NORWALK — Seventeen Orange County athletes and one relay team qualified Friday night for the finals of the CIF state track and field championships. But another, Susannah Thrasher of Villa Park High School, never got the chance to compete.
Thrasher, a senior, finished seventh in the 1,600 meters in last Friday's Southern Section Masters meet, two places out of qualifying for the state preliminaries. But because two runners--Nikki Shaw of Fillmore and Deena Drossin of Agoura--dropped out in order to concentrate on other events, Thrasher automatically got a state meet berth.
Unfortunately for Thrasher, she never got the message.
State meet director Dean Crowley, a Southern Section official, said Friday that after Shaw and Drossin scratched from the 1,600, Masters meet director Earl Engman contacted Villa Park High School on Tuesday, but "the (Villa Park) coaches didn't get the message."
Contacted at her home Friday night, just after the conclusion of the state 1,600 preliminaries, Thrasher, the Southern Section 4-A champion, said the situation was difficult to believe.
"That's got to be a mistake, isn't it?" said Thrasher, who said she was spending her night reading "Gone With The Wind."
"I mean, if my coaches would have known that I was in, they would've been jumping for joy . . . I guess there's nothing I can do, though it would've been pretty fun to run in the state meet.
"But it's weird. I mean, they (meet officials) are pretty efficient about these kinds of things, aren't they?"
Of the nine who qualified Friday for tonight's 1,600 final, four had times slower than Thrasher's best of 5:02.10.
One of those qualifiers was Edison sophomore Shelley Taylor, who expended little energy in placing second in her heat in 4:59.90. Taylor let others lead, and held back from her usual quick kick as she let Locke's Rosetta Hunter cruise to victory in 4:59.11.
"It's kind of hard, because I'm not used to running that slow," said Taylor, who has a lifetime best of 4:54.44. "It's funny because I never thought that a 4:59 would be slow."
In today's final, Taylor will once again face South Hills' Karen Hecox, who finished second in her heat in 5:01.35. In last year's state 1,600 final, Taylor and Hecox were battling for second when they tangled and fell 10 meters from the finish line. Taylor was ultimately disqualified for interference.
In the sprints, Los Alamitos' Erik Mitchell qualified in the 100 and 200, setting up a final county 100-meter showdown with San Clemente's Tim Martin. Martin looked very impressive as he won his heat in 10.68, while Mitchell was third in his heat in 10.77.
In the 200, Mitchell--who had a likeness of Bart Simpson shaved into the back of his head--rocketed to the lead of his heat and held it until 20 meters to go. He finished third in 21.75, but qualified for the final nonetheless.
In the girls' 300 hurdles, Woodbridge's Kaci Keffer ran a furious race to edge Keri Sanchez of Santa Teresa, the state runner-up last year. Keffer's time of 42.84 shaved a bit from her previous best (42.89). Esperanza's Nikki Jackson also qualified for the final by placing third in 44.43.
"Usually I can feel that they're right there," Keffer said. "But she (Sanchez) is like a digger, pounding each hurdle down."
La Quinta freshman Elinor Tolson also qualified for the final, placing fourth in her heat of the 100 hurdles in 14.51.
Orange County's only other qualifiers in the running events were El Modena's Mike Terry (second in his 800 heat in 1:53.80), and Esperanza's girls 1,600-meter relay (second to top-ranked Morningside in 3:53.97).
In the field events, Magnolia's Phouphet Singbandith--the state triple jump leader at 51-0 3/4--led all qualifiers in that event with a nonchalant leap of 49-10 3/4. Esperanza's Clayton Tharrington was third in 48-6 1/4, tying his career best. Tonight, Singbandith expects to better his best of 51-0 3/4, the third-best jump in the nation this year.
Mater Dei's Melissa McDonald had the sixth-best mark in the long jump with a county-leading leap of 18-3 1/2 to qualify.
In the weight events, the county had five qualifiers: Dana Hills' Andy Marrone in the boys' discus, Estancia's Debbie Hargrove (girls' discus), and Esperanza's Mark Parlin and Mark Kinney and Dana Hills' Matt Jordan (boys' shot put).
In the jumps, Katella's Kevin Carlson, who tied the county high jump record earlier this season at 6-11 3/4, leaped 6-7, good enough to qualify. And Mission Viejo's Lisa Fager, nursing a sore heel, had the second-best qualifying mark (39-1 1/4) in the girls' triple jump.
Although there was no qualifying heats in the 3,200, University's Tanja Brix and Katella's Martha Pinto will compete tonight in that event.