Quincy Watts of Taft High had the national sophomore record in mind before he stepped into the blocks of his 200-meter dash Friday.
And even after breaking the record, he thought he could have run it even faster.
"I wanted to break 21 and get the sophomore record," said Watts, who sped to a 20.97 seconds and won his heat in the semifinals of the City track and field championships at Birmingham High.
Leroy Simon of Dorsey finished a distant second in 22.07, and Watts said had he been pushed, it would have been anyone's guess.
"I got off to a good start and ran the curve well," Watts said. "But there was no one there to push me. If someone like (Madera's Ronald) McCree had been in the race, I would have run faster."
The 20.97 also is a national age-group record for 15-year-olds.
Roy Martin of Dallas Roosevelt High, who was fourth in the 1984 Olympic Trials as a high school junior, had run the previous sophomore record of 21.00 in 1983. Clinton Davis of Munhall High in Pennsylvania held the age-group record of 21.01, set in 1981.
Watts lowered his previous best of 21.03 and is second on the national list of high school sprinters. Derrick Florance of Ball High in Galveston, Tex., has run 20.90.
The 200 was the highlight of a big day for Watts. He also anchored the 400-meter relay team to a school-record 41.31, won the 100 in a personal best of 10.56 and anchored the Taft 1600-meter relay team to the fastest time of the day. The team of Curtis Hein, Sean Roberts, Monty Gilbreath and Watts clocked a season best of 3:17.03. Those four individuals also comprise the 400 relay.
Watts' 100-meter clocking was the second fastest prep time in the state this year. Defending state champion McCree has run a hand-timed 10.3.
McCree is the only high school sprinter to defeat Watts this year. He beat Watts in the 100 and 200 meters at the Arcadia Invitational in April. Since then, Watts has steadily improved his times and looks forward to competing against McCree at the state championships on June 6-7.
Taft coach Tom Stevenson says his prodigy continues to amaze him.
"He was running very well at the start of the season and yet he continues to improve almost every week. He's a great high school sprinter, and he's only 15."
With Watts at the helm, Taft should be in the running for the City title next Saturday. Watts will be the overwhelming favorite in both sprints as well as the 400-meter relay team. The 1600-relay team also has a shot at winning.
Vaulter Jay Borick and high jumper Keith Franklin of Taft also qualified for next week's championships. Borick has jumped a city leading 14-3 while Franklin leads the city high jumpers with a 6-8 best.
The Toreadors will encounter tough opposition from Locke, Poly, defending city champion Belmont and University.
Kelley Peacock of Van Nuys qualified for next week's championships in four events. The defending city champion in the 300-meter low hurdles and long jump, Peacock had the leading times of the day in the 100- and 300-meter low hurdles, the second farthest jump of the day in the long jump and also qualified in the 100 meters.
She ran a personal best of 43.59 in the 300 low hurdles and her second fastest time ever in the 100-meter lows. Her 13.90 wind-aided effort was her fastest of the year.
Other top performances were turned in by Ian Alsen and Kierstin Church of Granada Hills, and by Jerry Gilmore of Poly.
Alsen finished third in his heat of the 1600 meters in a personal best of 4:22.98. He would have run faster, but he fell at the finish of the race. Church had the fastest time of the day in the 100 (12.22) and the second fastest time of the day in the 200 (25.59).
Gilmore set a personal best of 45-11 in the triple jump and also qualified for next week's finals in the long jump and 1600-meter relay.