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Valley / Ventura County Sports

Four-Cast Calls for Burgess to Surpass Elite Predecessors

City track and field: Birmingham senior can become first to win four consecutive titles by repeating in 1,600.


VAN NUYS — Quincy Watts of Taft High.

Kevin Young and Florence Griffith of Jordan.

Valerie Brisco of Locke.

Those former City Section track and field athletes each won individual Olympic gold medals during the last two decades, but senior Tiffany Burgess of Birmingham could become the first to win four consecutive City championships in the same event by winning the girls' 1,600 meters at Birmingham tonight.

Burgess, who won the 800 and 1,600 in the City championships last year, is favored in those events and will also run on Birmingham's 1,600 relay team.

The meet starts with the freshman-sophomore field events at 2:30 p.m. The varsity field events start at 4:30, followed by the running events at 6. KLCS-TV will begin live coverage at 6.

Birmingham and defending champion Taft are expected to battle for the girls' title. Taft and three-time defending champion Dorsey are regarded as co-favorites in the boys' meet.

Birmingham will have at least one entry in 13 of 15 girls' events. But Burgess and the pole vaulting trio of sophomore Melissa Astete, junior Nicki Kohlieber and freshman Michelle Rivera will be crucial to the Patriots' chances at winning their first title.

If Burgess, who has run a hand-timed 2:17.0 in the 800 and 5:04.80 in the 1,600, repeats her double victory of last year, she would score 20 points. The top six are awarded points on a 10-8-6-4-2-1 basis.

Astete, the defending pole vault champion, Kohlieber and Rivera could account for 24 points if they finish 1-2-3 in that event.

Junior Gigi Mendola and senior Juana Gatson will also be busy for Birmingham.

Mendola will run in the 200 and 400 and on the Patriots' 400 and 1,600 relay teams.

Gatson will run in the 100 high hurdles and 300 lows.

"[Taft is] going to score a lot of points with firsts and seconds," Coach Scott King of Birmingham said. "But we're going to nickel and dime them [with thirds and fourths]."

Juniors Deneeka Torrey and Erin Reed and senior Tiffany Smith have been Taft's top performers.

Torrey is favored to win both hurdles races, contend for a top-three finish in the 100 and run a leg on the 1,600 relay team that is expected to finish second behind Westchester.

Reed is a title contender in the 100 and 200 and the anchor runner on the 1,600 relay team.

Smith is projected to win the triple jump and finish second in the 400. She will run on the 1,600 relay team and could score points in the 200 as well.

Senior Blaine Bussey, junior Fernando Lopez and sophomore Chris Morgan will play key roles for Taft in the boys' meet.

Bussey, who ran a yearly state-leading time and region record of 46.3 in the 400 in the Northwest Valley Conference finals on May 14, is favored to win his second consecutive 400 title. He's also a contender in the 200 and will run legs on the 400 and 1,600 relay teams that are capable of top-three finishes.

Lopez is favored to win the high jump and could score points in the long jump.

Morgan will compete in the 110 high hurdles, 300 intermediates, long jump and 400 relay.

He was the leading qualifier in the long jump in the City preliminaries, tied for the third-fastest time in the 110 highs and was the No. 7 qualifier in the 300 intermediates.

"We need to get Chris back down to [39 seconds] in the 300s," Taft Coach Mel Hein said. "If he does that, he could finish in the top three."

Taft assistant Kenny Mitchell, who trains the sprinters on the boys' team, will miss today's meet after suffering a stroke on Monday.

Dorsey is trying to become the first team to win four consecutive boys' titles since Jefferson won five in a row from 1949-53.

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