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Baldwin Finds Another Gear

June 17, 2004|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

Running against the competition and not the clock had been a key to sprinter Jasmine Baldwin's success all season.

But when Baldwin, a La Puente Bishop Amat senior, arrived at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento for the final day of the state championships on June 5, she figured that to win, she would have to run in the 11.25- to 11.35-second range in the 100 meters and in the 22.80 to 22.90 range in the 200.

Steve Foss, the sprint coach at Bishop Amat and Baldwin's adoptive father, had previously instructed his daughter to avoid shooting for specific times, because he thought it would distract her from competing well and running technically sound races.

But Foss had Baldwin focus on the times entering the state finals, because he figured she needed to run faster than she ever had to defeat senior Shalonda Solomon of Long Beach Poly.

"I wanted Jasmine to realize that it was going to take a supreme effort to beat Shalonda," Foss said. "I wanted her to leave everything on the track."

The strategy worked as Baldwin had good starts in both races before inching past Solomon in the final 30 meters to post winning times of 11.33 seconds in the 100 and 22.86 in the 200.

Baldwin's 100 time was the second-fastest in the nation this year, crushed her previous best of 11.54 and moved her to 12th on the all-time national list.

Her 200 clocking was a national leader, smashed her previous best of 23.15 and put her fourth on the all-time national list.

Baldwin's victories came eight days after she defeated Solomon in the 100 and 200 in the Southern Section Masters Meet and quieted naysayers who claimed Baldwin, who is headed to Mt. San Antonio College in the fall, had caught an overconfident Solomon off guard in that meet.

"I'm very excited and happy to be a state champion, because I accomplished so much in such a short period of time," said Baldwin, who had not run track at the high school level as a sophomore and junior while living in a group home in La Verne.

"To accomplish what I did in such a short period of time would have been hard to believe at the start of the season." The USA Track and Field Junior (under 20) championships at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, from June 25-27 will be the next major meet for Baldwin. And if she's among the top two finishers in the 100 and 200 in that meet, she will qualify for the U.S. team that will compete in the World Junior championships in Grosetto, Italy, from July 13-18.

That meet would come at the end of a long season for Baldwin, but she and Foss contend she's capable of running faster in Italy than she did in Sacramento.

"She has not peaked," Foss said. "I believe you're going to see something really good happen later this season."

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