SAN DIEGO — Before last Saturday, El Camino High School's Darron Norris had not lost a sprint since the 200-meter dash finals in 1983 San Diego Section track and field meet. Morse's Darrel Rosette beat him in that race, but Norris had dominated the county since.
At least until last Saturday at the Sundevil/Coca-Cola Invitational at Mount Carmel High.
Norris, a senior, came off the turn of the 200 with a narrow lead over Patrick Henry's Mike Conway, who caught and passed Norris with 50 meters to go. And in lane 10, Fallbrook's Mike Robinson made a late charge, and the defending sprint champion slipped back into third place.
Suddenly, there is competition for Norris in San Diego.
Or is there?
"The 200 was boring," Norris said. "They're (his competitors) the same as last year. I'm just slow right now because I've been doing all distance. The other guys have been doing speed work, but I haven't even started yet.
"The only thing that matters to me is the state meet. I don't even care about CIF (San Diego Section meet)."
Last season, Norris worked hard throughout the dual meet season. He ran 100 yards in 9.5 seconds in successive weeks in March 1984. That mark converted to 10.4 for 100 meters, one-tenth of a second off the Section record set by Elijah Jefferson of Crawford in 1975. He also ran an early-season 21.6 in the 200 in 1984.
But Norris suffered a hamstring injury the first week of April. He went on to win the 100 and 200 at the San Diego Section finals, but the injury never fully healed. In the 200 at the CIF final, Norris came off the turn with a huge lead and aggravated the injury at the top of the stretch. Despite limping noticeably, he was never challenged over the final 100 meters.
The injury prevented him from making any major improvements the remainder of the season. His training also was limited, preventing Norris from strongly challenging California state sprint champion, Henry Thomas of Hawthorne High.
Norris is not concerned that he is behind his 1984 pace. He has bests of 10.7 in the 100 and 22.06 in the 200. And for the first time since his sophomore season, some are skeptical about Norris' chances to defend his San Diego sprint championship.
"Yeah, I hear 'em," Norris said of the skeptics. "But they just don't know. They'll see at CIF. I'll be ready."
Despite the lack of typical marks by Norris, the 1985 season began with him posting the county's best times, 10.7 and 22.4.
Norris' domination came to an abrupt halt when Conway ran the 200 in 22.19 on March 23 at the Pasadena Relays. It was the first time since 1983 that Norris did not own the top times in the county in the 100 and 200. Still, Conway had not beaten Norris head-to-head. It appeared a bit early to panic.
That matchup came in the 100 on April 13 at the Poway-Pepsi Trackfest at San Diego State University. Norris beat Conway by two strides. But Norris found a new challenge as he barely held off Mount Miguel's Ron Young at the tape.
Norris again beat Young in the 100 at the Sundevil/Coca-Cola Invitational, but was beaten by Conway and Robinson in the 200.
"I'm not worried about it," Norris said. "I'm not even going to think about it. I'll start doing speed work in about two weeks, and then they'll see."
THE CONTENDERS Mike Conway, Patrick Henry--Conway, a junior, began the season as a quarter-miler. He had a best of 52.0 and had a 400 split of 49.5 in the mile relay. Conway took over the county lead in the 200 with a 22.19 on March 23 at the Pasadena Relays.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to run in CIF," Conway said. "First, I'm going to run both relays (400 and mile relays), the 100 and either the 200 or 400. I don't know what's going on in the 400 anymore."
Conway must have things settled in his mind about the 200, however, after his win over Norris on Saturday. Conway improved his county best to 21.92 with the win. Norris, who has yet to break 22.0 this season, finished third in 22.06.
Conway is tied with Norris with a best mark of 10.7 in the 100 this season. Saturday, Conway won the third heat of the 100 in 11.1. Norris won the first heat in 10.81.
Mike Robinson, Fallbrook--Like Conway, Robinson started the season with more notoriety in the 400, where he has the county's second best mark, 49.19. He has a best in the 100 of 10.9 and improved his 200 time to 21.93 when he finished second to Conway on Saturday.
Oceanside Coach Tim Oder said Robinson, a senior, will run the 200, 400 and both relays in CIF. Before the 200 Saturday, Robinson was undecided about choosing the 100 or 200.
"My legs are too long for the 100," Robinson said. "It takes me too long to get going. But I don't like running the turn in the 200."
Running in lane 10, Robinson came off the turn in the 200 in sixth place out of nine runners, but made large gains in the final 50 meters.
"Conway is good," Norris said. "But Mike will beat him if he runs the 200."
Norris said Robinson's downfall in the CIF 200 is that he will be tired from running the 400 and 400 relay.