Call the State high school track preliminaries Friday night at Cerritos College a director's delight. While long on events, with three heats for most every race, and short on surprises, it set the scene for today's finals (first field event at noon, first race at 6 p.m.).
Not that the day did not have its unforgettable moments, especially for Matt Large of Desert, who, with an assist from the school's student body and various other props, qualified for the final in the 800 and graduated a couple of hours later.
Large's heat was scheduled to start at 6:06 p.m., and graduation for the school at Edwards Air Force Base, approximately 125 miles away, was set for 6. No problem. The senior class voted to delay the ceremonies until 8, and Large arranged for transportation from the stadium to Long Beach Airport and from there to the base. He wasn't the leading man on the track but did manage to squeeze in a 1:51.47 to qualify for today's nine-man field.
Quite a day, except that it wasn't over. The script then called for Large to drive to Anaheim and join classmates in post-graduation festivities at Disneyland. Finally, he would go to Laguna Beach, sleep late today in a condominium owned by the parents of his coach's wife and make it back to Cerritos College in time for the 6:47 p.m. final. Stay tuned.
One of the featured performers in the 800, Neil Fitzgerald of San Francisco Ignatius, also had his day complicated by travel, except that this was unexpected. The flight from San Francisco to LAX at noon was canceled. The Ignatius team got another one at 2. They arrived in Los Angeles a little after 3, just in time for rush-hour traffic. They got to the stadium with 30 minutes to spare before Fitzgerald's race.
In the end, Fitzgerald didn't seem affected one bit. He not only won his heat, but he ran 1:50.94, the third-best time in the nation this year. It also set up one of today's best matchups, Fitzgerald against Vincent Thompson of Locke, who finished second in the State last season and won his heat Friday night in 1:53.31.
"I expect a fast first lap," said Fitzgerald, who beat Thompson at the Arcadia Invitational after previously losing to him indoors at the Sunkist Invitational. "We run with similar styles. I'll try to go out with a 53 (for the first 400 meters) and come back with something similar."
Marcus Hooks of Lakewood, who already has the 1986 lead in the triple jump, moved up to No. 5 on the all-time list in leading the qualifiers with a best of 52-5 3/4. That was a full two inches better than the wind-aided 50-5 3/4 by Terence Williams of Pasadena Muir.
"I want the record (52-10 1/2 by Charles Mayfield of Muir in 1980) real bad," said Hooks, who bettered the 50-foot barrier for the 11th straight competition. "I've only got one more day left. My coach, he just wanted me to jump to qualify, but I even surprised myself."
Steve Lewis, a junior from American of Fremont and a transfer from L.A. Banning, turned in the second-best time in the country in winning his 400 heat in 46.50. That was 1.23 seconds better than the next best qualifier, Marvin Douglas of L.A. Fremont.
Sophomore sensation Quincy Watts of Taft and senior Ronald McCree from Madera, the defending State champion at 100 meters, will have their anticipated showdowns in the sprints. Both won their heats in the 100 and the 200, with Watts leading all qualifiers in the 100 (10.61), followed by Muir's Corey Ealy (10.76). McCree won his race in 10.98.
Watts, whose only two losses this seasosn were to McCree, won the second heat of the 200 in 21.18 in advancing to a final that will also include Ealy, football star Terry Rodgers from Sweetwater of National City, Martin Cannady of Duarte and Curtis Rogers of Sacramento Johnson.