SAN DIEGO — Distance running has become a San Diego County staple with the help of such runners as Thom Hunt (Patrick Henry), Terry Cotton (El Cajon Valley), Ed Mendoza (Helix) and Kirk Pfeffer (Crawford) who gained national recognition after graduating from local schools.
The tradition has been kept alive this season with Mark Dani, Marc Davis, Darcy Arreola and Laura Chapel, some of the state's best at the 800 meters, mile and two mile.
And though the runners are expected highlight the 1986 track and field season, there are enough good athletes in other events to make San Diego County more than a long-distance community.
Look for Jackie Anderson, Brian Boggess, Ron Young and Terry Rodgers to shine in events other than the distances.
Anderson, a junior from Mount Miguel, was second in the state triple jump competition last year, and set a national indoor record at the Michelob Indoor meet last month with a leap of 41-feet half-inch.
The national outdoor record is 42-10 1/2 set in 1984 by Wendy Brown of Woodside, Calif. Anderson said she jumped 42 feet in practice three weeks before the season.
Brian Boggess of Monte Vista threw the discus 176-6 last season, but some expect him to go at least 200 feet this year. The boys' sprints could be as close as any county event.
Senior Ron Young of Mount Miguel won the San Diego Section 200-meter title last year in 21.72 seconds, and had a best of 10.7 in the 100. Young, who also won the boys' long jump at the Michelob, edged Terry Rodgers of Sweetwater in the Michelob 60-yard dash by one one-hundreth of a second with a time of 6.59.
Rodgers qualified for the state meet as a junior, but said he didn't take track seriously. He said he is ready to concentrate on his events, which could spell trouble for opponents.
Mike Conway of Morse also is expected to make the sprint events exciting if nothing else. Last year, Conway recorded bests of 10.7 and 21.92.
Conway ran in the Michelob on the Morse mile relay team that beat defending state champion Hawthorne by a second.
Still, when it comes to drama on the track, most will be watching the distance runners.
And Dani is expected to lead the way. Dani, a senior from Valhalla, finished third in the Kinney Nationals cross-country meet in December, and then easily beat the best runners in the West in the two-mile at the Michelob Invitational last month. His time of 8:49.1 was the fourth best indoor high school time.
But Dani won't be compete for Valhalla for at least two weeks. He leaves Monday to run in the world junior cross-country championships in Switzerland, which will be held March 23.
Davis, a junior from San Diego High, also was one of eight from the Western states to qualify for the Kinney Nationals. Davis also was fourth in the two mile at the Michelob.
Dani said after the Michelob that he may concentrate on either the mile or the two mile but not both. Davis, who was second to Dani in the Section 2-A cross-country finals, liked that idea.
"That's fine with me," Davis said. "That way I won't have to compete head-to-head with him."
Lesley Noll of Mt. Carmel High School, Arreola of Grossmont and Chapel of University City all bettered the previous Section record of 2:09.59 in the 800 meters last season. They recorded the state's top three times, but finished second, third and fourth, respectively, behind Kristen Dowell of San Jose at the state meet.
Noll has graduated, but Arreola and Chapel return. Arreola won the mile at the Michelob in 4:53.9; Chapel was third. Arreola, who Grossmont Coach Lynn Cole says will compete in the 800, the mile and the two mile and Chapel, should be the top two, but freshman Kira Jorgenson of Vista could challenge them. Jorgenson was the top finisher from San Diego in the Kinney meet.
After all is said and done, San Diego keeps its distance with runners.
The Mustang Relays, which were scheduled for Saturday at San Dieguito High School, would have provided the first look at this season's athletes, but the meet was canceled because of a muddy track.