Henry Thomas and his cohorts make Hawthorne High the overwhelming favorite to win its fourth straight CIF track title Saturday, but the girls portion of the CIF finals at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut could go down to the wire.
City teams, meanwhile, will square off in semifinals Friday at Birmingham High where San Pedro sprinter Michael Ford and Locke High sensation Choo Choo Knighten will be on display.
Hawthorne even has entries in the field events, where the Cougars have never been overpowering.
Thomas is favored in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and is anchoring 400 and 1,600 relay teams, which haven't been challenged this year in Southland competition.
The Hawthorne girls will pit their strength in the sprints against Muir of Pasadena's speed in what observers are calling the most competitive group of sprinters ever in a girls championship meet.
Hawthorne junior Tami Stiles heads the 100-meter field with a qualifying time of 12.09 and has run a converted time of 11.84. She is joined by teammates Kim Grant (12.29) and DeDe Wheeler (12.36). Muir offers Carrie Franklin (12.12) and Michelle Miller (12.29). Long Beach Poly's Aidenna Thomas is also in there at 12.32.
Stiles heads the 200-meter list at 24.50, followed by Compton's Princess Bennett at 24.82. Muir's Linetta Wilson leads the 400-meter dash at 53.96. Wilson and Lana Cantrell give Muir the edge in the hurdles and the relays are close. Hawthorne has the nation's best time in the 400-meter relay, 45.59, followed by Muir at 46.14, while Muir is second nationally in the 1,600 relay at 3:45.10, followed by Hawthorne at 3:46.51.
Thomas, the state's preeminent sprinter, is looking to repeat his 100- and 200-meter state titles of last year, along with titles in the relays. The Cougars have set a national mark of 3.07.40 in the 1,600 relay.
Thomas gets a lot of help from Sean Kelly, Hawthorne's top man in the 800 and a member of the 1,600 relay, and teammate Michael Marsh has pushed Thomas in the 200-meter dash, though Thomas holds the state record. Hawthorne also has Genay Graham in the low hurdles and Michael Graham in the highs and quality high jumper John Medford, who qualified at 6-7.
The top finishers qualify for the CIF Masters Meet next week, also at Mt. SAC.
San Pedro's Ford was never beaten in Marine League action and won his quarterfinals last week in both 100 and 200 meters. He should be pushed this week by Manual Arts' Steve Broussard.
Locke's Knighten probably will be pushed only by teammate Tesha Giddens, who edged her in the 100-meter league finals. Those two in sprints and Knighten's preeminence in hurdles make Locke's girls hard to beat.
Top finishers will advance to City finals next week at Birmingham.