Belmont's Roman Gomez, attempting one of the most ambitious triples in the history of City track, qualified easily in all three events during semifinal competition at Birmingham High School Friday night.
Gomez, the defending City and State champion at 1,600 and 3,200 meters, added the 800 meters to his program and won his heat in cruise control, finishing in a pedestrian 1:57.15. He came back and won a tactical 1,600 in 4:18.97 and then posted a 9:09.37 in the 3,200, running the last four laps by himself.
Under normal circumstances, the 17-year-old senior would have been elated after earning the right to defend his titles next Friday at Birmingham. But the victories were of little solace, after he had witnessed a tragedy, involving a friend.
"I was thinking of the old man," said Gomez, who brushed back tears after the 1,600. "I was warming up for the race and he fell right in front of me. I didn't recognize him at first. Then I realized it was my friend. He would always come to the meets and take pictures of us. When I got to him, his tongue was back in his mouth. I tried to give him mouth to mouth resuscitation. But I didn't do enough. You know I took a course, but when it happens, you get nervous and aren't sure what to do. I tried. I feel bad.
"So, I dedicated the last race to him. I wish I could have done more to save him. The old man, he was a friend, a good friend."
The "old man" was Louis Gorelick, 75, of Los Angeles, a longtime track enthusiast, who suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed to Rancho Encino Hospital and pronounced dead at 6:53 p.m.