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Lovell, Astete Rise Above Talented Field

May 13, 2000|JOHN ORTEGA

It wasn't easy to stand out in the West Valley League track and field finals at Birmingham High on Friday, such was the level of talent in the meet.

Yet juniors Jason Lovell of Cleveland and Melissa Astete of Birmingham did so in winning the boys' 400 meters and girls' pole vault, respectively.

Lovell clocked a school-record and state-leading time of 47.43 in the 400 and Astete cleared a school record of 12-2 1/2 in the pole vault to move to second on this year's state list.

"I felt strong," Lovell said after moving to seventh on the all-time region performer list. "I felt real strong. I feel that against a better field, my time will get faster."

Sophomore Ramal Porter of Birmingham ran a career best of 48.1 on April 28, but he finished second in 48.86 after Lovell powered away from him in the second half of the race.

Lovell's effort gave him his fourth school record of the season in the 400 and is nearly two seconds faster than his preseason best of 49.2.

Lovell ran that time as a Cleveland freshman, but transferred to Taft as a sophomore before being expelled from school for disciplinary reasons.

He ended up back at Cleveland in the fall determined to make up for lost time.

"I knew I had to work twice as hard because I didn't run last season," Lovell said. "I just kept telling myself that the hard work would pay off."

It has, and not just in the 400.

Lovell ran a wind-aided 21.45 to finish second to Fred Williams of Taft in the 200 on Friday and he ran a 47.1 anchor leg on the winning 1,600 relay team that clocked 3:17.8.

Lovell also ran the anchor leg on Cleveland's 400 relay team, but the Cavaliers finished third in 43.73 after senior James Bethea strained a ligament in his right knee while running the third leg.

Astete, two-time defending City champion in the pole vault, added 13 1/4 inches to her previous City record after missing several meets earlier this season with a stress fracture in her lower right leg.

"I'm walking on air," she said. "I'm walking on air right now. . . . All this hard work has paid off. . . . I'm doing things right."

Astete cleared her opening height of 9 feet on her first attempt and did likewise at 10-6, 11-0, 11-9 and 12-2 1/4 before missing three times at 12-5.

"I had a good week in practice so I expected to clear 11-6," she said. "I did [that] and just kept going."

Taft had five multiple winners in the meet in which the top four finishers in each event automatically qualified for the City prelims at Birmingham next Thursday.

Junior Chris Morgan, the state leader in the boys' 110 high hurdles at 13.94, won that event in 14.11, the 300 intermediates in 39.52 and the long jump in 22-6 1/2. He also finished second in the 100 in 10.84.

Senior teammate Williams took the 100 in 10.77 and the 200 in a wind-aided 21.22 and ran a 48.6 anchor leg on the Toreadors' second-place 1,600 relay team that clocked 3:21.0.

Senior Deneeka Torrey, defending City champion in the girls' 100 high hurdles and 300 lows, won those events in 14.25 and 44.93 and took the 100 in a career-best 12.02.

Senior teammate Erin Reed won the 200 in a wind-aided 24.18 and tied Gigi Mendola of Birmingham for first place in the 400 with a time of 57.44 but was disqualified from the 100 for a false start.

Toreador junior Schquay Brignac, two-time defending City champion in the high jump, won that event in 5-6, the long jump in 17-8 3/4 and the triple jump in a wind-aided 37-0.

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