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Time Has Come for Suzanne Kerho to Step Forward : Mission Viejo Freshman Finally Gets the Chance to Take After Her Brother

Times Staff Writer

Suzanne Kerho didn’t have to be pushed into following in her brother’s footsteps. In fact, she couldn’t wait to get started.

No wonder. Kerho, whose brother, Steve, is a track star at UCLA, has been laying down some pretty impressive footsteps of her own in her freshman year at Mission Viejo High School.

Her 45.82 mark in the 300-meter hurdles is a county best this year, and she’s also one of the county’s top runners in the 100-meter hurdles (15.28) and 200-meter dash (26.5).

But the way Kerho sees it, she’s just been making up for lost time--time spent watching her brother and waiting for her track career to take off.

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Like many 14-year-olds, Kerho had been looking forward to starting high school for some time--anticipating that freshman year, the first day of school, first date, learner’s permits, track practice.

Track practice?

“I wanted to get started running so badly,” she said. “I had run in clubs around here but it just wasn’t the same as high school competition. I couldn’t stand waiting.”

Kerho even had trouble waiting until spring track season to get started, so she ran on the cross-country team in the fall.

“That was a lot of fun,” she said. “I did OK, not great, but at least I got to run. I can’t picture myself not running.”

Seems her brother’s track exploits made quite an impression on her. And the decision to try and emulate his success came very early on. No pushing or prodding required.

“My parents and my brother were real good about it,” Kerho said. “My parents never said anything like, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be great if you could run too?’

“They knew I was interested, and one day when I was about 10 or 11 they asked me, ‘Do you want to run? You know you don’t have to if you don’t want to.’ But I wasn’t really interested in anything else.”

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An end to the watching and waiting.

“I used to watch my brother all the time when I was little,” she said. “But I had to wait until I was 11 to even start running for clubs. It was a killer because it looked like so much fun.”

Now, in a list of what’s fun for 11-year-olds, track and field isn’t going to crack very many Top 10s.

But Suzanne Kerho had her mind made up. If watching her brother win all the time looked like fun, winning herself would be even better.

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Steve, a senior at UCLA, is a former CIF and national prep record holder in the 110-meter hurdles (13.41) while competing at Mission Viejo. He isn’t that surprised by his sister’s success.

“Not when you consider how hard she works,” he said. “We work out together about once a month and sometimes I have trouble keeping up with her.”

What Suzanne hasn’t learned from watching her brother, she picks up in the monthly workouts.

“She’s pretty gutsy,” Steve said. “She isn’t afraid to go through any of the drills that I go through.”

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Although the decision to run track was Suzanne’s, her brother claims some of the credit for getting her to specialize in hurdling.

“I guess I steered her more toward the hurdles, or at least hoped real hard that she’d run them once she decided to run,” he said. “I think it’s great. I give her some advice, and it’s just another way of staying close.”

“Steve helps me out a lot,” Suzanne said. “It’s mainly with my form and technique. But it’s nice sometimes just to sit down and talk. He’s got so much experience to draw from.”

That experience sometimes can hurt as much as help. Footstep followers often run into higher expectations and added pressure. But Suzanne’s been too busy exceeding expectations to think of pressure, except as something other people keep talking about.

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“I’m real busy with school and track and everything else,” she said. “It gets kind of crazy, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

“There’s so much I like about it. The competition, belonging to a team, winning. Sometimes it’s scary, like I’m using it up all at once and I’m going too fast, but I just don’t see myself getting burned out.”

Steve Kerho doesn’t see pressure as a problem for Suzanne.

“I suppose it could be (for someone else), but not for her,” he said. “I know she’s got a lot more pressure on her than I ever did, particularly after having such a great first year. But she’s pretty mature for a 14-year-old. She’ll be OK.”

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Meanwhile, Suzanne’s enjoying this footstep-following stuff. Seems she couldn’t wait to get at it because, for now, there’s really nothing to it.


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