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Taft's Bussey Outdistances the Ghost of Quincy Watts

Track and field: Toreador senior runs 46.3 in Northwest Valley Conference finals to break the region mark set in 1988.


VAN NUYS — Move over Quincy Watts.

There's a new boys' 400-meter record-holder in the Taft High record book.

He's 6 feet 3 and goes by the name of Bussey. Blaine Bussey.

The Toreador senior won the 400 in a career best of 46.3 in the Northwest Valley Conference track and field finals at Birmingham High on Friday to break Watts' region record of 46.67 set in the 1988 City Section semifinals for Taft.

Bussey's performance, which was a hand-held time, converts to a 46.44 fully automatic clocking. It was also the fastest time in the state this year and cut .6 seconds off Bussey's state-leading 46.9 clocking in the conference preliminaries last week.

"It feels good to get the record," Bussey said. "But I plan on putting the record so far out there that it's not going to be broken for a long, long time."

Watts, the 1992 Olympic 400 champion, specialized in the 100 and 200 for most of his high school career--winning three state titles--but he took up the 400 as a senior after suffering a hamstring injury in a 100-meter race.

Bussey has always run the 400 and that experience showed Friday when he clocked 22.5 for the first 200 and maintained his form to defeat junior James Bethea of Cleveland by two seconds.

Although Bussey ran a then-career best of 47.0 in an all-comers meet in January, he didn't run for Taft during the first half of the outdoor season because he was academically ineligible. That made him determined to succeed when he returned four weeks ago.

"It made me want to come back strong and finish what I started last year," said Bussey, who placed third in the state championships last year after posting the fastest qualifying time in the heats.

Bussey also won the 200 in 21.8, ran the second leg on the victorious 400 relay team that clocked 41.8 and ran a 46.9 anchor leg on the winning 1,600 relay team that ran 3:19.2.

Taft teammates Fernando Lopez, Chris Morgan and Marquis Brignac combined to win four more individual events in the meet in which the top five finishers in each event qualified for the City preliminaries at Birmingham on Thursday.

Lopez, a 5-9 junior, won the high jump with a school-record 6-10.

Lopez added two inches to the school record first set by Keith Franklin in 1986 and tied by him earlier this year.

"I think I can clear 7 feet [this season]," Lopez said. "Because at 6-10, I chopped my step on the approach and still made it."

Lopez also placed second in the long jump with a career best of 22-4 and fifth in the triple jump at 43-3.

Morgan, a sophomore, won the 110 high hurdles in 14.3, the long jump with a career best of 23-1, ran the third leg on the 400 relay and finished third in the 300 intermediate hurdles in 40.2.

Brignac, headed to Cal State Northridge on a football scholarship, won the 100 in 10.8 and ran the anchor leg on the 400 relay.

Defending City champion Taft won seven of 15 events in the girls' meet and Birmingham won five.

Junior Erin Reed of Taft won the 100 in a career-best 11.9, the 200 in 24.8 and ran a 54.9 anchor leg on the victorious 1,600 relay team that clocked 3:51.3.

Senior teammate Tiffany Smith won the 400 in 56.8 and the triple jump with a career best of 38-4 3/4, placed second in the 200 in 25.7 and ran a 55.4 third leg on the 1,600 relay.

Senior Tiffany Burgess of Birmingham, defending City champion in the 800 and 1,600, won those events in 2:23.7 and 5:06.9.

Sophomore teammate Melissa Astete won the pole vault with a school record of 11 feet.

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