Don Strametz has seen his aspirations for the track season pass before his eyes in less than two months.
The Cal State Northridge coach, encouraged by the prospect of a men's program that was to include a host of lettermen and several talented recruits, projected that this year's team could be his best.
"If we stay healthy and eligible," Strametz said in January, "we'll be very good. We've got a lot of people returning and we've got some very good recruits."
Strametz's worst fears have since been realized. Injuries and academic ineligibility have taken a drastic toll on the makeup of the Northridge team, and some of the prize recruits are no longer with the program.
Kevin Hendrix, the defending California Collegiate Athletic Assn. champion at 200 and 400 meters, was ruled academically ineligible in January.
Then, Will James, a 1987 Division II All-American and school record-holder in the 1,500 meters, was sidelined by a nagging calf injury that had forced him to redshirt the 1988 track campaign.
And finally, freshman Mike Glaze--a highly regarded distance runner from Notre Dame High--quit the team earlier this month to devote more time to his schoolwork.
"It's been disappointing," Strametz said. "Especially losing Kevin. He scored 28 points for us alone at the CCAA meet last year.
"A few months ago, I thought we had a 400 relay team that was capable of running under 40 seconds this season. But without Kevin, we're a 41-second team. With Kevin, we had a very good relay team. Without him, we're just an average team."
Hendrix was ruled ineligible because he failed to pass the required number of academic units. NCAA rules stipulate that student-athletes pass at least 24 semester units in the previous school year--including summer school--to be eligible for athletic competition.
Hendrix, a junior from Roosevelt High in Fresno, was three units shy of meeting that requirement at the end of the 1988 track season, so he took--and passed--two classes at Fresno City College last summer. However, neither of the classes was transferable to Northridge, leaving him ineligible this season.
"By the time we found out the classes weren't transferable," Strametz said, "there was nothing we could do about it."
Although James' injury is not believed to be serious--he is expected to return within 10 days--Strametz said that it gave him a scare.
"It was the same type of injury as last year," Strametz said. "Luckily, it wasn't as serious."
James won the 1987 CCAA 1,500 title and placed fifth in the Division II championships with a personal best of 3:43.42.
Glaze redshirted the 1988 cross-country season because of a foot injury but was expected to compete for the track team. His decision two weeks ago stunned distance Coach Bob Augello.
"I knew Mike had been disappointed with his progress," Augello said. "But I didn't expect him to quit."
In addition, Tonya Conner, the 1988 state long jump champion from Barstow High, withdrew from school in January because of hepatitis.
All of which leaves Strametz feeling less than optimistic about Northridge's chances in this year's CCAA championships.
"Before the season, I thought we had a chance at winning it," Strametz said of the men's team. "But now, I don't know. . . . We're really going to have to scramble to contend for the conference title."