Capo Valley's Blutreich Heads UCLA's Recruits

Times Staff Writer

The bad news was inescapable for anyone who reads the fine print of track and field results.

UCLA and USC tied for 58th place with only three points each in the 1985 NCAA outdoor meet.

Not so long ago, these former powers in the sport would have been contending for the team championship instead of salvaging a few scraps from the national meet.

It's not necessarily a sign of the times, however, for either school, especially UCLA. The Bruins, who were unbeaten in nine dual meets last year, are now blending quantity with quality and figure to be representative on the national level this season.

"We can cover every event with solid athletes," Coach Bob Larsen said. "We're definitely a very good team. We're retaining depth with more quality, and I see us among the top five in the NCAA meet."

The Bruins had an excellent recruiting year, bringing in four blue-chip athletes from the prep ranks: sprinters Henry Thomas and Danny Everett, pole vaulter Brandon Richards and weight man Brian Blutreich of Capistrano Valley High.

Moreover, Larsen red-shirted several athletes last year, who figure to make an impact this season. He also has some some quality athletes returning. Indeed, UCLA's track program apparently is flourishing.

Washington State, with its strong foreign contingent, is the team to beat in the conference and NCAA meets. But the talent is now spread around in the West.

Thomas, from Hawthorne High, is the latest in a long line of outstanding California prep sprinters, some of whom went on to win Olympic gold medals, or set world records beginning with USC's Charley Paddock in the 1920s.

A midseason appendectomy prevented Thomas from defending the state sprint titles that he won as a junior. But he's healthy now and should improve on his best marks of 10.25 in the 100 meters, 20.4 in the 200 and 45.09 in the 400--all state high school records.

Everett, from Fairfax High, was primarily regarded as a quarter miler with a best time of 45.76. But he has already recorded a 20.83 in the 200 and Larsen projects Everett as a competitor in both the 200 and 400, as well as the sprint and 1,600 meter relays. Blutreich, the 1985 state high school champion in the shotput and discus will be red-shirted this year. Larsen said the weight events are his strongest area in terms of depth.

The red-shirted athletes of 1985 who figure to help UCLA the most are distance runner Jon Butler, a three-time cross-country All-American; decathlete Jim Connolly; long jumper-sprinter Mike Powell; half-miler John Phillips and quarter-miler Roy Carls.

Powell, a transfer from UC Irvine, had a wind-aided jump of 27-2 at last year's TAC meet. A capsule look at some events:

Hurdles--Even without Kerho, Larsen has some improving young hurdlers in sophomores Raymond and Kevin Young, who are not related. Middle, Long Distances--Phillips has a best 800 time of 1:49.18, which he recorded in 1983 as a freshman before he was hurt in an automobile accident and missed in the rest of the season.

Weights--Plenty of depth here with John Frazier, Jim Banich, junior college transfer Matt Gallo and freshman Peter Thompson.

Jumps--Troy Haines has high jumped 7-1, a height matched by Powell.

Javelin--Connolly set a school record of 256-10 in 1984. He is backed up in the event by Mike Johnson with a best mark of 238-3.

UCLA's women have lost a virtual one-woman team now that Jackie Joyner has graduated. The versatile Joyner scored 24 of UCLA's 45 points in last year's NCAA meet.

Even without Joyner, though, UCLA has some quality performers such as sprinter-hurdler Gail Devers, distance runner Polly Plumer, weight specialist Toni Lutjens and a blue-chip freshman class featuring sprinter Choo Choo Knighten, hurdler Nicolle Thompson and Nikki Williams, and half-miler Kristen Dowell.

Coach Bob Kersee believes in bringing his athletes along slowly so that they'll peak for the big meets later in the season. He is also credited with developing Valerie Brisco-Hooks, a triple gold medal winner in the 1984 Olympics, as well as Joyner and other Olympians.

Plumer, from University High in Irvine, suffered from anemia that was difficult to diagnose last year. She is still tested regularly and will compete in selected meets. She finished fourth in the NCAA cross-country meet last fall.

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