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Benmohamed Skips a Triple

Track and field: Monroe runner pulls out of 3,200 meters after winning 1,600 and 800 in Valley Pac-8 finals.

May 16, 1997|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — Ali Benmohamed of Monroe High plans to major in international business when he starts classes at USC next fall.

It's easy to see why, because the Viking distance runner has cut two deals that have benefited him in track and field meets this season.

The first occurred at the Arcadia Invitational on April 12, when he talked his way into the invitational race of the 1,600 meters after being entered in the open portion. Meet officials told Benmohamed that he had to run at least 4:20 to justify the change and he clocked a personal best of 4:17.27 to place fourth.

The second deal was struck Thursday in the Valley Pac-8 Conference finals at Birmingham High when Monroe Coach Dean Balzarett let Benmohamed drop the 3,200 from his scheduled races after he won the 1,600 in 4:20.7 and the 800 in 1:59.8.

"He told me last week that I was going to run all three events in conference," Benmohamed said. "And I said, 'Oh, come on coach. If I run well in the [1,600] and the 800, let me drop the 3,200.' "

Benmohamed placed second in the 1,600 and 3,200 in last year's City Section championships, but he figures that running the 800 will prove more beneficial to his performances in the 1,600.

"The speed work will definitely help," he said. "If I want to run well in the [1,600], I need to be able to come through [the 800] in 2:06 or 2:07 to run with the big boys."

Benmohamed, an Algerian born in Paris, clocked 2:09.2 for the first 800 of the 1,600 on Thursday, but he was followed closely by North Hollywood senior Paul Muite.

Benmohamed's lead was two seconds at the 1,200-meter mark and he nearly doubled it by the finish as Kenyan native Muite finished second in 4:24.3.

Benmohamed surged into the lead of the 800 with 250 meters left, then withstood a furious homestretch charge by Muite, who ran 2:00.2.

"My first lap was too slow," Benmohamed said of a opening 400 of 61 seconds. "So I knew I had to work it on the second . . . I pushed it the third 200 because I know that Paul has a good kick."

Benmohamed appeared to intentionally drift out of the first lane in the homestretch to make Muite go around him, but Muite didn't seem to mind.

"There was some bumping, but that's OK," Muite said. "It's competition."

Other boys who won two individual events were seniors Jamaal Washington of Reseda and Troy Graham of Canoga Park.

Washington clocked 50.5 in the 400 and 22.2 in the 200 before anchoring the Regents to victory in the 1,600 relay in 3:33.2.

Graham ran 15.5 in the 110 high hurdles and 41.9 in the 300 intermediates. Senior teammate Vince Rodriguez turned in the best field-event mark of the meet by winning the shotput with a personal best of 52-6.

The girls' meet was dominated by Grant's talented trio of Angela Taylor, Nakeisha Perkins and Margaret Roche, who combined to win seven of 13 individual events.

Taylor won the 100 high hurdles in 16.0, the 300 lows in 47.4 and the high jump at 5-2. Fellow junior Perkins clocked 12.4 in the 100 and 26.1 in the 200 and sophomore Roche ran 1:01.3 in the 400 and 2:25.3 in the 800.

The trio also ran on the Lancers' 400 relay that won in 49.4.

The top five finishers in each event advanced to the City preliminaries at Birmingham next Thursday.

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