The 1,500 meters was Darcy Arreola's main event this season, but the 3,000 might be her No. 1 race in the years ahead.
Arreola grudgingly admitted as much after being eliminated in the semifinals of the 1,500 at last week's U. S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis.
"I want to stick with the 1,500 as long as possible," Arreola said. "But sooner or later, the 3,000 might be my race. Probably in 1992."
Looking to qualify for the Trials final and lower her personal best of 4 minutes, 15.35 seconds in the process, Arreola placed seventh (4:19.95) in a first-round heat and a disappointing 11th (4:18.48) in a semifinal. The top five finishers in each semifinal, plus the next two fastest runners, advanced to the 12-woman final.
Arreola led early in each race, but watched helplessly as one runner after another passed her in the final 100 meters.
"People were just passing me like crazy in the home straight," Arreola said. "I started to freak because I couldn't respond to them."
The field's wait-and-kick tactics came as no surprise to Arreola or Northridge Coach Don Strametz, but Arreola's lack of homestretch speed did.
"I had been working on my kick," Arreola said. "But it just didn't seem to help much."
Strametz said Arreola, the NCAA Division II champion in 1,500 and 3,000, had a better chance in a last-lap sprint off a fast early pace. But the pace lagged in the first 800 of both races in the Trials.
"When she was leading at the 800 in 2:16 in the semis, I knew she was in trouble," Strametz said. "There were just too many women with faster half-mile speed than Darcy."
Indeed, the top three finishers in the 1,500 at the Trials, Mary Decker Slaney (1:56.90), Regina Jacobs (1:59.36) and Kim Gallagher (1:58.02), have all bettered two minutes in the 800. Arreola's best is 2:05.73.
That's why her future is in the 3,000, says Strametz.
"It's not like we've lost hope," he said. "You've got to realize that she's still only 19. . . . But there's no doubt in my mind that the 3,000 is her best race. It will allow her to utilize her endurance more. It will be easier for Darcy to run under 8:50 in the 3,000 than for her to run under 4:05 in the 1,500."
Triple triple: Alice Brown of Panorama City and sisters Denean and Sherri Howard of Sylmar have each qualified for their third Olympic team.
Brown, the 1984 Olympic silver medalist in the 100, placed fifth in both the 100 and 200 at the Trials and will go to Seoul as a member of the U. S. 400-meter relay team.
Before the 1984 Olympics, only the top four finishers in the 100 and 400 make the 400 and 1,600 relay teams. The rules were changed, however, to allow a team to bring six relay runners and use them in any order or combination.
The change enabled Denean to qualify for her second U. S. team in 1984 and enabled Sherri qualify this year. Denean, a 1982 Kennedy High graduate, placed fifth in the 400 at the 1984 Trials and ran in the heats and semifinals of the 1,600 relay at the Games.
She'll be entered in both the open 400 and 1,600 relay this year after placing second in the 400 at the Trials.
Sherri, a 1980 Kennedy graduate, placed fifth in the 400 at this month's Trials and will run on the 1,600 relay team.
Learning experience: No one expected Quincy Watts to contend for a berth on this year's U. S. Olympic team, but Hilliard Sumner, coach of the Win America Track and Athletics Club, for whom Watts was running, felt the Taft High graduate was capable of lowering his personal best in the 200 (20.50) at the Trials.
"He was ready for that," Sumner said. "I certainly expected him to do that."
But Watts failed to meet those expectations. After placing fourth in 20.84 in a first-round heat, Watts was eliminated in the quarterfinals when he finished sixth in 20.91.
"He just didn't have the background he needed," said Sumner, who will be the sprint coach at USC when Watts enrolls at the school this fall. "I don't think he was intimidated. He had no rhythm on the turn and that was due to a lack of training."
A two-time state champion in the 200, Watts missed five weeks of training when he strained a hamstring muscle in an April 8 dual meet against El Camino Real High.
Nevertheless, Sumner viewed the Trials as a great learning experience for Watts.
"He saw what it takes to compete on the national level," Sumner said. "Next time, Quincy will know what it takes to make the team."