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Track Is Just an Open Book for Sophomore Quincy Watts of Taft

Times Staff Writer

Few people see the real Quincy Watts, who looks so comfortable on the running track.

Maybe some friends at Taft High School in Woodland Hills see the real Quincy Watts. Certainly his coach, Tom Stevenson, and his father and uncle, the real inspirations in his life, do.

Especially his father and uncle.

They see the best sophomore sprinter in California in a way few others do. They see Quincy Watts get motivated, get the inner-fire burning.

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Usually, it will be every couple of weeks, maybe on a Sunday afternoon, in the living room of the family home in Canoga Park, with Quincy lying on the off-white couch against the wall and his father, Rufus, in the brown recliner against the other wall. They will have a high school track record book.

The two go through the book, tossing the sprint records and names like Roy Martin of Dallas Roosevelt and Henry Thomas, Quincy’s idols, back and forth. Thus, Watts, who also keeps lists of area and state leaders from the paper, sets his goals.

He knows the records by heart. When he ran his 20.97 in the 200 meters at the City Section semifinals on the all-weather track at Birmingham High, no one had to tell him that it was good enough to break Martin’s national sophomore record of 21 flat, and Clinton Davis’ age-group mark of 21.01. He’d had those numbers in his mind for months.

“A couple days after that we were flipping through the record book and we saw Henry Thomas’ 10.46 (the national sophomore record for 100 meters),” Quincy said. “He (Rufus) said, ‘Son, this is next.’ ”

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His best is 10.56, though, and he will get his last chance to break the mark set by Thomas, the former Hawthorne star now at UCLA, this weekend at the state finals at Cerritos College. To think he still has two more years of this racing and chasing left.

“Then, the chase game starts all over,” he said. “Except they’ll all be chasing me.”

Tall, at 6-foot-3, Watts has plenty of time to work with weights to add to his 185-pound frame. He averaged 15 points and 7.6 rebounds a game for the Taft varsity basketball team, and imagine him on the fast break. He will compete in the 100, 200 and anchor the 400 relay with Sean Roberts, Monty Gilbreath and Curtis Hein for Taft this weekend.

His 20.97 is the second-best 200 time in the nation this year. His time in the 100 is second only to Ronald McCree of Madera in the state in the 100. He made a noticeable improvement in his start, the weakest part of his race, after 10 minutes with Edwin Moses at a clinic at UCLA.

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“Not only is he a great runner, but he carries himself real well, too,” Stevenson said of Watts.

Watts, at 15, is already a show worth watching.

“I’m surprised,” he said. “Me and my father sat down and talked about it the other night, how we never thought we would come as far as this so soon. We thought there would be progress, but not this fast.”

And what of the future? The future is now.

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McCree, who won the 100 title last year at Sacramento, is on Watts’ mind this weekend for a simple reason: McCree is the only runner who has beaten Watts this year. He did it twice, in the 100 and 200 at the Arcadia Invitational.

“Talking about a 20.5 (in the 200) would be blowing smoke in the wind,” Stevenson said of Watts’ best chance for an individual title. “It might take a 20.8 in the state meet and he thinks he can win it there.”

McCree and five other competitors will be coming to the meet from Madera, which, according to the No. 1 challenger, is “somewhere way out there.”

Being a farming community of 25,000 located 20 miles north of Fresno might not be way out there, but the point is, Watts won’t be too concerned about geography this weekend.

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“I just know that the state champion lives there,” he said.

And the state champion knows where Watts lives, too.

“We’ve talked about Quincy and know that he is a great talent,” Madera Coach Don Kautz said. “We didn’t know much about him before Arcadia and now we know a lot. But I don’t think Ronald is looking over his shoulder at anybody.”

Stevenson and Watts disagree, saying that national records have a way of making even crusty old seniors nervous. Either way, it won’t matter once the gun goes off.

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“We talked after the 100 and 200 (at Arcadia),” Watts said. “But it’s not like we’re going to be selling wolf tickets (doing a psych job). No one is saying, ‘I’m going to beat you back and forth.’ We’re pretty good friends.”

But will he say anything to McCree?

“Talk to you at the end of the tape.”

Prep Notes It’s final four time in City Section baseball today, with Granada Hills (13-4) and Poly (15-4) playing at Cal State Northridge, and San Fernando (13-4) taking on Grant, 16-3, at Birmingham High in the 4-A semifinals. In the 3-A, defending champion Venice (14-3) will play Palisades (9-8) at Loyola Marymount, and Franklin (16-1) will play Huntington Park (14-3) at Cal State Los Angeles. All games will start at 3 p.m. . . . Santa Monica’s Laurence Jackson, three-time state wrestling champion and six-time national champion, will sign a letter of intent today to attend Oklahoma State. He has a 140-7 record for the Vikings, with all seven of the losses as a freshman, and has won national titles in the 17-to-20 age group this year in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Next up is the junior national meet during the summer in Iowa, where Jackson has won three championships and will go for two more, hoping to match Michigan’s Andre Metzger, the only person ever to win five. Metzger went on to compete for Oklahoma. . . . Bob Hamelin from Irvine, who turned down a football scholarship to Notre Dame in February, will instead play baseball for UCLA. Hamelin hit .514 this season. . . . Pitcher Julie Kucera, who had an earned-run average of 0.38 for La Canada this season, was inadvertently left off the list in Thursday’s Times for All-Southern Section 1-A softball. . . . Outfielder Chris Martin, the seventh player from Nogales to be drafted in the eight years John Romano has been coaching at the La Puente school, has signed with the Minnesota Twins and will report to Elizabethton, Tenn., of the Appalachian League June 20. He batted .465 this season and was a fifth-round selection. . . . Waldir Guerra, a standout for Bell in soccer and as a kicker in football, was a third-round selection by the Cleveland Force in the Major Indoor Soccer League draft Monday. . . . Dave Benezra has been named basketball coach at Crossroads of Santa Monica, which made the state Division III final last season.

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