Aspire to be the top sprinter in the state?
Run against the best competition during the regular season.
Alexis Weatherspoon of Grant High came to that conclusion last year when she won the girls' 100 and 200 meters in the City Section championships, but was eliminated in the qualifying heats of the state championships at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento.
Weatherspoon, a 5-foot-8 junior, ran career bests of 11.93 in the 100 and 24.24 in the 200 in the state meet, but she wasn't comfortable running in races loaded with top-flight talent.
"I wouldn't say I was intimidated," Weatherspoon said. "But it's just different when you have to worry about all [the sprinters in the other] eight lanes. . . . You have to go into another gear in those races and you don't have to do that in most races."
With that in mind, Weatherspoon asked her coaches to enter her in the night portion of the Flo Jo Memorial Arcadia Invitational at Citrus College on April 8 and the Mt. San Antonio College Relays last Saturday.
The results were noteworthy.
Weatherspoon ran 12.02 to place sixth in the invitational 100 and 24.64 to win the open 200 in the Arcadia meet. She finished third in both races at Mt. SAC with a career-best 11.79 in the 100 and a wind-aided 23.99 in the 200.
The 11.79 clocking made her the fourth-fastest in the state this year and puts her seventh on the all-time region list.
The 200 time was the fastest of her career under any conditions.
"I was more mentally prepared at Mt. SAC than at Arcadia," Weatherspoon said. "I was more ready to go right from the start. There's really no room for error or time to think at that level. The gun goes off and you just react and try to let your body do what it's been trained to do."
Weatherspoon, a second-team selection to The Times' All-Valley basketball team, ranks second in the City in the long jump at 17-6 and second in the triple jump at 36-7 this year, but isn't sure if she'll compete in those events should she qualify in them for the state championships.
"If I feel like I can do them without affecting my performance in the 100 and 200, I will," she said. "But the sprints come first."
Clark Goodwin of Ventura learned from his mistakes in the Arcadia Invitational and it showed in the Mt. SAC Relays.
Goodwin, a senior, finished a disappointing eighth in the 400 in 49.71 in the Arcadia meet, but he ran a career best of 47.98 to win at Mt. SAC.
"That was just a psychological thing," Goodwin said about Arcadia. "I got scared and intimidated by some of the guys in the race and I went out too fast. . . . I learned to relax and worry about yourself and not anyone else in the race."
Goodwin's 47.98 clocking bettered his previous best of 48.7 set in a dual meet last month and moved him to third on the all-time Ventura County performer list behind Matt Lea of Camarillo, who ran 47.38 in 1998, and Ramsey Jay of Ventura, who ran 47.49 in 1994.
"I'd like to get the school record," Goodwin said. "Then I can think about the other mark."
It was inspiring to see Josh Spiker of Ventura running again--and running well--in the Mt. SAC Relays.
Spiker, defending state champion in the 3,200, was one of the top cross-country runners in the nation during the first two months of last season, but he was diagnosed with a season-ending stress fracture below his right knee after winning the Ventura County title at Lake Casitas in a course-record time in late October.
Spiker was initially expected to be back racing by the start of track season in March, but it soon became obvious that the injury was more severe than first believed.
The start of March became the start of April and that turned into mid-April.
But the wait was worth it.
Spiker ran a scintillating 4:12.9 leg in the 6,400 relay at Mt. SAC and cruised to winning times of 4:38.6 in the 1,600 and 9:53.9 in the 3,200 in a dual meet against Buena on Thursday.
"My coach told me he thought I could run 4:22 or 4:23," Spiker said about 1,600 leg at Mt. SAC. "I was shooting for 4:20, but I didn't think I could get close to [4:12.9]."
Chadd Smith of Camarillo moved to into a four-way tie for second on the state list in the high jump when he cleared 6-10 to win at Mt. SAC, but the Scorpion junior might not compete past mid-May.
That's because Smith has a tear in the patellar tendon in his left knee and wants to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair it as soon as possible, even if that means passing on the chance to compete in the Southern Section divisional championships on May 20, the Southern Section Masters Meet on May 26 and the state championships June 2-3.
"Next year is going to be very important for Chadd," Camarillo assistant Dennis Riedmiller said. "The sooner he has the surgery, the sooner he can start rehab and getting ready for next year."
Chris Morgan of Taft dominates the state list in the boys' 110 high hurdles this season.