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Nana Amankwah takes 800-meter title at City Section championships

'I guess I'm good at it,' the Los Angeles High newcomer says. Crenshaw's De'Anthony Thomas wins at 100 and 200 meters.

May 27, 2010|Eric Sondheimer

One of the most remarkable stories of the high school sports season unfolded Thursday night at the City Section track and field championships at Birmingham.

Winning the 800-meter run was senior Nana Amankwah, a native of Ghana who moved here with his mother when he was 8, grew to love basketball and repeatedly ignored the pleading of Los Angeles High assistant track coach Herman Franklin to try running until just a few months before graduation.

"I told him what he could do," Franklin said. "I kept asking him and asking him. I had to beg and beg. I told him he could be a champion."

Amankwah finally gave in, joined the track team a couple of months ago and then proceeded to miss the bus to the first race of his career. He forgot what time to show up.

That didn't deter his coach.

"When I put my name on anything, I'm not going to give up," Franklin said.

Amankwah, who's 6 feet and can dunk a basketball, finally started running. He won the Southern League championship in 1 minute 53.56 seconds. He ran away from the competition at last week's City prelims in 1:55.17. And on Thursday, he became the City champion in the 800 with a time of 1:54.20 and earned a spot at next week's state championship meet in Clovis.

He's finally beginning to believe that track might be part of his future.

"Who knew? I guess I'm good at it," he said recently. "I'm getting a passion for track. Most people play basketball, they love it. Now I'm slowly starting to love track, thanks to Coach Franklin."

Yes, Franklin, whose son, Johnathan, is a running back at UCLA, never gave up on Amankwah.

"Most of the time, he'd say, 'Come out for track.' I never paid attention," Amankwah said.

But Franklin wore him down and got him to give it a try. And who knows how fast Amankwah can run?

"I know I can do better," he said. "A lot of coaches say it's scary how good I would have been if I had been running for four years."

Amankwah was disappointed with his time Thursday, but he knows lots of people believe in him.

"I'm grateful they had faith in me," he said of his coaches.

Thomas turns on speed

Junior De'Anthony Thomas of Los Angeles Crenshaw turned in the fastest time in the nation this year in the 200 when he won in 20.61. The wind level was 2.1 meters per second, barely over the allowable 2.0.

Thomas, the Cougars' standout running back who has committed to USC, was elated with his time.

"They got to watch out for the Black Mamba," he said of his competitors at next weekend's state meet.

Thomas also won the 100 in his season-best time of 10.57.

Like father, like son

Twenty-one years ago, Beno Bryant of Dorsey won the City title in the 400 and went on to win the state title. His son, Be'jon, won the 300 intermediate hurdles for Dorsey in 39.32.

Top girl sprinter

Jasmine Woods of Woodland Hills El Camino Real won the 100 in 12.02 and took the 200 in 24.52.

Winning teams

Dorsey won the boys' team title and Palisades took the girls' crown.

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