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High Schools | PREVIEW: BOYS' TRACK AND FIELD

Four Could Set Pace on the Fast Track

March 06, 2003|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

The Southern Section produces more high-quality distance runners year in and year out than any other section in the state, but the upcoming track and field season could be a particularly good one for the boys' 1,600-meter run.

That's because six returning runners from the section bettered 4 minutes 16 seconds last year, including Phillip Reid of Oxnard Rio Mesa, Michael Poe of Etiwanda, Mohamed Trafeh of Duarte and Michael Haddan of Irvine Woodbridge.

Those four runners combined for three division victories and a second-place finish in the state cross-country championships in November and all of them appear capable of breaking 4:10 in the 1,600 this year if they're healthy.

Three Southern Section runners broke 4:10 in 1990 and 2000, but there have been 10 seasons since 1980 when no one dipped under that mark.

"I definitely want to run way under 4:10," said Poe, who clocked 4:12.92 as a junior and won the West region cross-country title Dec. 7. "My training is so far ahead of where it was at this time last year."

Trafeh, a junior who placed seventh in the national cross-country championships Dec. 14, is shooting for times of 4:04 in the 1,600 and 8:50 in the 3,200 after running 4:14.36 and 9:08.69 last year.

"I'm way ahead of where I was last year," Trafeh said. "I'm running better times in races, but I'm still doing a lot of high-quality stuff in training."

Reid, who has committed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is the fastest returning 1,600 runner in the state at 4:12.25 and finished second in that event in the state championships last year. He has a goal of 4:08 this season, but his coach says he could run faster than that.

"He had a workout [Monday] that he just killed," Rio Mesa assistant Jeff Wrout said. "If I had given him the same workout last year, he would have been laying on the ground at the end of it. But he didn't have any problem with it. He's just at a completely different level than he was a year ago."

Haddan, who ran 4:15.32 last year as a sophomore, has better speed over 400 meters than Reid, Poe or Trafeh. That speed could be helpful at the end of a 1,600, but the defending state champion in the 800 has trained very little since mid-December because of an acid reflux condition that flares up when he exercises.

"His body is producing a lot of acid so when he starts to exercise, it irritates [his] breathing apparatus," Woodbridge Coach George Varvas explained. "He starts coughing like he's on his death bed."

Although Haddan's condition has cost him valuable training, Varvas feels he still could have a quality track season if doctors can get it under control soon.

Seniors Mike Chavez of Anaheim Esperanza and Humberto Rojas of Costa Mesa Estancia are two other Southern Section runners who could run under 4:10.

Chavez ran 4:14.47 last year before finishing 10th in the 3,200 in the state championships and Rojas timed 4:14.70 in his qualifying heat of the state meet.

"I'm really starting to look forward to this season," Wrout said. "There could be a lot of guys running fast."

*

Long Beach Poly, Woodland Hills Taft and Compton Dominguez are expected to be among the top 400 and 1,600 relay teams in the state again.

Long Beach Poly, which won both relays in the state championships last year, will be led by junior Derrick Jones.

Jones is the third-fastest returning sprinter in the state in the 100 at 10.58 and fourth-fastest returner in the 200 at 21.24, and runs a mean 400 on the 1,600 relay.

Senior Noah Smith, the No. 2 returner in the state in the 100 at 10.53 and the No. 3 returner in the 200 at 21.20, will lead Taft squads that finished second in the 1,600 relay and fourth in the 400 relay in the state meet.

Dominguez, which placed second in the 400 relay and third in the 1,600 relay in the state meet, will be led by junior Lionel Larry, who has run 10.78 in the 100 and 21.32 in the 200.

*

La Mesa Helix is the preseason pick to win the boys' team title when the state championships are held at Cerritos College in Norwalk on June 6 and 7.

The Highlanders were expected to be a state-title contender with the return of Reggie Bush, the top returning sprinter in the state with bests of 10.42 in the 100 and 21.06 in the 200. The transfer of Deun White from San Diego Rancho Bernardo is what stamped them as favorites.

White is the fastest returning 400 runner in the state with a best of 47.63 and the No. 2 returner in the 200 with a best of 21.16.

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