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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Ridgeview High's Lashya Morgan takes a solid lead early in the SYL girl's cross-country championship Thursday at Hart Park. She came in 1st.

When Lashya Morgan entered Ridgeview as a freshman and decided to run cross country, she had the ideal role model: teammate Tijerra Lynch.

Lynch was The Californian's All-Area runner of the year in 2008 and '09.

Morgan is this season's Runner of the Year, and Morgan said she appreciates what Lynch meant to her those first two seasons.

"She would tell me I could break her records," Morgan said. "She always told me that, and I didn't think so at the time.

"But you know what? I broke all the records."

Ridgeview coach Adam Setser said he could tell a difference in the veteran Morgan.

"As a freshman and sophomore, she was just kind of tagging along behind Tijerra," he said. "Her junior year, last year, was the first time Tijerra wasn't out there and she was thrust into the lead role on the team. It was a real transition for her.

"This year she really worked hard all over the summer and it paid off."

Morgan had a dominant senior year. She won every local race she entered until the county championships, where she placed third.

Morgan then won the South Yosemite League meet in 18 minutes, 19 seconds, equaling the fastest time of the day from any local league.

She became Ridgeview's first Central Section cross country champion with a 19:03 in the Division III race, improving upon her second-place finish her junior year and posting, by eight seconds, the best time of the day by any Kern County girl runner. Lynch was second in the section three times.

"(Morgan) is really tenacious and has a lot of inherent ability," Setser said. "But it's taken all four years to bring it out."

At the state meet, Morgan's 19:29 was the second-fastest local time that day. She placed 56th.

"My favorite moment this year was winning Valley," Morgan said. "I took the lead and I went with it. I got tired, but I told myself to keep pushing. Then at the end, I knew I was going to win."

Winning the section race was her preseason goal and she said that was her motivation during her summer workouts.

"I just wanted to make my senior year better," she said. "I went to every practice. I put in the work."

At the state meet, Morgan hoped for continued improvement.

"But I started out too fast. You want to go out fast like everyone else," she said. "The first mile, I had never run that fast. The second mile it was like, 'Oh my gosh.' Then the third mile it was like, 'please let me finish the race.'"

According to Setser, Morgan is on top of several school record lists.

"She's No. 1 on our home course, at Woodward Park and 3-mile overall."

Morgan has Ridgeview's second-fastest time at the 5-kilometer distance. In track, Setser said she has the fastest times in the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters.

Morgan will continue her running this spring for the Wolf Pack's track team in the 1,600 and 3,200. She said she wants to run in college and is interested in running cross country and track at Cal State Bakersfield.

She said she's interested in studying geology and is taking that subject at Ridgeview.

"Ridgeview is the only school in Bakersfield, in the whole state, to offer geology," Morgan said. "It's a program that Chevron sponsors."