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Stringer Leads Way as Morningside Guns for Title : Profile: Senior sprinter, who missed much of her junior season because of a pregnancy, is favored in 400 meters.

June 04, 1993|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LaShawn Stringer's track future appeared promising after her sophomore season in 1991, when she won the 400 meters at the Southern Section Division III and Masters meets and helped lead the Morningside girls to a State championship.

Then the unexpected happened.

Before the start of her junior season, Stringer learned that she was pregnant.

"When I first found out, I was a little down," Stringer said. "I thought to myself, 'Oh no, my track career is over.' "

Despite her pregnancy, she competed for the Monarchs in invitational meets early in the season.

"I ran until I was 4 1/2 months (pregnant)," she said. "I was just determined to keep running as long as I could and I was scared to tell anyone about it."

It was at the 4 1/2-month mark when she finally broke the news to her mother, Linda Riley.

"I was expecting a lot worse, but my mother took it a lot better than I thought she would," Stringer said. "When I finally told her, she was very supportive and that made me feel better about it."

She also received support from friends, including former Morningside hurdler Sanoma Nickson.

"I've known her for six years since we ran in age-group competition and we've always been close," Nickson said. "When she got pregnant, I think she needed that extra support to help bring her through. I was just happy I could be there for her."

Stringer gave birth to a girl in September and named her Shacora.

Throughout her pregnancy, Stringer never gave up hope of competing on the track team again. It was difficult, though, when she started working out in November.

"When I was pregnant, I made up my mind that I was going to come back," Stringer said. "It was the workouts that were the hard part. But if I wasn't determined, I probably wouldn't have come back."

Stringer also received incentive from her mother to continue working hard in the classroom.

"With most people my age, if they have a track career going and then had a baby, they'd probably give up on their track career or their education or both," she said. "But I was just determined to keep up both and I did. Besides, my mom said, 'No education and no track.' "

Nickson is not surprised that Stringer has been successful in her senior season. Stringer is the state leader in the 400 meters and set a Southern Section Division III record with a time of 54.80 seconds. She is favored to win the event at the State meet that starts today at Cerritos College.

"It has been hard for her, but she's a real gutsy girl and she wasn't going to let it stop her," Nickson said. "I kind of admire her, not for getting pregnant, but for doing what she's done to get back and having a positive attitude about the whole thing."

Stringer said the experience of giving birth and being a mother has changed her outlook about school and life.

"It has made me more responsible and a little more mature," she said.

Stringer said becoming a parent has been a positive experience.

"It's a little different than I expected, but it's really been enjoyable for me," she said. "I've got more responsibility now and I've had to work at balancing everything, but it has all worked out well for me."

She even expects to continue competing in college next year. Stringer plans to attend Long Beach City College for a year or two and hopes to transfer to USC.

Monarch Coach Ron Tatum said Stringer has the ability to compete at the Division I level.

"She's always been a better-than-average student, so that's never been a problem," he said. "I know that she's had inquiries from several universities that want her to compete, so that's always an option for her."

Whether Stringer wins a State title or not, she will finish the season with a sense of accomplishment.

"It's all been very satisfying," she said. "Not knowing if I was going to make it all the way back or not, I'm just happy to have had the success I've had and I'm glad to be back in the State meet."

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