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In Short Runs, His Times Are Simply Devine : He Is the Latest, and Maybe the Best, in a Line of Standout Sprinters at Nogales High

April 01, 1993|GARY KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LA PUENTE — As one of the premiere high school sprinters in Southern California, Kevin Devine works almost daily on improving his speed out of the starting blocks--and off the victory stand.

Devine, a senior at Nogales High, is the defending Southern Section 3-A Division champion in the 100 meters. Leaving opponents behind has not been a problem for Devine. Meet officials are another story.

For example, at last year's Southern Section meet, Devine finished third in the 200 and qualified for the Master's Meet in that event. He took his place on the victory stand, accepted his medal and then began walking back to the grandstand at Cerritos College to cheer on his Noble teammates.

About halfway to the bleachers, however, Devine and the two other top finishers were recalled by meet officials. Devine was informed that he had been disqualified for stepping on a lane line, even though there were no red flags signifying the error during the race.

Despite Devine's disqualification--and two others suffered by the Nobles during the meet--Nogales managed to win its third Southern Section championship.

Devine said meet officials will have more difficulty wresting a medal from him if they try to reverse a decision this year.

"If they try to do that again, they're going to have to catch me because I'm going to be running," Devine said.

Although it's early in the season, Devine appears to be running better than ever. Last weekend at the Pasadena Games at Occidental College, Devine was named outstanding male athlete after winning the 100 in 10.79 seconds and the 200 in a personal-best 21.64.

"I feel like I'm just getting started," said Devine, a Times' All-San Gabriel Valley defensive back who will attend California on a football scholarship in the fall.

Devine has helped carry on a tradition of sprinting excellence at Nogales that began in the late 1970s.

"We've had some outstanding sprinters here, but I think Kevin is the best," said Steve Hernandez, who has been Nogales' track coach for eight years and cross-country coach for 20. "All the kids before him were hard-working, but Kevin is hard-working and just has more talent."

Devine has grown from a 5-foot-3, 95-pound freshman to a 5-9, 160-pound senior. He refined his sprinting technique with the help of former assistant Jamie Sandoval, who now coaches at West Covina. Hernandez has aided in developing Devine's endurance.

"Kevin and I talk over the workouts," Hernandez said. "I say what we're going to do and he tells me how his body feels. My main concern for him, and all of our kids, is that they stay healthy the whole year."

By concentrating on certain invitationals and other key meets during the season, Devine hopes to avoid the hip injuries that interrupted his sophomore and junior seasons.

Devine, who competed previously in the 100, 200 and 400 relay, is stretching his talent this season by also competing in the 1,600 relay. That marks a victory of sorts for Hernandez, who has lobbied Devine to run the quarter-mile for the past two years.

Devine managed to distance himself from Hernandez's quarter-mile suggestion because there was always another talented runner to step in and get the job done.

Not this year.

"It was a process of elimination," Devine said. "There is no one else left.

"It's tougher than I thought it would be, but it's been a good experience. It helps me in the other events. The endurance I've developed helps me in the sprints when I'm really being pushed."

With a nucleus that includes Devine, Lamonte Adams, George King and DeLewis Johnson, the Nobles are a threat to repeat as Southern Section champion.

"We're not as deep as we have been, but we're very talented," Hernandez said.

Devine is hoping to lower his marks as the Southern Section meet approaches. He is ready for a run at the state title in both events.

"My first goal is winning, whatever time that takes," he said. "Usually, the times it takes to get to state are 10.3 (in the 100) and 20.0 (in the 200).

"If that's what it takes to win, that's what I want to get to."

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