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Struggling Sport Has Big Plans

April 05, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT

Reviving track and field as a spectator sport in Southern California may be as difficult as bringing back an NFL team.

But Craig Masback, chief executive officer of USA Track and Field, considers Los Angeles a fertile area that simply hasn't been properly mined. And he sees the $120-million national training center in Carson as a launch pad for wide-ranging efforts to promote the sport locally and nationally.

Masback said this week he has talked with officials of the Anschutz Entertainment Group--which is financing the multi-sport mecca--about making the center a base for USATF programs. They have also discussed moving the USATF's operations to Carson from Indianapolis.

Plans for the complex call for refurbishing the existing track and building a nine-lane Olympic-standard track with 2,500 to 3,000 permanent seats. Temporary seating would expand the capacity to 10,000 at significant events.

Los Angeles Times Saturday April 6, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Distance running--Regina Jacobs holds the U.S. women's outdoor record for 5,000 meters. A Sports story Friday incorrectly said Marla Runyan holds the outdoor record. In fact, Runyan holds the U.S. indoor record for 5,000 meters.

"The focus of our conversations has been getting a world-class track and field facility built, and programming that facility to the fullest extent possible," Masback said. "We're talking about everything from coaching and educational activities, training camps and clinics to a full range of all ages' track meets and elite track meets.

"These discussions have been extensive and ongoing. I think it's very exciting. While there are some very good facilities in the L.A. area, this would be a track-focused facility, and that's attractive to us."

The complex will also include facilities for soccer, tennis and cycling. Tim Leiweke, president of AEG and Staples Center, recently said he hopes the governing bodies of several Olympic sports will move there or stage major competitions there.

Although Southern California is always well represented on U.S. Olympic track and field teams, local fans and advertisers have given the sport a cold reception in recent years. The L.A. Invitational Indoor meet limps along, eating into the bankrolls of father-son promoters Al and Don Franken, and a planned indoor meet at Staples Center last year was canceled in the wake of poor ticket sales and a feud between organizers and sponsor Powerade. A lawsuit filed by the L.A. Track and Field Organizing Committee against Coca-Cola, Powerade's parent company, was moved to federal court and is scheduled to go to trial in December.

Nonetheless, Masback isn't daunted. He plans to resurrect track and field by supporting invitational and local meets, a blueprint the USATF has used in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"I feel we will have rebirthed the sport to the status it had there in years gone by," he said. "Now we've got to do that in Los Angeles, and if we can have the facilities, we can do it. We can build on [the] Mt. SAC [Relays] and the state meet that's there every other year. Even USC and UCLA are doing well.

"I think we're finally in a position to start doing something there. I have great faith in the Los Angeles area."

See How She Runs

Five-time Sydney Olympic medalist Marion Jones will compete in her only scheduled 400-meter race this season April 21 at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays in Walnut. It will be the fifth straight season she has begun at Mt. SAC, where she competed while a student at Oxnard Rio Mesa High.

Jones won the rarely contested 300 at Mt. SAC last year in 35.68 seconds, .22 of a second off the world record. Meet director Scott Davis said Jones is targeting Valerie Brisco's U.S. record in the 400, 48.83 seconds, set in 1984.

The entries for elite events aren't complete, but the women's two-mile appears formidable. Competitors will include Deena Drossin of Agoura Hills--who won a silver medal at the world cross country championships in Ireland--Jen Rhines, Amy Rudolph and Nicole Teter. Among the men, Breaux Greer will try for a U.S. record in the javelin.

For the first time, a high school team championship will also be contested, and boys' and girls' four-mile relays will be run April 20.

Here and There

Marla Runyan, who became the first legally blind runner to compete at the Olympics when she finished eighth in the 1,500 at Sydney, will compete in the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race Sunday in Washington. It will be the longest road race she has run. She's the U.S. record holder in the women's indoor and outdoor 5,000.... Drossin, Colleen De Reuck and Elva Dryer lead a strong field in the Carlsbad 5000 Sunday. On the men's side are UCLA alum Meb Keflezighi, the U.S. record holder in the 10,000, two-time Carlsbad champion Sammy Kipketer and fellow Kenyan Luke Kipkosgei.

The International Assn. of Athletics Federations will choose the site of the 2005 World Track and Field Championships April 14. An evaluation commission recently toured potential host cities Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Moscow, Helsinki, Finland and Budapest, Hungary. London was the original host but withdrew after stadium funding fell through.

Frank Carroll, coach of Olympic figure skating bronze medalist and world silver medalist Tim Goebel, will hold his annual summer skating school June 16-Aug. 16 at HealthSouth Training Center in El Segundo. Goebel is touring with Champions on Ice; Carroll's other elite student, Angela Nikodinov, is touring Canada with the Skate the Nation show.

The U.S. men's national water polo team finished a solid third in an international tournament last week in Nice, France. Its only loss was to Russia in overtime. Jeff Powers of UC Irvine had four goals and Tony Azevedo of Long Beach and Stanford scored twice in the bronze-medal game. The team will play in Slovenia this weekend.

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