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First the State : Even as a Freshman, Long Beach Poly Middle Distance Sensation Green Is Promising Olympic Gold

June 05, 1997|ERIC SHEPARD and MARK STRODER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Rarely has a freshman captured the attention of the state's high school track and field community as Obea Moore did in 1994.

He ran impressive times in a variety of long sprints that season and helped Pasadena Muir to the team title at the state meet. His visibility increased dramatically the next two years when Muir added its second and third consecutive state titles and Moore established himself as the top prep 400-meter runner in the country.

But with Moore nursing a thigh injury that will keep him from competing at this year's meet, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College, a freshman from Long Beach Poly hopes to fill the void and establish herself as the top newcomer.

Angelita Green, who made a major promise to her club coach last summer, is a favorite in the 800 meters. Poly, which won the girls' team title in 1995, also figures to be in the team hunt.

"I will win a gold medal in the 800 meters by 2004," Green, 14, said earlier this week. "I have to now because I made a promise, and I always keep my promises."

Her times show the prediction is not far-fetched. At the Southern Section Masters Meet last Friday at Long Beach City College, Green won the 800 in 2 minutes 10.5 seconds. The was more than three seconds faster than her winning time at the U.S. track and field Junior Olympics in Houston last summer.

"Her will to win is incredible," Poly assistant coach Clarence Rhone said. "She hates to lose any race . . . and she has remarkable poise for a freshman."

Green's poise and competitive spirit were tested in April against many of the best high school athletes at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia. Running the final leg of the girls' 3,200 relay, she received the baton with her team in fourth place, 60 meters behind the No. 1 team from Jamaica.

Knowing she had no realistic chance to catch the leader, Green still ran a career-best 2:09.03 split and Poly finished in second place with a national-best 9:03.29.

"That was a challenging race because of how much ground I had to make up," said Green, whose mother, Margaret Green, was a junior college champion in the 400 hurdles in 1984. "I wanted to grab the baton and blast off, but you can't do that for 800 meters. I had to pace myself and run my race. I did start my final kick a little sooner than normal, but I was determined to pass the other two girls."

Green will need her kick if she is to win this weekend. That final stretch, the last 150 meters, gives the freshman an edge over many 800 runners. It helps that she has established her speed as a member of the team's 1,600 relay, on which she has run an impressive split of 55.20 seconds.

"I go into every race thinking I'm going to win," said Green, who runs second on the relay team, which also figures to contend for a state title. "I'm confident that I can out-kick everyone in the final 150 meters. That's when I get my second wind."

That kick will be the key for Green as she tries to beat defending 800 state champion Lindsay Hyatt of Placer High in Auburn near Sacramento. Hyatt, a sophomore, and Green have split their two head-to-head races this season, and Hyatt has run the fastest prep 800 (2:09.35) in the nation this year.

"I'm not afraid to run against anyone, but I will be nervous before I face Lindsay," said Green, who lost to Hyatt at the Arcadia Invitational.

Winning a state title as a freshman is only one step in a long journey for Green, who hopes this weekend is the start of a prosperous four-year high school run.

"There are times when I don't want to run that extra lap in practice, or push myself to go faster," Green said. "But I always remember that promise I made [about the Olympics], and I feel I should do whatever I can to fulfill that dream."

Special correspondent Mary Reese Boykin contributed to this story.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

State Track and Field Championships

* At Hughes Stadium, Sacramento City College

* Preliminaries, Friday. Field events, 2 p.m.; Running events, 5 p.m.

* Finals, Saturday. Field events, 4 p.m.; Running events, 6 p.m.

* Defending team champions: Boys, Pasadena Muir; Girls, Long Beach Wilson.

* Tickets, $7 Friday, $8 Saturday. Parking, $3.

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