Few high school track and field athletes have generated the kind of following Pasadena Muir senior Obea Moore has.
Crowds chant his name at every meet, and young fans clamor for an autograph.
His presence sells tickets for meet organizers. Aside from being the top 400-meter high school runner in the nation, Moore is a gracious competitor who plays to the mood of the crowd.
Despite his athletic success, Moore's likable demeanor hasn't changed. Win or lose, he remains on an even keel.
At a team practice earlier this week, Moore wasn't making any excuses for his disappointing finish in the 800 meters at the Arcadia Invitational last Saturday. He led the race after the first lap but pulled up on the second lap and finished fourth in 1 minutes 52.99 seconds.
"It was a tough field, and I just ran out of gas," said Moore, who occasionally runs the 800 early in the season to build up endurance for the 400.
What Moore didn't say was that he could barely finish the race because of a deep bruise in his right thigh and hip. He began feeling pain after anchoring Muir to a victory in the 400-meter relay earlier in the Arcadia Invitational. He was limping after the 800 and didn't run in the 1,600 relay later as scheduled.
Muir Coach Clyde Turner said Moore will see a doctor this week to determine the severity of the injury and won't run for at least two weeks. Moore has never been sidelined because of injury before.
"Obea is a machine, but every machine needs a tuneup occasionally," Turner said. "I think some rest will do him good."
Moore, 17, is one of the state's most honored track and field athletes. Muir has won three consecutive state team titles, and Moore has six first-place finishes. He also advanced to the semifinal round in the 400 in the Olympic trials at Atlanta last June.
"We can become the first school to win four boys' titles in a row, and I want to set some individual records that the younger athletes can look up to and work hard to break," said Moore, whose personal best in the 400 is 45.14.
Moore says he's in no hurry to decide on a college. He has visited Baylor and USC and may take trips to UCLA, Arizona State and Texas.
"This is the biggest decision I've ever made, and I want it to be the right one," Moore said. "The coach I pick will probably be with me for the rest of my career, so it's important to get the right guy."
Muir is favored to win its fourth consecutive state team title. The Moore-led Mustangs are ranked No. 1 in the nation by Track Digest.
Muir's strength is in the sprints. At the Arcadia Invitational, Muir's two teams entered in the 400 relay finished first and second.
"It's not often that a team can go to a major meet like Arcadia and sweep two places in a sprint relay," Turner said. "I've had more talented teams but none with such sprinting power."
Aside from Moore, Muir's other main sprinters are senior Jucorie Tryon and junior Sultan McCullough. Each competes on the 400 and 1,600 relays.
A monthlong investigation by the Southern Section didn't turn up any evidence that racial epithets were used by players during a girls' basketball playoff game between Moorpark and San Bernardino at Moorpark High on March 1.
After the game, which Moorpark won, players and coaches from San Bernardino alleged that several Moorpark players and spectators directed racial epithets at them during and after the contest. Principals from both schools conducted in-house investigations and took statements. Results were forwarded to the Southern Section office in Cerritos.
Commissioner Dean Crowley met with administrators and coaches from both schools on Monday. After the meeting, it was agreed that each schools would apologize for poor sportsmanship on the part of some of its players.
Also, it was agreed that San Bernardino would apologize for wrongly accusing the Moorpark players of making racial statements. Moorpark said it would direct an apology to San Bernardino for racial epithets or misconduct by any spectators at the game that might have occurred.
College entrance exams are often criticized for being too difficult and discriminatory.
But high school athletes hoping to secure a college scholarship must receive a minimum qualifying score on one of the exams to meet NCAA eligibility requirements.
In an effort to bolster scores, the Princeton Review Foundation is sponsoring a SAT [Scholastic Assessment Test] Pre-Game Clinic Saturday at USC's business school.
The all-day free clinic will include instructional tips on taking the SAT, clarification about NCAA eligibility rules and speeches from several college coaches, including John Robinson of USC and Kathy Olivier of UCLA.
The clinic is limited to 150 students. To register, call (800) 2-REVIEW.
The awards continue to mount for boys' basketball standout Baron Davis, The Times' player of the year.