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Haslip Clearing Hurdles for Muir : Track: The junior, who didn't run the 300-meter intermediate hurdles until last year, has the nation's best time this year.

April 29, 1993|GARY KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PASADENA — Kenny Haslip said no. Absolutely not. No way.

Haslip had emerged at the end of his freshman year as one of the best quarter-milers on the powerful Muir High track team. He was in no mood to take up another event when Coach Clyde Turner proposed the 300-meter intermediate hurdles the day of the Mustangs' first meet last season.

"Coach said, 'Haslip, I want to make you a hurdler,' " Haslip recalled. "I said, 'No way! I'll be falling over them.' "

One year later, records are the only things in danger of falling.

Last season, Haslip finished third in the state in the 300 hurdles. This season, he ran the fastest time in the nation--37.2 seconds at the Pasadena Games at Occidental College. George Porter, who competed at Cabrillo High in Lompoc and at USC, holds the national high school record at 35.32.

Haslip, 16, also runs the 400 and the 400 and 1,600 relays. He is one of the reasons why Muir has extended its dual win streak to 133, the longest in the nation. The Mustangs are aiming for the their sixth Southern Section championship since 1980.

"Everyone I race against is thinking, 'Let's see what he does now,' " Haslip said. "I just have to go out there, try to be the best, and blow them out."

Turner, who has been involved in the Muir program for 20 years, suspected that Haslip might reject the idea of being a hurdler. Track coaches are well aware that hurdles are small obstacles compared to the mental roadblocks they must negotiate in persuading sprinters to run the event.

Turner, however, said he had no choice. Muir is blessed yearly with exceptional sprinters. But Southern Section championships are won with balance. To that end, Turner made Gerald Stamps and Andy Colbert into high hurdlers and Haslip into an intermediate man. Muir now has three of the best hurdlers in the Southern Section.

"I told Kenny that if he was the athlete I thought he was, then running the intermediate hurdles would be just another challenge for him," Turner said. "Once he got out there and tried it, he responded quite well."

Indeed. In Haslip's first competition in the 300 hurdles, he almost fell over the last hurdle but still clocked a respectable 39.0. He continued to improve throughout the season and finished third at the state meet in 37.46 behind two seniors who beat him with a lean at the tape.

This year, Haslip is the one to beat.

"My key is trying to snatch everybody off the curve," Haslip said. "If you get off the curve first, it's a matter of who is the stronger of the strongest."

Haslip, who also plays cornerback and receiver for the football team, had no intention of competing in track when he arrived at Muir. But the speed he demonstrated playing for the freshman football team piqued Turner's interest.

"He didn't want to come out, but we talked him into it," Turner said.

Haslip ran the 400 for the frosh-soph team but did not win a race. At the state championship meet, Stamps fell ill before the 1,600 relay. Turner turned to Haslip, an emergency alternate, who ran an impressive 49.8 on the first leg.

Haslip returned for his sophomore year hoping to build on that performance by concentrating exclusively on the 400 and the relays. But when Muir's top intermediate hurdler left school on the eve of the first meet, Turner again turned to Haslip.

His performance throughout the season and at the state meet earned Haslip Muir's most valuable track athlete award. He is only the third sophomore in 30 years to receive the honor.

This season, Muir appears to have a good chance at winning its first Southern Section title since 1990.

"Kenny is key for us, but we have a few strong hurdlers and relays and pretty good sprints," Turner said. "We're hoping one of our field event athletes can come out of the woodwork and help us. That would be a big plus."

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