For the first time in several years there's no real superstar in Hawthorne High's track lineup, but Cougars Coach Kye Courtney believes he has enough talent and versatility to pull out yet another boys state track title this weekend in Sacramento.
"This is our time of the year," Courtney said.
Asked to forecast the competition, Courtney didn't hesitate. "Whenever I predict, Hawthorne wins," he said with a laugh.
"It's a two-day meet and we have five people. If we get all our kids in the finals, we could win it."
One of the variables is the availability of sophomore standout Curtis Conway, who missed about 10 days with a hip flexor, a painful strain of connective tissue in the hip. If Conway can run effectively, he gives the Cougars the state's best mile relay team.
Here's how the two-day meet, which starts Friday, shapes up to the coach who has won three state titles in the last four years:
"We need a fifth place in the 100 and a fourth in the 200," Courtney said. His top sprinter is Robert Carroll. Courtney foresees Taft High junior superstar Quincy Watts winning both events, with Muir's Corey Ealy second in each.
"In the 400 we need eight points (second-place finish) from (Travis) Hannah. In the high hurdles (Yke) Vallery is good for second. He finished second at the Masters (CIF Masters Meet last week) and clipped one hurdle and missed another. Conway is back--which is good news for us and bad news for everybody else. With him in there we're good for third in the sprint relay (400-meter relay) and we win the mile relay. In the long hurdles we can get a fifth from Vallery.
"That totals 40 points. I don't think that's far-fetched. Friday could be the killer. We'll sub for Conway in the prelims and see if we can sneak by into the finals."
Courtney predicted that Muir would win the 400 relay and run fourth in the mile relay, for a total of about 30 points. With Watts running strongly, Courtney sees Taft placing second in the 400 relay but only about sixth in the mile relay. "There's too many mile relay teams in the Southern Section with better times," he said. That would give Taft about 29 points.
Morningside could also play a part in determining who wins. The Monarchs won the Masters Meet mile relay and have the third-best Southern Section time in the 400 relay. "Their mile relay is definitely tough," Courtney said.
Carson High could also score points in the sprints and sprint relay, led by speedster Calvin Holmes. He finished a close second to Watts in the L.A. City championships last week and led Carson's 400 relay to a close second behind Taft.
Other South Bay athletes who could score at the state meet based on recent performances include West Torrance distance runner Greg Flynn in 3,200 meters; San Pedro's Kara Olsen, who won the City titles, in the 1,600 and 3,200; Locke's Kim McCallister in 800 meters, Morningside's Althia Moses in 800 meters and several Hawthorne sprinters, especially Deanna Amy, and the mile relay.