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Smith Clears Hurdles, Hawthorne Stumbles : Track: Sophomore qualifies for state in two events, but teammates fail to follow his footsteps.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Thanks to sophomore hurdler Demond Smith, the three-time defending state champion Hawthorne High boys’ track and field team won’t be forgotten at the 1990 state meet.

Although the injury-decimated Cougars have no chance to win a fourth consecutive title, Smith suddenly rates as a statewide force after taking second place in both the 110-meter high hurdles and 300-meter intermediate hurdles at Friday night’s Southern Section Masters’ meet at Cerritos College. Smith will be the only Hawthorne boy in the state meet, Friday and Saturday at Cerritos College.

Smith, a transfer from South Bay Lutheran, established personal bests by running the 110 in 14.51 seconds and the 300 in 37.84. Entering the Masters’ meet, Smith had the third-best qualifying mark in the 110 and the fourth-best in the 300.

But Cougar Coach Kye Courtney said Smith’s showing was somewhat surprising because of the hurdler’s lack of experience.

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“We’ve never had a sophomore get a second in a Masters’ meet before,” said Courtney, who has coached Hawthorne to six boys’ state championships in seven years. “But we knew he had the talent.

“It was a question of whether he could mentally make the move as a sophomore against guys who are 18 years old.”

The Hawthorne boys’ 400-meter relay team was originally entered in the Masters’ meet but was scratched due to lead-off man Robert Blackburn’s blood-pressure problems, leaving Smith as the Cougars’ only entrant. But Smith, who didn’t run track at South Bay Lutheran, said he didn’t feel any extra pressure.

“There’s been a lot of pressure on me all year (because) I was really the only healthy guy,” Smith said.

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Actually, Smith has had to overcome a nagging thigh injury, which kept him out of the Arcadia Invitational.

“He’s very coachable and does what he’s told,” Courtney said. “The thing about Demond Smith is that he never missed a practice. He ran when he was hurt. He did all the therapy that we gave him.”

Muir’s Andre Derezin (14.47) won the 110 and Cajon’s Charles (37.67) won the 300. Courtney said Smith’s close finishes in each race means he will be a factor at the state meet. “If he can run with these guys, he can run with anybody,” he said.

The Morningside girls’ 1,600-meter relay team was the only victorious South Bay entrant, upsetting favored Pasadena Muir. The Monarchs ran 3:44.79. Sophomore Sanoma Nickson, the lead-off runner, said Morningside wasn’t intimidated going up against Muir, the 1989 state champion.

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“Every time we run against them, we have to have the attitude that we’re going to win, no matter what place they are in the state or the nation or whatever,” Nickson said. “We were pumped up for them, and we had no bad handoffs.”

Nickson also qualified for the state meet in the 100-meter low hurdles (14.81) and as a member of the Monarchs’ 400-meter relay team (46.73).

Hawthorne also qualified both of its girls’ relay teams. Senior Kee-sha Adams anchored the Cougars’ 1,600 relay (3:46.61) and ran the second leg of the 400 (47.27) despite missing much of the season.

“I’ve only been practicing a month and a week,” Adams said. “It’s hard because everybody is at their peak, but I’m still trying to get in shape.”

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Other state qualifiers: the St. Bernard girls (400 relay, 47.42), Morningside’s Santeshia Arnold (100, 12.12; 400, 24.60), Morningside’s LaShawn Stringer (400, 55.63) and Torrance’s Jennifer Tully (long jump, 17-7 1/4).


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