Ever since Quincy Watts of Taft High won the 200-meter dash at the 1986 state championships as a sophomore, track aficionados have wondered what he could accomplish in the 400.
At 6 feet, 3 inches and 197 pounds with a smooth, flowing stride, Watts seemed to possess the physical as well as the technical attributes of a stellar quarter-miler.
Trouble was, Watts had no reason to venture into a race longer than 100- or 200 meters. He won both events at last year's state championships and--with personal bests of 10.30 seconds in the 100 and 20.50 in the 200--was the No. 1-ranked high school sprinter in the nation by Track and Field News.
Five weeks ago, however, Watts strained his right hamstring in a dual meet at El Camino Real, thereby terminating his senior season in the 100.
"The 100 puts too much pressure on his leg," Taft Coach Tom Stevenson said several weeks ago. "So he'll concentrate on the 200 and 400 in the state meet."
The decision is looking better all the time as Watts sped to victories in the 200 and 400 meters, the latter in a City-meet record 46.67, at the City quarterfinals Friday at Birmingham High.
"He'll run much faster before the season is over," Taft sprint coach Hilliard Sumner warned after Watts had lowered his previous best of 46.98. "He's capable of running 45.2 before the season is over."
In addition to the 400, Watts also won the second heat of the 200 (21.66) and anchored the Toreadors' 400 relay to victory in 42.39, and the 1,600-meter relay to a third-place finish in 3:23.69.
Watts, 17, now owns City-meet records in three events (100, 200, 400) and is also a member of Taft's record-setting 400-meter relay in 1987.
Watts' 400 performance was doubly impressive because it appeared effortless. When Khelvin Pratt of Crenshaw pulled up to Watts' shoulder with 100 meters remaining, the Taft senior simply shifted into a higher gear.
"I just told myself to relax and lift," said Watts, who put a full second of distance between himself and Pratt in the final 100.
Chatsworth's Bryan Addison also displayed fast finishes in winning heats of the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300 intermediates. Addison, runner-up in the intermediates at last year's City championships, ran 15.03 in the highs and 38.69 in the intermediates, which was the third-fastest time of his career. He also qualified third in the triple jump with a personal best of 44-4 1/2.
Chaka Milby of Cleveland continued to improve in the shotput, throwing a City-leading 57-2 3/4.
Ron Martin of Chatsworth and Ronald Wilkinson of Reseda also led qualifying in the long jump (22-2) and triple jump (45-8 3/4) respectively.
Tracy Wilson of Taft and Alex Guidi of El Camino Real led qualifying in the girls' shotput and 3,200 meters.
Wilson, the defending City champion, threw 43-1 3/4 in the shotput and Guidi ran 11:44.88 to win the 3,200 after placing third in the 1,600 (5:19.8).