Bill Paul, Muir High boys track coach, is starting to get the feeling that his team is not meant to win the CIF Southern Section 4-A Division title.
It is easy to feel that way when you consider the events that dampened Mustang title hopes last week in the preliminaries.
The Mustangs were not exactly in tip-top health. First there was Tyrone Jeffries--a standout hurdler and sprinter--who competed despite a broken foot. Jeffries, who was expected to place high in four events, competed in only the 110-meter high hurdles and did not qualify for the finals.
Then there was sprinter and hurdler Jason Gray, whose on-again, off-again hamstring injury resurfaced at the prelims. Gray was forced to scratch out of the 300-meter intermediate hurdles after limping through the 100-meter dash in a non-qualifying time of 11.62 seconds.
Gray probably wishes that he had missed the 400-meter relay, too.
Blundered With Baton
Filling in for Jeffries on the anchor leg of the relay, Gray took the baton from teammate Ricky Ervins out of the passing lane and Muir was disqualified. That nullified a first-place time of 41.7 seconds for the Mustangs, ranked No. 1 in the state in the event.
Tossing in disappointing results in the long jump and the 1,600-meter relay explains why the Mustangs--previously considered a strong contender for the state title--will be underdog to Hawthorne and Simi Valley at the 4-A finals at 11 a.m. Saturday at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
Paul may have had a sign that it was not going to be his team's day at the prelims when assistant coach Clyde Turner was involved in an automobile accident on the way to Muir in the morning.
"Somebody just ran him off the road," Paul said. "So things didn't exactly start off well for us, either."
Write it off as a day in the Twilight Zone.
Down but Not out
But Paul is not ready to paint Muir out of the title picture.
"I'm trying to be as positive as I can about it. I think we can still do it, but it's definitely uphill."
Paul said the disqualification in the 400-meter relay disturbed him most.
"We would have had the fastest time by far if we had qualified," he said. "It takes away 10 sure points because we had not been beaten all year and we still haven't been. But it doesn't matter now."
Muir still figures to score well with juniors Corey Ealy and Ervins in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, Terrance Williams in the triple jump and Rick Shaw and Marcus Robertson in the 800-meter run.
Muir's success may hinge on the performance of Shaw, Paul said. "His overall best time (1:54.7) is better than anybody. He just has to find it again. He can run better than what he did last week (1:57.61)."
Hopes in 1,600 Relay
Paul also is hoping that the addition of Ealy to the 1,600-meter relay team will improve its time. Muir, which had been one of the top 1,600 teams in the state, slipped to a seventh-place clocking of 3:20.34 in the prelims.
Still, Paul realizes that his team is a long shot. "We have to replace our missing points somewhere and perform well overall, and they (Hawthorne and Simi Valley) have to have something go against them."
Muir is not the only team from the San Gabriel Valley in the boys title picture. Duarte and West Covina are among the favorites in 3-A, Blair may be the team to beat for the 2-A title and Marshall Fundamental is a solid championship contender in 1-A.
Title aspirations of Duarte and West Covina ride on outstanding sprinters and hurdlers.
Duarte is led by junior speedster Martin Cannady, who posted the top time in the 100 (10.82) and 200 (21.60) meters and anchors swift 400 and 1,600 relay teams.
Counting on Horton, Coleman
Other top performers for Duarte are Maurice Horton in the 800 meters and the 300-meter hurdles and Cedric Coleman in the 200, 400 and relays.
West Covina is headed by sprinter Leland Adams, who has qualified in the 100, 200 and 400 meters, and Glenn Stewart in the 200 and 400 and the 300 hurdles.
Strength in the sprints and hurdles also make Blair and Marshall Fundamental title contenders.
Blair is led by sprinter Sam Morgan in the 100 and 200 meters and the 400 relay, Arthur Barron in the 110 hurdles, Anthony Beaty in the long and triple jumps and Pat Bodenshot in the shot put.
Marshall Fundamental features sprinter David Whitmore in the 100 and 200 meters, Serge Delus in the 110 and 300 hurdles and Corey Dantzler in the triple jump.
2 Strong Girls Teams
The valley's top title hope among girls teams may rest on Pomona and Diamond Bar in 3-A.
Diamond Bar is led by Rosalyn Mitchell, who qualified in the 100 meters and the long jump. She topped qualifiers in the long jump with a mark of 17-10 3/4.
Pomona is hoping for another strong performance by junior hurdler and sprinter Janeene Vickers, who was the fastest qualifier in the 100 hurdles (13.66 seconds), 300 hurdles (45.86) and 400 meters (57.01) and leads her school's swift 400 relay team.