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Toughest Hurdle Was First One for Woods

June 06, 2003|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

If Darryl Smith didn't call Craig Woods more than three years ago, Compton Dominguez might not be favored to win the boys' title in the state track and field championships that begin today and conclude Saturday at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

That's because Woods, a Dominguez senior who is expected to contend for titles in the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300 intermediates this weekend, had decided back then that the hurdles were not for him.

Not after hitting a hurdle and crashing to the track during his first workout and, worse yet, being laughed at by several teammates.

"I walked over, picked up my stuff and left [practice]," Woods recalled, with a tinge of pain still evident in his voice. "I was thinking, 'I'm not doing this again. I'm not going to try running the hurdles again because that was not a good experience.' "

Smith, the coach at Dominguez since 1985, felt his pupil had too much potential to give up that easily, so he placed a phone call to Woods later that night to see how he was doing.

The call meant a lot to Woods, who was back at practice the next day.

Three years later, he has posted the second-fastest high hurdle time in the state this season under any conditions with a wind-aided 14.08-second clocking and also ranks second in the intermediates with a best of 37.46.

"He works hard, pushes himself and does everything you ask him to do," Smith said. "He's the kind of kid who makes you want to stay in coaching."

Woods won the Division II title in the high hurdles and placed fourth in the intermediates in the Southern Section divisional championships last year and has continued to improve this season. He won both hurdle races in the Arcadia Invitational on April 12, the Division III finals of the Southern Section championships on May 24 and the Southern Section Masters meet at Cerritos College last Friday.

Woods is a "fierce" student, according to Smith, has a 3.86 grade-point average and has signed with California.

"I don't see myself as a [jock]," Woods said. "Track is what I do, but I don't see myself as someone who is going to college to run track. I see myself as someone who is running track to get a college education."


Woods and junior teammate Lionel Larry will be keys to Dominguez's bid to win its first state title.

Larry has run a state-leading 20.87 in the 200 and is expected to contend for a top-three finish in the 100 after running a wind-aided 10.51 in the Masters meet.

Woods and Larry also run on teams that could win the 1,600 relay and finish among the top five in the 400 relay.

Defending champion Bakersfield is expected to be Dominguez's biggest challenger.


Juniors Shalonda Solomon and Jasmine Lee will lead a Long Beach Poly team that is favored to win a record seventh girls' title.

Solomon is likely to finish second in the 100 and 200 and will anchor 400 and 1,600 relay teams that could threaten the national high school records. Lee is picked to win the 400, finish third in the 200 and run legs on both of the Jackrabbits' relay teams.

Defending champion Riverside North or Long Beach Wilson appear capable of winning the girls' title if Poly stumbles.


Allyson Felix of North Hills Los Angeles Baptist, who has the fastest women's time in the world this year in the 200 at 22.11, will be making her final appearance in the state meet.

Felix, who has signed with USC, is favored to win her third consecutive title in the 100 and second in the 200.


Track and Field

What: State championships.

Where: Cerritos College in Norwalk.

When: Today (qualifying rounds) and Saturday (finals). Field events start at 2 p.m. and running events begin at 5 today. Field events start at 2:15 p.m. and running events begin at 4 on Saturday.

Tickets: Today -- Children (13 and under) and high school students with school identification, $5; general admission, $9. Saturday -- Children and high school students, $6; general admission, $10.

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