Lori Shaw has run track at Cal State Fullerton for each of her four years at the school, but this year has been different.
For one thing, there are men working out at the practices--Fullerton reinstated its men's track program last year. For another, there is someone to coach the sprinters. In some past years, a high school coach has helped out, but for the most part, the runners coached themselves.
This year, Shaw has had the help of Benjamin Brown, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter relay. Brown, a systems programmer at Hughes Aircraft in Anaheim Hills, is coaching part time at Fullerton, something he had done several years ago.
Under Brown's guidance, Shaw has a chance to do something no Fullerton runner has done--qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. national championships.
Her best time in the 400 meters so far is 54.3 seconds. The qualifying time for nationals is 53.14.
Shaw thinks she will make that time between now and the nationals May 30-June 3 at Provo, Utah. But says she isn't pressing for it to come at the Big West Conference track championships, which begin Thursday at Cerritos College.
She would like to win the 400 meters this week, however, and Brown thinks she might.
"She should win the 400, and place high in the 200 and 800," Brown said. "She's a strong girl. She works hard too."
It will be a hard day for Shaw, as many meet days are. She will run the 400, 200 and 800 with no more than 40 minutes between the events, then run the mile relay with a rest of an hour.
Brown also thinks she will make the qualifying time, "as long as she doesn't press too hard."
That's something Shaw doesn't seem inclined to do.
"I'm just going to go out and run," she said. "I just want to run to win. If I do win, I could qualify. . . . I don't want to stress it. I don't want to concentrate on it in the conference or any other meet. That way you won't do it. When I least expect it, it will pop up on me. I have the ability to get there, and I will."
Alongside Shaw at practices is a runner who is much newer to the Fullerton track program--Mark Hill, who is also a wide receiver for the football team.
When the call went out for athletes from other teams to help fill out the fledgling men's team, Hill answered it, even though it meant some long weeks this spring.
On a typical day, he went to class from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., took a 45-minute lunch break and then went to the training room to get taped for football practice. After meetings, weightlifting and running, he made the short drive to track practice at Fullerton College and caught the last hour or so of that workout.
He also managed to work at a service station in Anaheim. How many hours? Hill laughs. "Three or four a week," he said. "I squeeze it in. The man I work for is pretty flexible."
For much of the season, Hill ran the 100 and 200 on Saturdays on legs that had been about worn out by the end of Friday's football scrimmage.
But after separating his shoulder during football practice two weeks ago, he stopped practicing football and started spending all his practice time on the track in what Brown called a "crash course," for the conference championships.
"I wish I'd been able to work more with Mark," Brown said. "He's a good talent with potential. He's a hard worker, and he listens and applies what you tell him."
His best time in the 100 is about a 10.9, but he thinks with the extra practice leading up to this meet he can improve on that. Brown thinks he can finish in the top three or four.
Hill, a junior, will be playing football in the fall, and figures the time spent with track will help him. He is expected to start. Next spring, he says, he'll be running again.
Shaw, a senior, is finishing up her career. But she'd like to leave her mark by making the nationals.
"That's been one on my goals," she said. "I keep trying to get it. That would mean a lot. It would say a lot about (Benjamin's) coaching too."
With one series remaining in the Big West Conference baseball season, Fullerton's task in seeking to return to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. regionals has become clear.
The battle for third place in the Big West is also apparently the battle for a bid to the 48-team regionals to be played at eight sites May 25-29. Coach Larry Cochell, a member of the NCAA selection committee, says he believes the third-place team will be invited.
The Titans, tied for third place with Nevada Las Vegas with a 10-8 record, apparently need only to win more games than the Rebels do in their final series to return to the regionals.
A tie would probably favor the Rebels, who took two of three games against Fullerton.
But the opponents might favor the Titans. Fullerton faces second-place Fresno on the road, and UNLV will be playing first-place Cal State Long Beach on the road.