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Brown Helps North Win


Riverside J.W. North High clinched the girls' team title in the state track and field championships at Cerritos College on Saturday when the Huskies' fourth-place finish in the 1,600-meter relay gave them a 57-53 victory over favorite and defending champion Long Beach Poly.

But for all intents and purposes, North won the meet before 10,751 about 70 minutes earlier when junior Ashlee Brown posted an upset victory in the 300 low hurdles while running in the tight confines of lane two. Brown won the 300 hurdles in a then-career best of 41.81 seconds in last year's state meet, but she had failed to run under 43 seconds this season after an early-season hamstring injury.

She was the seventh of nine qualifiers from Friday's preliminaries, but pulled away from Julia Pitts of North Torrance and Tunisia Johnson of Long Beach Poly in the final 50 meters to clock 41.67, the fastest time in the state this year and second-fastest in the nation.

"I was hoping for first place," said Brown, who ran the first leg on North's 1,600 relay team that clocked 3:48.65. "I just wanted to run my race. That was something I hadn't done very well this season."

Brown's victory was worth 10 points to the Huskies and gave them a 45-27 lead over Long Beach Poly.

The Jackrabbits cut their deficit to 45-43 when sophomore Shalonda Solomon led them to a 2-3-5 finish in the 200, but North extended its lead to 53-43 when senior Chaunte Howard finished second in the triple jump with a 40-feet 41/4-inch effort.

Long Beach Poly won the 1,600 relay in 3:35.99, the second-fastest time ever by a U.S. high school team. But when North crossed the finish line in fourth, the Huskies won their third state title in four years.

"This is the most satisfying one because of everything we went through this year," said Coach Charles Leathers. "The season-ending injury of sprinter Tracee Thomas. The [injury] problems with Ashlee. This hasn't been an easy season."

The long jump and 100 high hurdles were also key events for North.

Junior Lena Bettis and Howard finished first and second in the long jump at 19-81/4 and 19-5, and sophomore teammate Dominique Manning placed third in the 100 hurdles in 14.15. Just as important, Poly's Deshante Harris and Johnson finished a non-scoring eighth and ninth after qualifying third and fourth.

Junior Allyson Felix of North Hills L.A. Baptist was the lone double winner in the girls' meet, winning her second consecutive 100 title with a time of 11.55 and posting her first victory in the 200 with a nation-leading 22.83. The 200 time moved her to third on the all-time national list behind Marion Jones (22.58 for Thousand Oaks in 1992) and Chandra Cheeseborough (22.77 for Jacksonville, Fla., Ribault in 1975).

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