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Bateman Seeks Own Definition of Terms : Crescenta Valley's 800-Meter Runner Personifies Essence of Middle-Distance Athlete

March 31, 1988|HEATHER HAFNER

If Morgan Bateman could create his own dictionary, he would change a few of the conventional definitions. Particularly the one under the heading of runner. No words would be needed, only a picture of the Crescenta Valley High 800-meter racer.

"It defines Morgan Bateman," the junior said.

And Bateman defines running.

Running consumes the majority of his time, energy and enthusiasm. It appears to be a worthwhile investment because, so far, the returns have been numerous.

Bateman has run the 400 meters, 1,500 meters and the mile, but his greatest success has been at 800 meters. At 6-feet, 148 pounds, he has the right build of a half-miler.

As a sophomore last season, he finished third in the Southern Section 4-A 800-meter final and second in the Masters meet. In doing so, he qualified for the state final but did not compete because of strained ligaments in his ankle.

This season, he is considered among the best in the state. Last month, he finished fifth in the National Prep Indoor Championships at Yale University. He has won his two other 800-meter races this season and set a personal record of 1:53.58 Saturday at Occidental College.

"I hate losing," Bateman said. "I'm very competitive. Put me in any race and I won't get lost. It doesn't matter who you run me against."

For Bateman, running is an unrestrained passion: a life style by destiny. Paul Bateman, Morgan's father, was an 800-meter runner in his native Wales. He won the NCAA Small College Cross-Country Championship in 1968 for Nevada-Reno, where he competed on scholarship for three seasons.

Bateman, 17, occasionally ran in short races as a youngster but pursued other athletic interests, including basketball, soccer and baseball. Running entered the picture during his freshman season.

As Bateman's times improved, he became a regular at the tougher, more competitive invitational meets. He thrived under the pressure.

"He is able to handle the pressure a lot better than I thought he would," Paul Bateman said. "He's been in a lot of big meets already. But even as a sophomore, he was out to enjoy himself."

Bateman's attitude about training differs vastly from his do-or-die racing mentality.

"I don't like to get so up-tight," he said. "I try to enjoy it while I still can. I don't want to get burned out."

Not with a promising college career in the future. UCLA and Northern Arizona, among others, already have shown interest. Bateman also has impressed recruiters by scoring 1,200 on his Pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test.

"He marches to his own drum," Paul Bateman said. "He brings a lot of enthusiasm and mental toughness to his running. I didn't expect him to be a runner because he was always doing other things."

Bateman said the transition from multiple-sport athlete to full-time track athlete was simple. His early success on the track made the decision easy.

On April 9, he might add another chapter to the story when he competes against some of the nation's top runners in the Arcadia Invitational. Bateman will compete to meet his own standards, which he believes are higher than what others expect of him.

"I know that people expect me to go faster," he said. "But I expect more than people around me."

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