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King Sets a Dual Goal for Birmingham Season

Girls' track and field: After just missing City title the last two seasons, he changes the team's emphasis.


VAN NUYS — Perhaps it's because his team fell short of the last two City Section girls' track and field titles by a total of 10 points.

Perhaps he has mellowed slightly as he enters his 27th season as a high school coach.

Whatever the reason, Coach Scott King of Birmingham High is taking a different approach this season to the City championships.

King, in his 13th year at Birmingham, talked about trying to win the City title at the start of the last two seasons.

This year, he says putting together a high-quality dual-meet team is his priority.

"We want to build a dual-meet team first," King said. "If you put together a good dual-meet team and end up having a chance [to win] in the City finals, then great. But building a good dual-meet team is the first thing we want to do."

Excelling in dual meets has always been important to King, but he might stress that more this season because Birmingham has finished second to Taft in the last two City championships after beating the Toreadors in dual meets.

Birmingham defeated Taft, 74-53, in a dual meet in 1999, but lost to the Toreadors, 82-78, in the City finals.

The Patriots beat Taft, 70-57, in a dual meet last year, but were beaten by the Toreadors, 80-74, in the City finals.

But this could finally be the year Birmingham wins the City title. Three-time defending champion Taft was hit hard by the graduation of hurdler Deneeka Torrey and sprinter Erin Reed.

Birmingham's top returning performers will be joined by a talented group of freshmen.

Melissa Astete, Michelle Rivera, Vincetta Mendola, Vonnie Fulford, Nicole Apostolos, Amanda Christensen and Ellen Shepstone scored points for Birmingham in the City championships last year.

Astete, a senior who is region record-holder in the pole vault at 12-5 1/2, won her third consecutive City title in that event and finished second in the state championships.

Rivera, a junior, placed second in the pole vault in the City meet and has a best of 11 feet.

Mendola, a sophomore, placed fifth in the 100 meters and ran on victorious 400 and 1,600 relay teams in the City meet.

She has bests of 12.12 in the 100, 24.97 in the 200 and a hand-timed 57.2 in the 400. In addition, she long-jumped 17-3 1/2 in the Watts Summer Games.

Fulford, a sophomore who ran track for the first time last year, was a member of teams that clocked 47.34 in the 400 relay and 3:53.22 in the 1,600 relay.

Apostolos, a junior, placed fifth in the 800 in the City meet, with senior Christensen fifth in the high jump and sophomore Shepstone fourth in the shotput.

Junior Jessica Alas, a pole vaulter with a best of 10-4, could help Birmingham to a second consecutive 1-2-3 finish in that event in the City meet.

Rene Winston, who has run 58.0 in the 400, and Ashley Barb, who has run 15.0 in the 100 hurdles, head the freshmen.

All of that talent has stamped Birmingham as the favorite to win the City title, but King is wary of challenges from Westchester, Dorsey and Cleveland.

"You can't control what other teams do," he said. "You can only control yourself. I feel like we've really done a good job [in the last two City championships], but [Taft] did better."

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