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TRACK AND FIELD / JOHN ORTEGA : Arreola Steels Herself for Long Run After Learning She's No Iron Maiden

July 08, 1993|JOHN ORTEGA

It has been a long and winding road for Darcy Arreola of Nike Coast Athletics. But the former Cal State Northridge standout figures that she's finally back on track to regaining the form that allowed her to qualify for the U.S. national team that competed in the 1991 World championships in Tokyo.

Arreola, 24, won the 1991 NCAA Division I title in the women's 1,500 meters as a Northridge senior and followed that with a third-place finish in The Athletics Congress championships to qualify for the U.S. team. She struggled last year and for the first part of this season, however, before finishing sixth in the 1,500 in the USA Track & Field championships last month.

"People had told me that the first two years after college would be the toughest of my running career," Arreola said. "But I didn't realize just how complicated it would be. When you're in school, you basically work out. . . . go to school and that's all you have to worry about. When you're out, you have to worry about getting a job, paying bills and all these other things."

Arreola's situation was complicated by the fact that she has changed coaches twice since leaving Northridge, and she moved to Eugene, Ore., in December so that she could train under noted Coach Dick Brown.

The move to rainy Eugene was the first time in her life that Arreola lived outside sunny Southern California and the fact that she initially had difficulty finding a job didn't help. To make matters worse, she struggled for the first five months of the season, failing to run under 4 minutes 19 seconds in the 1,500 when she has a personal best of 4:09.32.

"My training wasn't going badly, but I would just fall apart at the end of every race," Arreola said. "Dick and I couldn't figure out why, but we both knew that something had to be wrong."

Something was.

Arreola was found to be iron deficient in May, and after adding iron supplements to her diet, she shocked herself at the national championships. First, she qualified for the finals--something she had been unable to do in 1992--and then she finished sixth in the finals in 4:14.04.

"Considering everything that had happened, I was definitely very happy with sixth place," said Arreola, who will compete in the U.S. Olympic Festival in San Antonio later this month. "I had basically given up on nationals because of the problems I had earlier in the year."

During that period, Arreola thought about returning to Southern California in the fall to complete her requirements for a degree in liberal studies at Northridge, but she nixed those plans shortly before the USATF meet.

"(Eugene) is where I need to be if I want to get to the next level," Arreola said. "Dick is a great coach and I realize now that I've really got to be focused if I want to move up. There are less distractions here which makes it easier to stay focused. This is home."

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Join the club: Paul De La Cerda, the Hart High record-holder in the boys' 800 meters (1:54.29), is the latest in a line of distance runners from the region who have signed letters of intent with Adams State (Colo.).

Joe Vigil, the cross-country coach and an assistant track coach at Adams State, recruited Peter De La Cerda--Paul's brother--to the NCAA Division II school in 1991 and last year, Oved Aguirre and Oscar Perez of Glendale College signed with the Indians.

Glendale's Robert Nelson signed with Adams State in June after completing his junior college eligibility with a second-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in the state championships in May.

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Progress report: Although Peter De La Cerda and Perez have flourished at Adams State, the same cannot be said for Aguirre.

The former San Fernando High standout withdrew from school after three weeks last fall because he was homesick. He was married shortly after returning home and is currently working full time while residing in Pacoima with his wife and daughter.

Aguirre's career appears to be over, but De La Cerda and Perez have excelled at Adams State.

De La Cerda finished second in the 1992 Division II cross-country championships and he won titles in the Division II indoor (5,000 meters) and outdoor (10,000) track championships this year. Perez was fifth in the steeplechase in the Division II outdoor meet.

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Starting from scratch: Amy Skieresz of Agoura High, the Southern Section Division I champion in the girls' 1,600 and 3,200 meters, began training last week after being sidelined for five weeks because of mononucleosis.

The illness forced Skieresz to withdraw from the Masters Meet on May 28 and miss two weeks of school, but she feels "100% back to normal."

Skieresz's workouts will consist of running three miles every other day for a few weeks. Then she will gradually increase the intensity and quality of her training.

"Five weeks is a long time to not run," Skieresz said. "It basically feels like I'm starting over, but I'll be OK for cross-country. I'll be back."

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