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COLLEGE TRACK / JOHN ORTEGA

Northridge Coach Sees Hard Road to Title for Women

May 16, 1997|JOHN ORTEGA

Cal State Northridge is missing its top sprinter and best shotputter and hammer thrower, yet the Matadors are favorites to win the women's title this weekend at the Big Sky Conference track and field championships.

The Northridge women enter competition today at Easter Washington University with competitors in eight of 21 events. The Matadors have the leading athletes in six men's events.

But it is the Matador women who have Coach Don Strametz feeling uneasy.

"I don't like that [favorite] tag at all," Strametz said. "I never have and I never will."

With sprinter Zarinah Tillman and thrower Beth Burton redshirting this season, Strametz figured Northridge had no chance to win the Big Sky title in its first year in the conference.

Tillman ran 11.89 seconds in the 100 meters, 24.04 in the 200 and 54.71 in the 400 last year as a freshman and Burton set school records of 52 feet 3 1/4 inches in the shotput and 170-10 in the hammer as a junior.

But several Matadors have filled the void.

Senior Cherice Ellison has run 11.96 in the 100 and 24.48 in the 200 and leaped a conference-leading 19-5 1/4 in the long jump.

Sophomore Erika Bowling has clocked 24.55 in the 200 and 55.00 in the 400.

Freshman Cheree Hicks has thrown the discus a school-record 180-2 and also put the shot 50-6 1/4. Freshman Christina Tolson set the school record in the hammer throw at 179-2 and put the shot 48-5 1/4.

Senior Elinor Tolson, Christina's sister, overcame an early season ankle injury to record a Big Sky record of 13.65 in the 100 high hurdles and sophomore Nancy James has the fastest time in the conference this season in the 800 at 2:07.01. James is tied for the lead in the 1,500 at 4:26.83 after moving up from the 400.

Freshman Brandi Prieto is the conference leader in the triple jump at 40-5 1/4.

Sounds encouraging but Strametz remains worried.

"We're babies," he said. "We're extremely young. We're mostly freshmen and sophomores. Outside of Cherice, Elinor and [Lori Miller], we have no seniors."

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Big Sky add: Senior Marquis Jones, school-record holder in the 110 high hurdles at 13.97, will lead a Northridge men's team that is expected to battle Montana State, Idaho State and Northern Arizona for second place behind Weber State.

Jones is one of four Northridge men who have the top marks in the conference this season.

The others are junior Joe Criner, who has run 21.04 in the 200, junior Jeff Beam, who has cleared 17-3 in the pole vault, and freshman Jason Hammond, who has put the shot 56-5 3/4.

The Matadors have run conference-leading times of 40.97 in the 400 relay and 3:10.24 in the 1,600 relay.

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Triple triple: Eleazar Hernandez of Moorpark will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 5,000 and 10,000 for the third consecutive meet at the state junior college championships today and Saturday at Fresno City College.

This will be the first time the sophomore from Camarillo High will compete in the three events over a 25-hour period.

Hernandez won the 10,000 and 5,000 and placed second in the steeplechase in the Southern California championships at Bakersfield College, but the final of the 10,000 was held on May 3, with the steeplechase and 5,000 run May 10.

In the state meet, the 10,000 will start at 8:15 tonight with the steeplechase and 5,000 scheduled for 5:45 and 8:55 p.m. on Saturday.

"I tried to talk him out of [tripling]," Moorpark Coach Manny Trevino said. "I just wanted to make sure that he knew what he was getting himself into, but he said he wants to do it."

Hernandez, 1996 state cross-country champion, won the 10,000 and placed fourth in the 5,000 in last year's state track meet.

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Fast marks: Sprinter Charles Lee of Valley is having a superb sophomore season, but he'll be an underdog Saturday when he runs in the 100 and 200 because of the wealth of talent in those events.

Lee has posted times of 10.40 in the 100, 20.80 in the 200 and 46.79 in the 400 this year.

Jone Delai of West Valley won the 100 in the Northern California championships at 10.26 last week and Gerald Williams of Mt. San Antonio won in the Southern California championships at 10.34.

Tyree Washington of San Bernardino Valley is a heavy favorite in the 200 after clocking 20.36 and a scintillating 44.52 in the 400 in the Southern California preliminaries two weeks ago.

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Second chance: It'll be interesting to see how Kristine Bostick of Antelope Valley performs in the women's 400 low hurdles in the state meet.

Bostick placed third in the 1996 state championships after winning the Southern California title, but had to settle for the fifth--and last--qualifying spot in last week's Southern California final.

Bostick led the race for the first 300 meters, but struggled after being passed by Cheante Jones and Cedricka Rolle of Long Beach City.

"She totally lost her composure," Antelope Valley Coach Mark Covert said. "The homestretch is usually the strongest part of her race, but when they came up on her, she panicked. She really put herself in a hole."

Because Bostick is the fifth qualifier from Southern California, she'll run in lane one, considered a disadvantage because the turns are tightest on the inside of a track.

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Name game: Glendale freshman Julio Serratos has footprints to follow in the steeplechase and the 5,000 in the state meet.

His brother, Ramon, was third in the steeplechase in the 1995 state championships for Canyons and ran fifth for Glendale last year.

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