SHERMAN OAKS — The thought of it is enough to make you wince.
Justin Fargas is a senior tailback on the Notre Dame High football team and he has just burst through a hole in the line during a game next season. As he shifts into overdrive entering the secondary, the only thing between him and the end zone is a wide-eyed defensive back.
Fargas, who will compete in the 100-meter dash, triple jump and 400 relay in the Mt. San Antonio College Relays today, could probably leave his opponent grasping air with a shoulder fake. Or he could cut outside and outrun him to the end zone. Instead, he lowers his shoulders and plows over him.
The sound of the collision reverberates across the field and leads spectators to conclude that Fargas is stronger than he was last year when he rushed for 2,945 yards and scored 38 touchdowns.
But he should also be much faster since he has developed into one of the top sprinters in the Southern Section this season.
He ran a career-best 10.81 seconds to finish third in the Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High last Saturday, only .11 seconds behind two-time champion Miguel Fletcher of Alemany.
"It's definitely going to be my best [football season]," said Fargas, who led Notre Dame to the Southern Section Division III title game last year. "My speed and my strength should make me better than I was last year."
A decision not to play basketball and focus on weightlifting last winter has paid dividends for the 6-foot, 185-pound Fargas, who is 10 pounds heavier than he was during football season.
He recently raised his bests to 290 pounds in the bench press, 275 in the power clean and 465 in the squat. That has helped make him one of the top track athletes in the in the region.
In addition to his 10.81 clocking in the 100, Fargas has run 21.7 in the 200, spanned 21 feet 9 inches in the long jump and bounded 45 feet in the triple jump. He began the season with bests of 11.24 in the 100, 22.5 in the 200 and 44-6 3/4 in the triple jump. He had never taken the long jump seriously.
"I expected to be faster than I had been because I didn't play basketball," Fargas said. "The key to me getting a college scholarship is being a better football player and in order to do that, I need to be bigger, stronger and faster."
It didn't take long to see that Fargas' speed was improved.
He ran a hand-timed 10.6 in the 100 in a season-opening meet against Westlake on March 6 and two days later finished third behind Fletcher and Derick Brown of Compton Dominguez in the Alemany-Northridge Relays at Cal State Northridge.
Although his 11.0 clocking was slow compared to the 10.6--and had some track experts questioning the validity of that time--Fargas led for 60 meters before being overtaken by Fletcher and Brown.
"I got out well and everything, but then I started looking around a little," Fargas said. "I knew I was in the lead, but then I started thinking, 'Where is [Fletcher]? I know he's out there somewhere.' "
That mistake taught Fargas an important lesson: Never look for competitors during a race or it will cost you precious time.
"It's real important to be focused," Fargas said. "In order to run your best, you have to relax and concentrate on your race. You can't worry about what the guys around you are doing."
Focusing on himself has made Fargas his worst critic, said Notre Dame track coach Joe McNab.
"He's never satisfied," McNab said. "Even after rushing for [2,945] yards last season, he was saying, 'If I had done this or if I had done that, I could have had 3,000.' He's a real competitive kid. He's the most competitive guy on the team."
That trait is obvious when Fargas discusses track, a sport that is second to football in his mind but still very important.
"I'm a football player who runs track," he said. "But I still want to do well. When I'm out there, I like to compete. I don't like to lose. . . .
"It's a lot better knowing you always have a chance to win than to be at the line thinking you're running for second or third."