high school boy that was killed by a hit and run driver in Sherman Oaks. And I pray for him and his family. But I resent the LA Times trying to make this into a problem in Los Angeles because its not.
I am a distance runner for USC and I can tell you there are plenty of places to run in LA that are not in the city. We van off to Santa Monica, Manhattan beach, Santa Monica, and Kenneth Hahn Park. I get plenty of trail running away from the city streets. While i feel bad for the boy hit by the car, i don't want the LA Times to make this into something that it is not.

Reading these articles ALL I SEE is a Privileged Type of Mentality!!! Growing UP in Beverly Hills my parents always challenged my MANHOOD!! For ME I am attracted to PEOPLE who dare to challenge the UNKNOWN!!! The perfect example is my ex-British girlfriend who came from ROYALTY and was not afraid to reveal herself In my fashion portfolio with CHOLOS (Hispanic Tough Guys) and GANGSTERS!!! Up here at the University of Nevada-Reno, those who sit far away from ME in class can't FACE the reality of what Los Angeles is LIKE!!! and I would not give my 2 cents to them!!! because 1) the corporate people I know will eat them alive and 2)the geography of Los Angeles will drive THEM crazy!! When I was 15 years old I ran from my parents house near Sunset Blvd. in Beverly Hills to Downtown LA and back on Saturdays and Sundays seeing a lot of bad things along the way. Sometimes I would run from my house up to Malibu and Pacific Palisades and back with all that heavy traffic around. Some of YOU would think I am arrogant but the HEROES in this WORLD are the ONES who embrace the DANGER and are the true LEADERS of the WORLD!!!

"Jennie" and "Looking Out" are correct -- the coach should have the kids run in parks and other places where there's no motor traffic. Even running around the school grounds (often that's several blocks) is better than the streets, but our GREAT coach Grant Aurand -- at Marshall High, 1954 through 1957 -- always took us to Griffith Park. That was excellent, even though at one point we did have to cross a street.

Run on the beach or public parks and sidewalks.


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