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COLLEGES / ALAN OTA : UCLA's Smith Shines in Rainy Conditions at Berkeley

April 01, 1993|ALAN OTA

Although the UCLA men's track team suffered its first dual meet loss to Cal since 1968 last weekend at Berkeley, Bruin senior Erik Smith won the javelin competition by 25 feet.

The two-time All-American had to shorten his approach and took only three throws because of rainy conditions, but won the event with a toss of 224 feet 7 inches in only his second meet of the season.

"For most of the time it was a downpour with a stiff wind," UCLA weight events coach Art Venegas said. "Erik found a way to do a great job."

The rainy weather exceeded anything Smith had experienced before in competition, even as a prep in Oregon.

"Those were the worst conditions I've ever seen," Smith said. "I had to take a five-step approach, which is about half the usual run-up."

Bruin coaches are anticipating bigger performances from Smith.

"Erik will definitely be someone to watch this season," Coach Bob Larsen said.

"All the kid needs is a dry day," Venegas said. "He'll really put one out. You'll see a big throw."

Smith is eager to compete in good conditions so he can accurately gauge his progress.

"The next couple of meets will show what I need to work on," he said. "I'm looking forward to this year."

As a sophomore in 1991, a 218-8 toss earned him ninth place at the NCAA meet.

Last year, Smith was 10th in the NCAA meet with a throw of 216-2 and was runner-up in the Pac-10 meet with a mark of 233-6. His personal best of 237-2 was set in a triangular meet last May with USC and Cal State Northridge.

Venegas believes Smith can win the NCAA championship this season.

"Usually there's a foreign athlete who's way out in front, but not this year," he said. "There is no one guy who can really take it out. I'm thinking that it will take a throw in the 255- to 258-foot range. Erik has that potential."

Venegas said the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Smith has the ideal physical and mental attributes to compete in the javelin.

"You need flexibility and arm speed for the event," Venegas said. "He's a big, strong kid. Because of his size, he can use his leverage and his arm strength. And he's very technical and very disciplined."

Smith may some day compete in the decathlon.

"It's kind of a far-off thing," he said. "But it's something I want to look at. My event right now, though, is the javelin. And besides, Art sure doesn't want to see me out there in practice now messing around with something like the pole vault."

Add UCLA track: The 86-76 loss to the Golden Bears was a meet of close finishes. In the hammer throw, Cal's Damien Luper and UCLA's Greg Hodel had efforts of 189-7, but Luper was ruled the winner by two centimeters.

"It's phenomenal but not unheard of," Venegas said.

Volleyball doubleheader: Top-ranked UCLA will play host to fourth-ranked Cal State Northridge, and third-ranked Pepperdine will play host to second-ranked Stanford in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball matches on Saturday.

Both matches will begin at 7 p.m.

UCLA Coach Al Scates says his team will have to play strong at the net to stop Northridge outside hitter Axel Hager and middle blockers Coley Kyman and Ken Lynch.

"When all three are hot, they can beat anybody," Scates said.

Northridge is ranked fifth in the nation.

The Pepperdine-Stanford showdown, a rematch of last season's NCAA title match in which the Waves prevailed, will be televised by Prime Ticket on a delayed basis at 10 p.m.

Pepperdine will tune up for the Stanford match by playing host to Pacific at 5 p.m. Friday. The Tigers, who are unranked, are led by outside hitter David Ottenfeld, a 6-foot-6 freshman from University High.

Former UCLA volleyball player David Swatik of Manhattan Beach, who left the Bruin team in February, made his debut on the pro beach tour last weekend at a tournament in Fort Myers, Fla.

Swatik, who was teamed with John Hanley of Pacific Palisades, finished 13th and earned $843.50. Winning the tournament were former UCLA standouts Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos, who each earned $7,500.

Notes

Clare Walker, a 5-foot-10 forward at Huntington Beach High who averaged 20.7 points, 15.2 rebounds and 3.1 steals, has made an unwritten commitment to play basketball at Pepperdine.

The Pepperdine baseball team travels to San Diego this weekend for a three-game series. The Waves, who are ranked 11th by Collegiate Baseball, have won 11 of 14 games. The No. 22 Toreros hold a one-half game lead over Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference standings. Wave freshman right-hander Jason LeBlanc has a team-best 1.85 ERA, giving up only 33 hits and nine earned runs in 43 2/3 innings pitched.

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