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High Schools | GIRLS' TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE OF THE
YEAR

Key for Felix Is One-Track Mind

L.A. Baptist junior won two state sprint titles this season thanks to 'laser-like focus.' Her 22.83 in 200 is third-best mark all-time in nation.

June 19, 2002|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A girl doesn't run 11.40 seconds for 100 meters or 22.83 for 200 at the age of 16 without possessing an abundance of physical talent.

But having a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers and long legs are not the primary reasons junior Allyson Felix of North Hills L.A. Baptist High is such a superb sprinter.

The thing that sets The Times' girls' track and field athlete of the year apart from others, according to L.A. Baptist sprint coach Jonathan Patton, is her determination.

"She does have a lot of God-given [physical] gifts," Patton said. "But it's that drive she has that separates her from a lot of other very talented sprinters. You can see it in the way she trains [on the track], in the weight room, in her diet, in the way she prepares for races and in the way she carries herself on race day. She just has that laser-like focus. She wants to not just win, but be her best."

That quest to be her best was evident June 1, the final day of the state championships at Cerritos College.

Felix, who anchored L.A. Baptist to a sixth-place finish in the 400 relay to start the track portion of the meet, won her second consecutive 100 title with an 11.55 clocking while running into a wind of 1.3 meters per second.

But she was upset she had to come from behind to defeat sophomore Shalonda Solomon of Long Beach Poly.

"She just kind of stomped back to the [area where our stuff was]," Patton said. "She didn't want to be told what she did wrong, but she didn't want to be congratulated either. She just said, 'I can't wait for that 200 meters.' "

Felix won the 200 by a monstrous .53 seconds with a 22.83 clocking that was the fastest in the nation this year and moved her to third on the all-time national list.

Marion Jones set the national high school record of 22.58 for Thousand Oaks in 1992 and Chandra Cheeseborough ran 22.77 at high altitude--where the thinner air is less of a hindrance for sprinters--for Gainesville (Fla.) Ribault in 1975.

"I definitely was mad," Felix said about the 100. "Because I was hitting all my [practice] starts before the race. I thought I was ready to hit it in the race, but I didn't."

The victory in the 200 improved upon Felix's runner-up finish in last year's state championships, but she sustained a "small" strain in her right hamstring with about 20 meters left in the race.

The injury kept her out of the National Scholastic Outdoor championships at North Carolina State last weekend, but she plans to run the 200 in the USA Track & Field Junior (age 19 and under) championships on Friday and Saturday at Palo Alto.

A top-two finish in the junior meet would earn Felix a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the World Junior championships July 16-21 at Kingston, Jamaica. But she also plans to run the 200 in the senior portion of the national championships, which will be held in conjunction with the junior meet.

"I don't want this to sound arrogant to other people," Patton said. "But we want to see what she can do when she's in a race with people who have run faster than her or who are at the same level as her. She hasn't been able to do that [during the outdoor season]."

Despite the relative lack of competition, the unassuming Felix has broken 23 seconds four times in the 200 this season and lowered her 100 best to 11.40 to move to fifth on the all-time state list.

"Breaking 23 was something that was in the back of my mind," Felix said about her preseason goals. "But I didn't want to talk about it and then have to live up to it. I just wanted to see if I could do it."

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