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PREVIEW

Talented Taft Anticipating Another Run to City Title

March 09, 2001|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WOODLAND HILLS — Taft High's reign as the top girls' track and field team in the City Section appears to be over, but the Toreador boys' team could be developing a dynasty of its own.

Taft defeated Birmingham, 80-74, for its third consecutive girls' title in the City championships in May, but the Toreadors were hit hard by the graduation of hurdler Deneeka Torrey and sprinter Erin Reed in June.

The Taft boys lost sprinter Fred Williams and jumpers Jamaal Crawford and Fernando Lopez to graduation, but the Toreadors are favored to win a second consecutive City title.

Williams, Crawford and Lopez combined for 45 points in Taft's 99-68 victory over runner-up Cleveland in the City meet, but three athletes who scored 54 points return for the Toreadors.

In addition, Taft has several talented newcomers who competed at the freshman-sophomore level last year and a transfer who won the freshman-sophomore 100 in the City meet.

"We scored 99 last year without scoring a point in the relays, and that ain't going to happen again," Taft sprint coach Kenny Mitchell said. "If everyone stays healthy, we're going to put on a show."

Mitchell's comments, which could get him in hot water with first-year Coach Troy Starr and create bulletin-board material for West Valley League rivals like Cleveland and Birmingham, could be attributed to an excitable coach who likes to talk the talk.

But Taft appears capable of walking the walk. Seniors Chris Morgan and Daniel Clements could combine for 60 points in the City championships at Birmingham on May 24.

Morgan, defending state champion in the 110-meter high hurdles, scored 32 points in the City meet last year by winning the high hurdles and long jump, placing second in the 100 and fourth in the 300 intermediate hurdles.

Clements accounted for 16 points with second-place finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200.

Morgan, who has bests of 13.94 seconds in the high hurdles, 23-8 1/2 in the long jump and 10.72 in the 100, will drop the intermediates in favor of the 200 or the 400 relay.

Clements has bests of 4:17.59 in the 1,600 and 9:26.80 in the 3,200, and Mitchell says the City cross-country champion is thinking about adding the 800 in the City meet.

Junior Tyrone Melton, who has bests of 49.91 in the 400 and 6-2 in the high jump, placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in those events in the City finals.

Junior Pieman Lahsaei and sophomores Noah Smith, Steve Smith and Michael and Paul Pratt are Taft's top newcomers.

Lahsaei won the freshman-sophomore 100 for Chatsworth in the City finals before transferring in the fall.

Noah Smith missed most of last season because of injuries, but has run 10.7 in the 100, 21.8 in the 200 and 51.8 in the 400 in all-comers meets this year.

Steve Smith, a standout football and basketball player, was a member of 400 relay team that won the freshman-sophomore City title and is training for the long jump and triple jump for the first time.

Michael Pratt won the freshman-sophomore 800 in 2:03.51 in the City meet and twin Paul was third in the 400 in 51.94.

All that talent has Mitchell excited about the City meet.

"This time, we're going to tear the house down," he said. "We're going to score 120 points."

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