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Gearing Up for Finishing Kick : Experienced Birmingham Should Challenge for City Title


VAN NUYS — It's difficult to say that a track and field team with a 21-0 dual-meet record in three years has been in a down cycle.

Yet it's true when discussing the Birmingham High boys' squad.

Although the Braves have extended their dual-meet winning streak to 71 consecutive meets over the last three seasons, they've been unable to mount a serious charge at a City Section title during that time. They finished fifth, 13th and tied for 12th in the last three City finals after placing second, first and second from 1991-93.

A top-two finish, however, looks possible again this season. Birmingham has six returning athletes who competed in individual events in last year's City finals, and that experience should prove invaluable.

"We feel like we can score a fair amount of points in City," ninth-year Birmingham Coach Scott King said. "You never can count on what other people are going to do, but I think this is a year that 50 points could win it all and we can find a lot of ways to score 50 points."

Junior Demetrus Patterson and seniors Mohamed Ahmed and Jose Lorenzo should be the Braves' leading point producers this season.

Patterson placed third in the 100 meters in last year's City finals, Ahmed finished eighth in the 110 high hurdles and 300 intermediates, and Lorenzo was eighth in the 1,600.

Patterson clocked 11.02 seconds in the 100 and 22.47 in the 200 last year and has run 10.8 and 22.3 in all-comers meets this season.

Ahmed ran 15.3 in the high hurdles and 41.24 in the intermediates last year and King says his superior conditioning this season should produce a low 14-second time in the highs.

Lorenzo's personal best of 4 minutes 32.88 seconds in the 1,600 is 12 seconds slower than the top returning runner in the City. But Lorenzo and teammate Rene Acevedo, who ran 4:33.73 for 10th in last year's City final, are coming off solid cross-country seasons in which they placed seventh and eighth in the section championships.

"I don't expect them to run 4:20, but they could run 4:25 and 9:40 to 9:50 [in the 3,200]," King said. "And that will score some points in the City meet."

Seniors Edward Maldur and Roberto Varela are Birmingham's other returning City finalists.

Maldur cleared a career best of 6-4 in the high jump to place seventh in City and Varela was eighth in the pole vault at 12-0.

Varela is one of three vaulters to have cleared 12 feet for the Braves, who also have depth in other areas.

Damien Noble has run 51.0 in the 400 and is part of a foursome that has clocked 42.8 in the 400-meter relay this season.

Fellow senior Dinh Quang has cleared 6 feet in the high jump and junior Raheem Chisman has run 50.6 in the 400 and spanned 20-9 in the long jump and 40 feet in the triple jump.

All of which has King envisioning big things for the Braves when the City championships are held at Birmingham on May 29.

"We're much better than we were at this time last year," he said. "As long as we stay healthy, we've got a lot of kids who can place among the top three in the City meet."

Other region teams to watch:

Alemany: The Indians might lack the depth to be a dominant dual-meet team, but they could ride the broad shoulders of junior sprinter Miguel Fletcher to a high finish in the Southern Section Division III championships.

Fletcher, one of the top five returning sprinters in the nation with bests of 10.47 in the 100 and 21.06 in the 200, led Alemany to a third-place finish in last year's Division III finals by winning both sprints and anchoring the Indians' victorious 1,600 relay team.

Newbury Park: DaJuan Hawkins, the Marmonte League champion in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, is now a freshman at UCLA, and senior hurdler Dave Hawkins--no relation--chose not to compete this season, but the Panthers still appear to be the team to beat in the league race.

Ross Wood placed second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600 in last year's league finals and fellow senior Patrick Reddick won the 100 and placed second in the 200.

Reddick's health is a concern because he was hampered by back problems during football season and has been slowed by knee problems recently.

Palmdale: Seniors Marcus Carr and Jacob Geyer and junior Matt Leonard will lead the Falcons' bid to dethrone defending Golden League champion Littlerock.

Carr is the defending league champion in the triple jump and the top returning jumper in the region with a best of 45-2.

Geyer placed 10th in the state Division II cross-country championships in November and Leonard is the defending league champion in the shotput and discus.

Rio Mesa: Seniors Scott Johnsen, Ronald Almaguer, Mark Bledsoe and Kris Phillips are the top returning performers for the defending Channel League champions.

Johnsen has run 1:56.92 in the 800 and Almaguer has clocked 9:42.19 in the 3,200.

Bledsoe ran a wind-aided 11.13 in the 100 last year and he timed 22.80 in the 200.

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