After a grueling schedule that included 13 regular-season and five post-season meets, all of the cards are on the table for the Hawthorne High track and field team.
The Cougars, who have dominated state competition for six consecutive seasons, will try for their seventh state title beginning tonight and continuing tomorrow in the CIF State Championships at Cerritos College.
Today's preliminaries begin at 3 p.m., with the finals scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Hawthorne boys' team, consisting of Chris Alexander, Anthony Smith, Erik Allen and Curtis Conway, will try for its third consecutive state title and sixth in the last seven years. The girls, meanwhile, will try to capture their second title in the last four years, although they are considered a long shot.
Will the Cougars' domination continue in 1989?
"We hope so," said Hawthorne Coach Kye Courtney. He said the boys' team's chances are as good as ever. "We've had good practice sessions this week and we're stronger now than we've ever been. We've usually only counted on four events, but now we're six events strong."
The 400-meter relay team, which set a state record in each of the last two meets, will try to break the national record of 40.18 held by South Oak Cliff High School of Dallas.
The Cougars broke the state record at the CIF divisional finals with a time of 40.36, then broke that mark last week at the Masters Meet in 40.25.
But Courtney said the team would have broken the 40-second barrier at the Masters meet had it not been for a technical mistake by Conway, who ran the anchor leg. Conway, after receiving the handoff from Allen, switched the baton from one hand to the other before starting the final leg.
"He's only done it during the actual race," said Courtney. "I think he'll get over it. He's determined now. He knows he blew it. When he knows he made a mistake, he really gets going."
Courtney said the only serious competition for the 400 relay team may come from Oakland and Tulare.
"Tulare looks good, Oakland looks good," he said, "but it's hard to find anybody else. I think we have a little too much."
Oakland's qualifying time was 41.31, while Tulare posted a mark of 41.61.
The Cougars' 1,600-meter relay team also had the fastest qualifying time in the state, with a mark of 3:13.05. Hawthorne will also rely on Conway in the 100 and 200 races. He had the fastest qualifying times in the state in both events at the Masters Meet.
Alexander and Allen also qualified in the 100, while Allen will double in the 200. Keith Pouncey will represent the Cougars in the 110 high hurdles, while Smith will compete in the long jump.
On the girls' side, the Cougars will rely on Kesha Marvin in the 400 and Rhonda Kennerson in the 800. Hawthorne's 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams also qualified.
Other area qualifiers include Bishop Montgomery's Pete Hargraves in the 100. Hargraves became the Knights' first state qualifier since Mike Gonzales in the early 1980s.
Tim Camillo of Leuzinger and Greg Wiler of Rolling Hills will compete in the pole vault.
Local girls' qualifiers include Kerrie Pegues of St. Bernard in the 400 and 1,600 relay teams, Marilyn Cragin of Miraleste in the high jump, Lisa Leslie of Morningside in the long and triple jump, and Shareena Harris of Morningside in the triple jump.
Leslie, despite qualifying in both of her events, will not compete in the state meet because of tryouts for the U.S. junior national basketball team in Colorado Springs.
Boys' qualifiers from the L.A. City Section include Larry Billoups of Carson in the 400, Chris Manley of Banning in the 800, Curtis Hawkins and Carlos Celosia of Carson in the 110 high hurdles, Chris Roulier and Celosia of Carson in the 300 intermediate hurdles, the Carson 400 and 1,600 relay teams, Bob Whitfield and Morris Unutoa of Banning in the shot put, John Anthony of Carson and Charles Mabry of Gardena in the high jump, Roulier of Carson in the long jump, and Chris Morris of Banning in the triple jump.
Area girls' qualifiers from the City Section are Noelle Ragland of Carson in the 200, Lucrecia Mendoza of Banning in the 1,600, Mendoza of Banning in the 3,200, Tasha Turner of Narbonne in the 100 hurdles, the San Pedro 400 relay team, the Banning 1,600 relay team, Alysiah Bond of San Pedro in the long jump, and Mary Esene of Narbonne in the shot put.