The Southern Section track finals Saturday at Cerritos College produced an Indy 500-type day. A few crashes, mainly in the hurdles and relays, and a few mechanical failures, which proved to be more costly in the race for the team title.
Marcus Robertson of Pasadena Muir was disqualified in the 300-meter hurdles for running on the line. Staci Leach of Thousand Oaks was disqualified in the girls' 300 hurdles, but was later reinstated in first place and teammate Sharon Manship was awarded second.
The Paraclete boys' 400-meter relay team dropped the baton, got a reprieve when the race was re-run, and won. Westlake's Desiree Joubert was spiked and dropped out of the girls' 800, the event in which she finished third in the state last season.
Tate Nelson of Santa Monica was disqualified for a false start . . . in both his hurdle races.
The ultimate failure, however, was saved for last--Hawthorne resting slightly injured sprinter Curtis Conway in the 1,600 relay for next week's Masters when it looked as if the Cougars wouldn't need him.
With Muir holding a one-point lead for the 4-A team title, 52-51, and Hawthorne holding a two-meter lead heading into the anchor leg, the Cougars dropped the baton. After winning the state championship in the event five straight years and the Southern Section team title three straight years, they suddenly seemed doomed on both fronts.
There was nothing left for Hawthorne to do but try to pick up the pieces, which they did to finish fifth in the race and qualify for next week.
At the same time, there was nothing left for Muir to do but celebrate. The Mustangs had just won their first team championship since 1982, scoring 62 points to beat second-place Hawthorne by nine, as Corey Ealy won three events and ran very well in another.
"Normally, I would want it to come down to the relay, if we have all our people," Hawthorne Coach Kye Courtney said. "But we didn't have all our people. We had to run with a guy who was our No. 6 quarter-miler. . . . I'm not saying we would have won it, but we would have been right there if the baton hadn't been dropped."
Courtney was right--Hawthorne has the No. 1 time in the state and No. 5 in the country--but was also truthful.
"Give Muir credit," he said. "They deserved to win."
Duarte, about 10 miles down the 210 Freeway from Muir, won the 3-A title behind four wins by sprinter Martin Cannady. Inglewood Morningside took the 2-A championship, and Paraclete, led by triple-winner Mike Orwat, won the 1-A title.
In the girls' division, Long Beach Poly came up with good performances from LaShawn McBride and Crystal Irving to win the 4-A by 11 points over Thousand Oaks. Upland beat Corona del Mar of Newport Beach, 43-41, for the 3-A title, while Walnut was victorious in the 2-A and Paso Robles won the 1-A.
Pomona did not successfully defend its title in the 3-A, finishing with 40 points, but the Janeene Vickers express did roll on, showing none of the uncertainty she feared coming in. Four Southern Section titles felt as good as ever.
Vickers' wins in the 100-meter hurdles (13.62), the 300 hurdles (42.77), the 400 relay with freshman Lillian King, sophomore Shandria Richmond and freshman Shanequa Campbell (47.74) and the 100 meters (11.49) give her 12 Southern Section titles in a four-year career and a four-event sweep for the second consecutive season.
"Janeene is tired and worn out," Janeene said. "It's not dull at all."
On this day, the relay stood out.
"For Pomona to be No. 1 in the qualifying times is great," she said. "Little Pomona, with two freshman and a sophomore. I know Hawthorne is out (after missing a baton pass in last week's preliminaries), but still. And then to make the 47s. . . ."
Duarte, which finished second to Saugus for the boys' 3-A title last season, won it this year with Cannady leading the way.
Along with Vickers, he was the only four-event champion, anchoring the 1,600 relay to a time of 3:18.14, the 400 relay to a 41.86 and winning the 100 in 10.63 and the 200 in 21.62.
McBride, Orwat, Irving and Maddette Smith of Quartz Hill each won three events, with the success of the Long Beach Poly's McBride and Irving proving most eventful. Or most necessary, since the Jackrabbits were going against a good Thousand Oaks team. Paraclete, with Orwat, coasted to the title.
McBride, the high jump and 100 hurdles champion two years ago as a sophomore, won those two events again as a senior and added a leg on the 1,600 relay. A little help from an unexpected source was a key in the hurdles.
"I very seldom ever get a good start," she said. "I don't know how that happened."
Junior Tracey Williams of El Monte Mountain View won twice, but the victory in the 3,200 was her third straight Southern Section title in the event.
And Travis Cooksey of Rio Mesa had just one win, but it was also noteworthy--a 1:52.05 in the 4-A 800 is the second-fastest time in the nation this year and more than one second better than Robertson, the previous state leader.
Which brings us back to a down-and-up day for Muir.
Hawthorne won the boys' 400 relay, holding off a fine anchor by Ealy, but lost Conway in the process with a hip injury from an awkward lean at the tape. Conway later dropped out of the 100--which Ealy won in 10.36 to tie his good friend, Quincy Watts of Woodland Hills Taft, for the top time in the nation for 1987. Conway later pulled out of the 200 and 1,600 relay, too.
"I enjoyed that," Ealy, who has won five Southern Section titles, said of the 400 relay. "It was just that our handoffs were really bad."
Five more yards and he would have run Conway down.
"Three, probably," Ealy said. "Just a couple more steps."
Neither he nor Muir would need that much for the other relay.