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Masterful Performances Worthy of Surprise Berths in Masters

May 23, 2000|DAN ARRITT

Like hundreds of athletes at the Southern Section finals, Capistrano Valley junior Kris Monte and Costa Mesa senior Julie Kroening finished their events at Cerritos College, smiled at a job well done and prepared to call it a season.

Both set school records while finishing third in their events Saturday; Monte the 800 meters in Division I and Kroening the 300 hurdles in Division III. But neither suspected their times would rank among the top nine in the four divisions combined and qualify them for the Masters meet Friday at Cerritos.

When the qualifiers were announced over the loudspeaker, both were unexpectedly rewarded for their efforts.

Monte grabbed the last qualifying spot by .05 seconds after charging from seventh to third in the final 200 meters and finishing in 1:55.14, a personal-best by nearly a second.

Kroening snatched the final qualifying spot by .16 after finishing in 45.33, nearly two seconds faster than her previous best. Even with that improvement, Kroening was surprised to learn she qualified.

"I thought 'no way,"' Kroening said. "Then I heard that I made it over the announcement and I was totally shocked. It was weird because I was just sitting there thinking track is over."

Perhaps the lack of confidence can be attributed to inexperience in the events.

Monte was a better-than-average sprinter when he decided to give the 800 a try during a South Coast League dual meet against Mission Viejo less than two months ago. Monte, who had run the two-lap race only three other times, won the 400 and 800 at the league finals.

Monte advanced to the section finals after running a personal-best 1:56.30 at the preliminaries. He then ran the race of his life Saturday, despite spending a late Friday night out at the prom.

"I wanted to get out fast and then I was hoping to drop behind the first two runners, but then I got caught behind everybody," Monte said. "I was way tired because of the prom, but then I told myself I didn't want to end in last place. I still don't have a clue how to run the 800. I run it different every time."

Monte's initial reaction to qualifying? He could only think of the work he would need to put in for the Masters' meet.

"At first I was kind of disappointed because it meant another week of practice," Monte said. "But now I think it's honorable."

Kroening specialized in the 400 last season, but switched to the hurdles as a way of renewing her interest in the sport. It hasn't been an easy transition.

"I've been kind of learning along the way," Kroening said. "I would usually not go all out in the beginning of the race and then sprint at the end, but this time I sprinted the whole way. The hurdles are so much easier because you don't think about running, you just think about the hurdles."


Monte and Kroening aren't the only county athletes who slipped into the Masters.

Esperanza's Travis Jones advanced by a quarter-inch in the shotput, Century's Antonio Thomas made it by three-quarters of an inch in the long jump and Edison's Darryl Poston got in by .02 in the 100.

Santa Margarita's Lori Mann did double duty, bouncing Mater Dei's Jenny Sears by .73 in the 1,600, then sending home Palos Verdes Chadwick's Krista Cahoon by .40 seconds in the 3,200.

But for every athlete just above the thin black line, there seemed to be twice as many just below.

The Santa Margarita boys' 400 relay team missed out by .01 to Santa Monica St. Monica, El Modena came up .18 seconds short of Playa del Rey St. Bernard in the girls' 400 relay and the Esperanza girls missed qualifying in the 1,600 relay by .63 seconds.

Mater Dei's Lindsay Wells came up .05 short in the 100 hurdles, San Clemente's Marquita Taylor missed qualifying in the 100 by .07 and Marina's Vanessa Kelly was on the wrong end of a .45 difference in the 800.

Figuring out who advanced in some of the field events turned complicated.

Stevie Nicholas of Sunny Hills was one of 10 girls who cleared 5-4 in the high jump, but there were only three qualifying spots left.

Nicholas was originally told on the field that she advanced, but it was later announced that she did not. Sunny Hills Coach David Baxley called Nicholas with the bad news, but shortly after hanging up, it was announced that Nicholas was awarded a qualifying position based on the number of misses at earlier heights.

Qualifying in the boys' pole vault was also a tangled mess.

Eight athletes cleared 14-0 feet in the pole vault, but only four advanced based on the number of misses at earlier heights. That left out Katella's Song Yang, Esperanza's Scott Robinson and Foothill's Ray Kroona.


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