It has not taken long for Amy Dabul of Temple City High School to become one of the top distance runners in Southern California--only one year.
It was January, 1984, when Dabul started running as a sophomore in a physical education class.
After participating in numerous other sports, including gymnastics for eight years, soccer, diving and volleyball, Dabul competed in track for the first time in an all-comers meet in 1984.
Her progress has been nothing short of spectacular.
The 17-year-old junior recently posted one of the top prep marks in the state this season when she ran the 3200 meters in 10:47.12 at the Arcadia Invitational Track Meet, upsetting highly regarded Tracy Williams of Mountain View and Rebecca Chamberlain of Leigh (San Jose).
Fine 880 Performance
And she has turned in an outstanding 2:18 in the 800 meters for the Rams. Not bad for someone who started as a sprinter.
Dabul concentrated on the 220- and 440-yard dashes at first. But it was not long before she was running longer races.
"We could see that she probably would be better at distances, so we moved her up to the 880," said Mike Tomasulo, who coaches Temple City's distance runners.
"Last year when she was running the 880 and doing well, we had her run the mile just for fun and she seemed to adapt rather well. I think there was a natural endurance in her to go up in distance."
Dabul, who at 5-6 and 115 pounds resembles a gymnast more than a distance runner, said she had an instant love for running.
"I liked running from the start but I liked sprinting better," Dabul said. "I didn't want to run distances. Even if I hadn't been successful (at the start), I would have stayed with it because I just like to run."
Dabul has no qualms about running distances now. "The longer the better. If they had a 5,000 meters in high school, I would want to run that."
Strong Physically, Mentally
Tomasulo, who has helped produce a long line of outstanding distance runners at Temple City, said there are good reasons why Dabul has developed so rapidly:
"As thin as she may appear, she is physically quite strong and mentally she's even stronger. She's a terrific listener. She takes the words she hears and does her best to put them into action.
"We just got back from a run and I told her to run a hard pace and she ran even harder than she was supposed to. That's the way it has been since she started. She's doing at least what we try to do each day. In more cases than not, her time has been better than the goal we set for that day or workout."
Tomasulo said she may have also benefited from her earlier success in other sports. Dabul was developing into an outstanding gymnast and had competed in the state championships in diving.
"All things being equal, I think the better athlete is starting off with a little more awareness of how to compete (as a runner) and has better natural skills," he said.
Rebounded From Injury
Tomasulo said he is ecstatic about Dabul's recent success in track, especially after she injured her hip at the start of the cross-country season last September.
"In the first invitational meet in September she got hurt and for the rest of the cross-country season we were trying to nurse her back to health," he recalled. "In the league finals (in November) she finished second, but we had to carry her off."
Dabul qualified for the CIF cross-country preliminaries but could not compete because of the persistent pain in her hip.
"We didn't know what to do initially other than to treat it with ice," Tomasulo said. "But when it continued to act up we had the sports medicine expert at Centinella Hospital (in Inglewood) look at her."
The doctor prescribed more ice, aspirin, rest and a new pair of shoes.
Why a new pair of shoes?
"The shoes that she wore made her hip work harder than it had to stay in line," Tomasulo said. "When she changed shoes it made things a lot better.
"After a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation she slowly started to come back."
Finished 70th in Comeback
However, Dabul admits she may have attempted her comeback too soon when she ran in the Kinney Invitational Cross-Country Championships in Fresno in December and finished a distant 70th. "That is a race I would just like to forget."
Things have been much better lately, although Dabul said she still has an occasional recurrence of her injury. "Sometimes my hip gets sore if I run a long distance or I'm intense, but usually it's just a little sore and goes away after the race."
For the most part, it's her opponents who are feeling pain these days.