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St. Bernard Sprinter Strides for Excellence : Track: Kamara Mayberry, who is struggling to live up to expectations, believes better days are ahead.


PLAYA DEL REY — At 14, Kamara Mayberry entered St. Bernard High as one of the up-and-coming 800-meter runners in the nation.

She had dominated her age-group competition. To many, her high school career was going to be a stopover on the way to making the U.S. Olympic track and field team.

However, the road to stardom can be filled with surprises.

"I wouldn't call living up to everyone's expectations difficult," said Mayberry, a junior at St. Bernard. "I would just call it challenging. It's not to say that I'm not reaching my goals, but there have been many hurdles that I've had to overcome."

Mayberry's career has been a puzzle. Each moment that it appeared that she was a stride away from satisfying her critics, Mayberry ran into a roadblock--such as Saturday night, when she finished next to last in the 800 meters at the Arcadia Invitational track meet.

"I was real disappointed afterward," Mayberry said. "It hurt me to run like that. I feel that I owe people an explanation even though I know what really happened to me."

After a strong start this season, Mayberry was a favorite in the 800, but she was unable to train for 10 days before the meet because she was visiting 21 East Coast black colleges.

St. Bernard girls' track Coach Aladrian Lewis gave Mayberry a chance to skip the race, but she would have none of it.

"I give her a lot of credit, because most people would have opted not to run because they knew they were not ready," said Lewis, who was a standout hurdler for Dorsey in the early 1980s. "Not only did she run the 800, but she also ran a 58 (seconds) in the 400 meters before that race."

Said St. Bernard boys' Coach James Swain: "There just is no quit in Kamara. She is just a real tough competitor."

Before enrolling at St. Bernard, Mayberry clocked times that were better than most high school runners.

As a freshman, Mayberry blazed through the outdoor season to finish runner-up in the state 800 meters and anchored the Vikings to a second-place finish in the 1,600 relay team.

Track experts predicted that Mayberry would be a three-time state 800 meters champion.

But as a sophomore, Mayberry began to lose interest in track.

"Being a teen-ager in the public eye, there is a lot of pressure on you," Mayberry said. "Having people watching every move I made on and off the track has been a problem.

"Then, my sophomore year, I felt like I didn't want to run track anymore. I wanted to be rebellious."

Although Mayberry struggled at times, she won the Southern Section 2-A Division 800 title.

However, her time of 2:19.28 was not among the top nine runners and she did not qualify for the Masters' Meet, ending her season.

"It was tough in the fact that I wasn't improving," Mayberry said. "In fact, I wasn't even stagnating. I was going down."

After re-evaluating her career goals, Mayberry entered this season determined to regain her status among the area's top runners.

"I've always been my own worst critic," Mayberry said. "I had to take a long look at what I wanted to do. I've always had short- and long-term goals, but my main goal was to get a scholarship to go to college."

With that in mind, Mayberry attacked her off-season workouts aggressively.

No longer did she feel that she had to run for others. Instead, Mayberry was running for herself.

"I just had to get myself back on pace and have goals that I want to reach," Mayberry said. "I had to go after things when I'm ready instead of when everybody else thinks I'm ready."

Mayberry appeared ready for a big season two weeks before the Arcadia meet, but then came her trip to the East Coast.

"My goal is to better my personal record in the 800, which I set as a freshman at 2:08.91," Mayberry said. "I have to do it for myself and no one else."

This weekend, Mayberry will run the open 1,500 instead of the 800 at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays in Walnut in order to make up for missed training.

With nearly six weeks remaining in the season, Mayberry has time to reach her goal of breaking 2:08.

"Once she gets back into shape, she will be OK," Swain said. "With her competitiveness and her lion heart, she'll be in fine shape."

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