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Birmingham Hopes to Run Away From Taft, Win City Title


To win a City Section championship, you have to put away your competition when you have the chance.

That's the lesson Coach Scott King of Birmingham High hopes his girls' track and field team learned when Taft came from behind to defeat the Patriots, 82-78, in the City championships last year.

Birmingham beat Taft, 74-53, in a dual meet earlier in the season and had a 48-12 lead over the Toreadors after six events in the City final. But Taft scored 70 points in the final nine events, capped by a victory in the 1,600-meter relay.

"I felt like we kind of lost our concentration in the middle of the meet," King said. "It seemed like our kids thought they had it wrapped up when the early scores were announced. . . . We had too many missed opportunities during the middle of the meet and Taft did a great job. They didn't do anything wrong. They haven't done anything wrong in the last two [City championship meets]."

Birmingham and two-time defending champion Taft are expected to again battle for the City title. Their strongest challenger should be West Valley League rival Cleveland, which finished a point behind third-place Westchester last year.

Birmingham lost standouts Tiffany Burgess--a five-time City champion in the 800 and 1,600--and Keisha Mierez to graduation, but junior Melissa Astete and senior Gigi Mendola head a list of talented returnees.

Astete, who cleared a school record of 11-1 in the pole vault to win her second consecutive City title last May, has been sidelined by a stress fracture in her right leg, but could return to competition next week. In addition, senior Nicki Kohlieber finished second and sophomore Michelle Rivera was third in the pole vault at the City meet.

Mendola placed third in the 400 and fifth in the 200 in the City championships and has bests of 57.2 and 25.0 in those events. She is also the the top returning member from a 400 relay team that finished second in the City meet and from a 1,600 relay squad that was third.

Seniors Tammy Carpenter, Shakela Wilson, RiKiesha Garrett and Ebony Thomas, junior DeAnna Mack and freshmen Vincetta Mendola, Vonnie Fulford and Ellen Shepstone could be other key performers for Birmingham.

Carpenter finished fifth in the triple jump in the City championships last year and Wilson placed fifth in the 800, but was disqualified because she ran out of her lane during the first turn of the race.

Garrett bounded 36-2 in the triple jump last year, but became academically ineligible before the Northwest Valley Conference finals.

Thomas didn't compete last season, but ran 48.9 in the 300 low hurdles two years ago.

Mack placed eighth in the shotput in the City final.

Vincetta Mendola, Gigi's sister, clocked 11.9 in the 100 last year, and King calls Fulford a "brilliant young sprinter" who is running track for the first time.

Shepstone put the shot over 38 feet in an all-comers meet earlier this season.

The injury to Astete and the departure of 300 hurdler McKenzie Evans--who moved to Missouri after transferring from Dorsey to Birmingham in January--has made Birmingham a little less imposing. Yet King figures the Patriots will have a good chance at winning their first girls' title when the City championships are held at Birmingham on May 25.

"I don't feel any differently now than I did [a month ago]," he said. "I'm still very, very optimistic we'll be there."


TAFT--The Toreadors lack Birmingham's depth, but have three outstanding performers--seniors Deneeka Torrey and Erin Reed, and junior Schquay Brignac.

Torrey is defending City champion in the 100 high hurdles and 300 lows, and has run 14.43 in the highs and 43.74 in the lows. She finished second in the 100 in the City final last year.

Reed, who finished third in the 100 and 200 last year, will probably run the 400 instead of the 100 this season.

Brignac won consecutive City titles in the high jump for Cleveland in 1998 and last year, but transferred to Taft last fall.

CLEVELAND--Senior Jessica Cosby and sophomores Brynne Steward and Michelle Stinnette combined to score 34 points in the City championships last year, but the Cavaliers' title hopes could hinge on senior Malinda Malone, who missed the season because of an anterior cruciate ligament injury that required surgery.

Cosby, who has committed to UCLA, won her third consecutive City title in the shotput with a career best of 45-6 1/2 last year while competing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that required surgery.

Steward finished second in the 100 high and 300 low hurdles in the City meet, and Stinnette was fourth in the 100 and long jump.

Malone clocked school records of 24.76 in the 200 and 55.44 in the 400 two years ago.

THOUSAND OAKS--Senior Erin Brzezinski and a good group of distance runners will lead a squad that has won or shared six consecutive Marmonte League titles.

Brzezinski is defending league champion in the 100 and 200, and placed second in the long jump last year.

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