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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | TRACK AND FIELD

Time Is Right for Clements

March 25, 2001|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

AZUSA — The time wasn't what he hoped for, but it was hard for senior Daniel Clements of Taft High to find fault with his performance Saturday in the 1,600 meters in the Meet of Champions Distance Invitational at Azusa Pacific.

Not after speeding away from a talented field in the final 200 meters and running the final lap of the 400-meter track in 60 seconds while clocking 4:21.0.

"My goal was to have a [personal record]," Clements said. "But I just wanted to go out and beat these cross-country guys. They've been beating me for 3 1/2 years. I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself."

Clements, who ran a career best of 4:17.59 while finishing fifth in a qualifying heat of the state championships last year, beat a field that included J.J. Duke of Clovis, the defending state Division I cross-country champion, and Mark Nevers of Oak Park, runner-up in the state Division IV final.

Duke led the field by about 12 meters after coming through 400 meters in 64.7, but his lead was down to a meter when he passed 800 in 2:10.7.

Arturo Garcia of Don Lugo was second and Clements was third at that point, and Clements remained in third when Garcia led at 1,200 meters in 3:20.4.

Clements, running with his seemingly effortless strides, moved into second down the backstretch before surging into the lead with 200 meters remaining.

His winning time gave him a 1.8-second advantage over runner-up Luis Castro of Bosco Tech, followed by Duke and Nevers in 4:23.0 and Garcia in 4:23.8.

Anita Siraki of Hoover, defending state champion in the girls' 3,200, won that race in 10:31.5 and was second in the 1,600 in 4:51.6.

Amber Steen of Newport Harbor won the 1,600 in 4:50.2, a meet and career record and fastest outdoor time in the nation this year.

Siraki trained very little in January because she had a sinus infection, yet her times Saturday topped the meet records of 4:52.4 and 10:34.9 that she set last year.

"My whole mental approach has been different because of January," she said. "So I'm just taking it as it comes."

Steen sped past Siraki with 170 meters left in the 1,600, but Siraki led from start to finish in the 3,200.

She came through the 1,600 in 5:21.4 and blew the race open with a 75.4-second fifth lap.

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