Smith Sets the Stage for Showdown With Senior

If anyone knows who can beat Mark Senior, the Mt. Miguel High School runner who has run 800 meters faster than anyone in San Diego County this year, it would be Mike Cour.

Cour was the track coach at Mt. Miguel for six years before he became the distance coach at Patrick Henry this year.

So it was not an idle statement Friday when the coach said that Senior would finish second at best in the section championships May 28.

And to whom?

Patrick Henry's Phil Smith. A guy who could not crack the two-minute mark a year ago.

With about 250 meters left in the 800-meter run at Friday's City Eastern segment of the City Championships, Smith shot past Pt. Loma's Ramsay McNeal en route to victory and a personal-best 1 minute 55.3 seconds at Balboa Stadium.

In doing so, Smith and every other athlete who finished in the top three qualified for next Saturday's section preliminaries at Balboa.

Though Senior ran a 1:53.09 earlier this year, Smith can beat him, Cour said.

"I predict he (Smith) will win the CIF (section title)," Cour said. "Phil is a lot stronger. Mark just goes out first and tries to hang on. Smith's just learning the event. I hope he gets to the state meet to find out what it's like in the fast lane."

Said Smith, a junior: "All my credit goes to Cour. Last year, my best time was 2:06. Senior beat me at Poway. Hopefully, I can give him a run for his money next time I see him. I wanted to be league champion badly. I kept telling myself, there's no prize for second place."

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