The High Schools /John Ortega : Weight Training Lifts Wiebelhaus to Title in 300 Low Hurdles

Shannon Wiebelhaus of Rio Mesa was regarded as one of the Valley-area’s top sprint prospects as a freshman in 1986.

Although she was overshadowed by teammate and state 100 champion Angela Burnham, Wiebelhaus’ personal bests of 12.2 seconds in the 100 meters, 25.8 in the 200 and 57.78 in the 400 boded well for her.

But she failed to improve her times in her sophomore and junior years, ultimately concentrating on the 300-meter low hurdles and finishing seventh in the Southern Section 4-A Division championships at Cerritos College last year.


Despite her hurdling success, Rio Mesa co-Coach Brian FitzGerald felt that Wiebelhaus had failed to tap the well of potential she displayed in 1986.

“She did all right in the hurdles considering it was her first serious year,” FitzGerald said. “But I felt like she could do better. I knew that there was more there.”

So he put her on extensive weightlifting program in the off-season and the work has paid off in improved performances, including a victory in the 300 hurdles in the Ventura County track and field championships at Camarillo High on Friday night.

“I just feel a lot better this year, physically,” said Wiebelhaus, who has a personal best of 45.44 in the 300 hurdles. “I’m real happy about the way I feel.”

While losing weight--five to six pounds--and gaining strength have helped, the 5-foot-8 Wiebelhaus added that she also has matured emotionally.

“My attitude has changed a lot,” said Wiebelhaus, who will attend Cal State Northridge in the fall. “The last two years, I guess I was going through some phases. It seemed like I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But this year I decided that I wanted to go out with a good year. It was very important to me that my senior season be my best one ever.”

And it has been.

After posting a best of 46.34 as a junior, Wiebelhaus has exceeded that mark five times in competition this season and expects to crack the 45-second barrier before she is finished.

“That’s my big goal,” she said. “And I think I can do it because the season only starts right now. I think I’ll run much faster before I’m through.”

Despite her emphasis on the hurdles, Wiebelhaus’ sprinting has not suffered. She has clocked 12.5 in the 100 and 26.0 in the 200, her best time since her freshman season.

Add Rio Mesa: Although Wiebelhaus figured that this season could be the best of her career, she and Burnham did not expect the Spartans to produce any great times in the 400- or 1,600-meter relays.

After all, Burnham and Wiebelhaus were the only returning members of the 400 relay team that finished fourth in the state championships last year.

And the newest members of the team--freshman Danielle Tanner and sophomore Stacy Rosemeyer--were of unknown quality.

“Angela and I knew Stacy had improved some since last year,” Wiebelhaus said. “But we had no idea about how good Danielle would be. We thought it was going to be our worst year ever, but it’s turned out to be our best.”

Tanner and Rosemeyer have both established themselves as solid sprinters.

Tanner has run 12.7 in the 100 and 59.3 in the 400--the event in which she won the Ventura County title Friday--and Rosemeyer has run 12.4 in the 100 and 26.5 in the 200.

“Their improvement has been remarkable,” FitzGerald said. “I didn’t expect our 1,600 relay to do much this season, and suddenly we’ve got a good chance to place in the top three or four at the state championships in both relays.”

Rio Mesa won both the 400 (48.86) and 1,600 (season-best 3:55.34) relay at the county meet.

Last add Rio Mesa: The Spartans clinched their fourth consecutive Channel League dual-meet titles by defeating Buena, 70-66, in the boys’ meet and, 66-55, in the girls’ meet last Wednesday.

However, the boys’ victory--their 34th in a row--might not have been possible had it not been for FitzGerald’s ability to persuade junior Eric Thomas to compete for the track team in the last part of the season.

An All-Ventura County forward in basketball, Thomas leaped a personal best of 6 feet, 8 inches to win the high jump against Buena in his first meet of the season.

Thomas did not compete for the team earlier because he was playing for an American Roundball Corp. team.

But when FitzGerald approached him a few weeks ago, Thomas decided to jump.

“I told him that we had a pretty good team and that I thought he--one of the best high jumpers around--should be a part of it,” FitzGerald said. “And he was pretty receptive to the idea.”

Although FitzGerald was quick to point out that Thomas was not the only hero in Wednesday’s meet, the Spartans would have lost, 69-67, without him.

Don’t crowd: Some say you have to pay a stiff price for fashion. At Grant, the going rate is sometimes a shot in the ribs.

Baseball Coach Tom Lucero says he believes that aluminum bats allow hitters to cover the outside part of the plate without fear of being jammed inside. And at Grant, trendiness can be fraught with peril.

“The trend I’ve seen is for everybody to crowd the plate.” Lucero said. “So we tell our pitchers to establish throwing inside.”

Consequently, ace right-hander Javier Delahoya has plunked eight trend-conscious hitters. At least black and blue are easy to color coordinate.

“Most of them have been hit right square in the ribs, too,” Lucero said, somewhat apologetically. “They hang in there waiting for the curveball to break, and wham, it’s not a curveball.

“With Delahoya, it just explodes right in on them and they have no chance.”

Bad timing department: Kennedy second baseman Pat DeBoer twice has been in the wrong place at the wrong time this season.

DeBoer has committed only two errors in Northwest Valley Conference play, but both came in the opposition’s last at-bat.

In the opener at San Fernando, DeBoer mishandled a two-out ground ball in the sixth that allowed the eventual winning run to score. A week and a half ago at Taft, DeBoer’s two-out throwing error allowed the winning run to score from third in a 3-2 loss.

The fact that it was DeBoer’s first miscue in 16 games only underscored its untimely impact.

“It was his first error since (San) Fernando,” Coach Manny Alvarado said. “Ouch.”

Yet Alvarado remains high on DeBoer, a three-year letterman who was 17 for 49 (.347) with 18 RBIs through Monday.

“I still consider him our best infielder,” Alvarado said. “It was just tough luck.”

DeBoer’s lone errors led to Kennedy’s lone losses in Northwest Valley action--the Golden Cougars are 16-5, 10-2 in league play--and indeed a lonely feeling for DeBoer.

“I’ve talked to him about it,” Alvarado said. “What can you say?”

Staff writer Steve Elling contributed to this notebook.