Shanon Winkelman, a Marina High School distance star, used to consider himself invincible on a track or cross-country course.
He seldom kept this thought to himself.
"I used to think I was pretty rad," said Winkelman, a senior. "I thought I was going to break four minutes (in the mile run) as a freshman."
Some might say Winkelman had reason to be boastful. As a freshman and sophomore, he was one of the top runners on the Marina varsity and was considered by many to have superstar potential.
Last cross-country season, Winkelman won the Costa Mesa Invitational by outrunning La Habra's Terrence Mahon, the Southern Section 3-A champion. Winkelman was undefeated in the Sunset League, winning the league championship meet by 12 seconds.
But his outspoken bravado often bred resentment among some of his rivals.
Last November, Winkelman told reporters that he expected only one runner--Palos Verdes' David Scudamore--to outlast him in the Southern Section 4-A cross-country final.
Scudamore won, but Winkelman finished 19th. Teary-eyed after the race, Winkelman quietly excused himself from reporters, saying: "It wasn't my day."
Two months later, Winkelman says he has made some mental adjustments.
"I've changed a lot," Winkelman said. "I know I'm not anything totally fabulous or anything, but, before . . . my head kind of swelled. I don't walk around going 'I'm so rad' anymore, and I don't dwell on winning as much."
If Winkelman has learned his lesson, it was timely. He is entered in the premier high school event--the seeded two-mile--at tonight's 29th Sunkist Invitational at the Sports Arena. The race begins at 8:30 p.m.
The field--considered by many to be the best in the meet's history--includes nine runners who have run faster than 9 minutes 20 seconds for the 3,200-meter run.
--Rob Kennedy of Westerville (Ohio), winner of the Kinney National cross-country championships, and the slight favorite.
--Agoura's Bryan Dameworth, the state cross-country champion.
--Granada Hills' Ian Alsen, winner of the Kinney Western Regional meet.
--Walnut's Scott Hemple, the 3-A champion.
--La Habra's Mahon, the 2-A champion and The Times' 1987 Runner of the Year.
--El Monte Arroyo's Jaime Ortega, the top runner of Arroyo's nationally top-ranked cross-country team.
"Pick up any running magazine and you see those names," said Corona del Mar Coach Bill Sumner, who coaches Winkelman during the off-season.
"Those guys are the who's who of high school running. This is the big one. Shanon won't see (competition) like this again until the state meet (in May)."
Last year, Winkelman's entry for the two-mile event was refused. He was told that his two-mile time (9:26) was two seconds too slow.
"When they told me that, I went crazy and said I'd never run there again," Winkelman said. "I wanted to win the state meet and make them sorry for not letting me in. Now, though, I see how stupid that must have seemed, and what a privilege it is just to be in a race with those guys. . . . Yeah, I guess I've changed a lot."
Both mentally and physically.
Last season, Winkelman's best 800-meter time--after weeks of speed training--was 2:02. Last week, without any speed work for six weeks, he ran a 2:01 at an all-comers meet at Mt. San Antonio.