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Taft Trio Must Rack Up Points

Track and field: Success in 800 meters is key to Toreadors unseating Dorsey in City Section championships.


VAN NUYS — Mel Hein can't help himself.

The affable Taft High track and field coach refrained for weeks from discussing the chances of his girls' team winning the City Section championships at Birmingham High today.

Simply put, he's afraid of jinxing them.

But ask him about the importance of the 800 meters, an event that includes Taft's Jayda Bailey, Wendy Chan and Heidelle Santin, and he can't stop jabbering.

"Based on the 2:11 that Jayda ran last year, I don't see anyone touching her," Hein said. "Especially now that she's [no longer running the 100].

"Wendy ran a great race last week and Heidelle is ready for another breakthrough. I'm not saying that we're going to go 1-2-3, but I could see something like a 1-3-5 or 6 and that would be worth a lot of points."

Taft, which placed third in last year's City championships, appears capable of scoring between 60 and 65 points in today's meet, which starts with the field events at 3:45 p.m. and the running events at 6.

That total might not be enough for the Toreadors to defeat two-time defending champion Dorsey or last year's runner-up Westchester.

Like Taft and Westchester, Dorsey is expected to score well in the sprints, hurdles and relays. But unlike the Toreadors and Comets, the Dons could also rack up points in the field events.

Juniors Frances Santin--Heidelle's twin--and Eboni Grayson, sophomore Tiffany Smith and freshman Bailey are expected to do the bulk of Taft's scoring.

Santin, the defending City champion in the 300 low hurdles, was the top qualifier in that event in last week's City preliminaries with a time of 45.99 seconds. She also was the No. 3 qualifier in the 100 high hurdles at 15.43 and ran legs on Toreador foursomes that qualified first in the 1,600 relay at 3:55.80 and third in the 400 relay at 48.18.

Grayson qualified second in the 200 at 24.69 and third in the 100 at 12.39, and also ran legs on both relays.

Smith qualified fourth in the 400 at 58.03 and ran a leg on the 1,600 relay after missing the Northwest Valley Conference finals while recovering from a strained hamstring. She could also run the anchor leg on the 400 relay if she feels up to it.

Bailey will run legs on both relays in addition to the 800.

Birmingham could sneak into the top three should Taft, Dorsey or Westchester falter.

The Braves have only seven qualifiers compared to the 12 of Dorsey and Taft and the 10 of Westchester. However, sophomore distance runner Tiffany Burgess, sophomore long jumper Keisha Mierez, junior triple jumper Ika Eliashvili and senior shotputter Shanika Askew could place among the top two in their events in a meet that awards points on a 10-8-6-4-2-1 basis.

Fifth- and sixth-place finishes will be important to Birmingham's chances in the boys' meet.

With 15 qualifiers, the Braves will have the most competitors. But they're expected to finish third behind Crenshaw and defending champion Dorsey.

Crenshaw will be paced by seniors Kevin Howard and Sharif Paxton. Howard posted the fastest qualifying times in the 100 at 10.90 and 200 at 21.85 and Paxton did likewise in the 110 high hurdles when he ran 14.14.

Junior Demetrus Patterson and senior Mohamed Ahmed will lead Birmingham. Patterson could finish among the top three in the 100 and 200, as could Ahmed in the 110 highs and the 300 intermediates. Both will run legs on Birmingham's 400 and 1,600 relays.

Lesser-known competitors, such as high jumper-triple jumper Edward Maldur and pole vaulters Roberto Varela and Paul Schill, could help the Braves win their second City title.

"I think it's going to be those fifth and sixth places that decide the [boys' meet]," Birmingham Coach Scott King said.

Senior Ali Benmohamed of Monroe, freshman Jessica Cosby of Granada Hills and senior Jennifer Capehart of Kennedy are other local athletes favored to win.

Benmohamed is favored to win the boys' 1,600 and will also run in the 800. Cosby has the top mark in the section this season in the girls' shotput at 43 feet 8 inches and Capehart is the defending champion in the pole vault.

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