On a glittering morning along the Long Beach shoreline last Sunday, 33-year-old Mary Hunchberger, wearing a wet suit, stood on the sand and faced her first triathlon.
She was in the back of a 175-competitor pack that was headed by a rather intimidating row of world-class professional triathletes.
An official of the 1990 Danskin Women's Triathlon Series, standing with a microphone on a tower above the starting line, addressed, not the pros, but Hunchberger and the other neophytes.
"You know, it's infectious, and you're going to be addicted from now on," he said.
An hour and 38 minutes later, a happy Hunchberger was the 92nd woman to cross the finish line at the end of a 3.1-mile run, which had followed a half-mile swim and a 12.4-mile bicycle race.
"I just wanted to finish, and I didn't want to be last," she said. "I feel great. I'm hungry."
Half an hour earlier, the event had been won by Lisa Laiti, 28, a pro from Leucadia.
The distances were half the Olympic triathlon distances, but still grueling. Only 119 completed the event.
"I never wanted to stop and I didn't," said the 5-foot-6, 125-pound Hunchberger, a Long Beach resident who works in the MD-11 program at McDonnell Douglas.
She was not very fast in the water, however, and her bicycle was one of the few left on the parking lot when she returned from the ocean to begin the second leg. But she quickly yanked off her wet suit, slipped into shorts and shoes, affixed the number 105 to her shirt and, as spectators cheered, took off down the beach bike path.
"I'm real bad at the swim," she said. "It seemed a lot farther than it looks from here. But I passed seven people on the bike and felt really good about it. At the start of the run my legs were all rubbery, but I passed a couple of people and got really jazzed."
Hunchberger, who has participated in 5-K and 10-K runs, trained for six weeks with her cousin, Marie Medley, 27, who also works at McDonnell Douglas.
They were inspired and trained by Ursula Hill, a friend who has run in the Boston Marathon. "She made us do it," Hunchberger said of Hill, who finished 28th in this triathlon with a time of 1:17.
Hunchberger, who describes herself as goal-oriented, got up at 5 each morning and ran three miles before work, then rode her bike and swam after work.
It was worth it.
"This is, like, really neat," said Hunchberger, who ranked the accomplishment with putting herself through San Francisco State University.
Her cousin, after coming in last among the finishers with a time of 2:05, stretched out on the grass. She looked much wearier than Hunchberger but as ecstatic.
They realized that the man had been right when he said triathlons are addictive.
"We're going to do the one in San Jose (in August)," Hunchberger said excitedly before heading for the fruit tent and a well-earned feast.
A Title for La Serna: Upon arriving at Anaheim Stadium for their Southern Section 3-A championship baseball game with Tustin last Saturday afternoon, the La Serna High School Lancers gathered in center field.
As they had planned the day before, they took a minute to look with awe around the huge major-league park. "We put it in our memories for the rest of our lives," said Coach Vern Brock.
But Brock knew that the players were not going to settle for just being there.
"When we broke to do our exercises, I could tell in their eyes that it was serious time and that they wanted to win the game," he said.
La Serna won, 1-0, when Tustin pitcher Dan Baker walked Glen Huggins to force in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
It was the first CIF title for La Serna, which finished 28-5, and the first for Brock, a successful high school baseball coach for 20 years.
Brock, 47, changed to the Whittier school three years ago after 17 years at Cerritos High, where he had only one losing season.
"We got to the semifinals twice at Cerritos," he said.
Willie Adams pitched the shutout against Tustin before a crowd that included Max, his pet iguana and the team mascot.
Adams, who has signed to play at Stanford next year, was 10-2 this season and one of three outstanding Lancer pitchers who thrived, Brock said, under pitching coach John Honeycutt.
The others were juniors Bryan Dunagan, who was 11-2, including a perfect game, and Brandon Boettner, who was 5-0.
Senior third baseman Eric Martin, in addition to batting .414, set school records in hits (45), runs (44) and stolen bases (32).
But no Lancer stood out more, with his defense and inspiration, than All-CIF shortstop Jeff Ferguson, who came back from a van crash last November in which he broke his back and pelvis.
"His mental toughness is one of the reasons we won," said Brock. "He wouldn't let us lose."
Champion Chiefs: When a soft line drive settled into the glove of first baseman Jennifer Jannak just before dusk last Friday, Santa Fe High School had its first CIF softball title and was ready to celebrate with a beach party.
Before a capacity crowd at Mayfair Park in Lakewood, the Chiefs (26-1) defeated Hesperia of Riverside County, 3-1, in the CIF Southern Section 2-A championship game.
Junior pitcher Lisa Shandy struck out 11 batters to finish the season with a 25-1 record.
Freshman catcher Laura Berg drove in two runs with a bases-loaded double in the second inning when Santa Fe scored its three runs.
The Chiefs, who have been to the finals two consecutive years, are likely to continue to be formidable--everyone will return next season except outfielder Jennifer Buttery and designated hitter Carie Hanchett, both of whom will graduate.
Draft Choice: Jordan High School shortstop Aaron Holbert of Long Beach was selected Monday by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 1990 baseball free-agent draft.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Holbert, who hit .398 for the Panthers this season, was the 18th player chosen.