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High Schools | TRACK AND FIELD

Felix Is Fast Changing Ways in Sprints

April 12, 2002|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Were it not for an above-average start in the L.A. Invitational indoor track and field meet in February, junior Allyson Felix of North Hills L.A. Baptist High might be running in the girls' 400 meters rather than the 100 and 200 on Saturday night in the Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High.

Felix won the 100 in the state championships at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento last June and is the defending Arcadia champion in that event and the 200. But she wasn't known for having a quick start.

That and the fact that her long legs make her ideally suited to running the 400 had Felix and L.A. Baptist sprint coach Jonathan Patton contemplating a switch to the one-lap race this season.

"It's not like she has a horrible start," Patton said. "But she's never going to have a great start. She's not that tall, but she has long legs and that will prevent her from getting out of the blocks as quickly as some sprinters."

So when Felix settled into the blocks for the start of the girls' 50 in the L.A. Invitational at the Sports Arena on Feb. 23, she figured she'd have to chase down competitors such as Shalonda Solomon of Long Beach Poly in the final 10 meters of the race to win.

That wasn't necessary.

Felix, whose brother Wes is a freshman sprinter at USC, got off to one of the best starts of her career and ran 6.43 seconds to win easily and move into a four-way tie for sixth on the all-time national performer list.

"That's when it all clicked," said the mild-mannered Felix. "We were thinking about moving up to the 400, but when everything came together in that race, we decided to continue running the 100."

It was a wise move.

Felix won the 60 and placed second in the 200 in the National Scholastic Indoor Championships at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City in early March and posted yearly state-leading outdoor times of 11.56 in the 100 and 23.62 in the 200 in the Pasadena Games at Pasadena City College on March 30.

"All that time she spent in the weight room [since the end of her freshman season] is paying off," Patton said. "Her improved body mechanics and strength are allowing her to start well."

This doesn't mean the 5-foot-7 Felix has forgotten the 400.

She won the event in a career-best 55.01 in the Oakland Relays at UC Berkeley on Saturday and followed that with a scorching 52.9 split in the 1,600 relay.

"I looked at the [open 400] as a good workout," Felix said about her performance that moved her to third on the yearly state list. "The relay felt a whole lot better. There were some teams ahead of me so I was able to go out hard and try to catch them."

Catching people has never been a problem for Felix.

She displayed superb top-end speed while clocking 12.19 in the 100 and 23.90 in the 200 during her first season of competitive track as an L.A. Baptist freshman.

She was even faster last year as her bests of 11.53 in the 100 and 23.31 in the 200 moved her to seventh and ninth, respectively, on the all-time Southern Section lists.

Her victory in the 100 and second-place finish to Angel Perkins of Cerritos Gahr in the 200 at the state championships single-handedly helped L.A. Baptist tie for fifth in the team standings. But running in the semifinals of the women's 200 in the USA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., in late June and winning the 100 in the World Youth (age 17 and under) championships in Debrecen, Hungary, in mid-July did wonders for her confidence.

"Running in those meets helped make me more well-rounded," Felix said. "Being out there with athletes of that caliber will make it feel a lot more normal the next time it happens. I'll be a lot more comfortable."

Feeling comfortable around Felix isn't difficult.

She has an easy-going, unassuming demeanor and is quick to smile.

"She's a great ambassador for the sport, the school and the [sprints]," Patton said. "She's approachable, she's dignified and she's respectful of others."

Which is pleasing to her father.

"I've never really seen her get excited about things," said Paul Felix, a professor in the New Testament department of The Master's Seminary in Sun Valley. "I know she's pleased when she runs well, but she's not one to throw up her arms or pump her fists."

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