Any notion of Michael Norman wilting under the pressure of the big stage disappeared minutes into Friday night's CIF state track and field preliminaries.
After an impressive showing seven days earlier at the Southern Section Masters Meet, the junior sprinter from Vista Murrieta showed he is still the one to beat, posting the fastest qualifying times in the 200- and 400-meter races and leading a victorious relay at Buchanan High in Clovis.
Thanks in large part to Norman's efforts, the Broncos are the favorites to take home the team title at today's finals. Norman offered a glimpse of what was to come in the first event, building a big lead for Murrieta on the first leg of the 100-meter relay. The Broncos won their heat in 41.07, the second-fastest qualifying time. Norman sat out the 400-meter relay, but the Broncos still finished second in their heat and earned the ninth and last qualifying spot.
In the 400 meters, Norman cruised to first place in his heat at 47.05 seconds, far off his personal best but still the top qualifying time. Half an hour later, he was the top qualifier in the 200 in 20.98.
Westlake Village Oaks Christian sophomore Lauren Rain Williams, who won the 100-meter and 200-meter races and both relays at the Masters Meet, wasn't the top qualifier in either event Friday.
She won her heat in the 100 in 11.70 (third overall) and won her 200 heat in 23.51, the second-fastest qualifying mark, one thousandth of a second behind Zaria Francis of Oxnard Rio Mesa. Williams also anchored the Lions' winning 100-meter relay, which qualified first in 45.79 seconds.
West Hills Chaminade junior T.J. Brock, who was second to Norman in the 200 at the Masters Meet, was Friday's second-fastest qualifier in 21.16, setting up a rematch in today's finals. He anchored the Eagles' top qualifying 100-meter relay (40.87). After being signaled for a false start in the 100-meter dash, Brock qualified first in 10.47 seconds.
Masters Meet champion Destiny Collins of Temecula Great Oak won her 1,600-meter heat in 4:47.26, edging City Section champion Marissa Williams by one tenth of a second. The two will go head to head again in today's final, joined by Amanda Gehrich of Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro, who won the second heat in 4:50.18.
State leader Courtney Corrin of Studio City Harvard-Westlake was the top qualifier in the long jump (20 feet 9 inches). USC-bound senior Matt Katnik of St. John Bosco, the national leader in the shotput, was the top qualifier at 71 feet 5 3/4 inches and qualified ninth in the discus.