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Jump High, Catch a Boat, Then Dance : Track: Gardena’s Charles Mabry has two goals Friday night: Qualify for the state finals in the high jump, and make the senior prom.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Friday will be anything but just another day in the life of Gardena High senior Charles Mabry.

After competing in the state championship track and field meet at Cerritos College, the high jumper will rush to the senior prom--he hopes. Gardena’s prom is being held on a boat this year, and Mabry hopes to arrive at the dock just before 9:30 p.m., the scheduled departure time.

Mabry said he has his priorities in order heading into his big day and night. He has vowed not to worry about getting to the prom while he is competing.

“When I get to the track meet, I’m going to tune (the prom) out,” said Mabry, who will check in at Cerritos College at 5:30 p.m. “I’m going to leave my watch up in my bag.”

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Mabry won last week’s L.A. City title with a personal-best high jump of 6 feet, 5 inches. He has come a long way since being discovered as a high jumper by an assistant coach just over three years ago, when he was a sophomore in his first year at Gardena.

“When I first got here, a coach saw me jumping on the field,” said Mabry, who had no experience as a high jumper. “And he said: ‘Hey, you jump really high. Why don’t you jump for us?’ ”

Mabry said he was surprised how quickly he took to the sport.

“We had five high jumpers on the team, and at the beginning of the year, everybody else was jumping higher than me,” he said. “But by the end of the year, I exploded on them.”

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Still, relatively speaking, he was a novice. His top mark for the year was 5-8.

Since then, he has been constantly striving to improve his technique.

“By my junior year, I got my arch down really well, which helped me a lot,” he said.

But his rate of improvement didn’t satisfy him.

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“I was pretty upset that I only got fifth (in the City finals) last year, so that gave me an extra push this year,” Mabry said.

He will have to keep pushing himself if he is to have an impact at the state meet. Ten other high jumpers have better qualifying marks, including Katella’s Kevin Carlson, who tops the field at 6-9 3/4.

“My eyes got big when I saw some of those marks,” Mabry said.

But he said he is confident that he will post a new personal best Friday. As far back as a year ago, he recorded a 6-6 jump in practice.

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“I did everything correctly on that first (6-6 jump),” Mabry said. “From the arch to the run, everything was on--I remember that feeling well.

“I can probably get 6-10 if I do that again.”

Last week at the City finals, Mabry had his body over the bar at 6-8. “But I got kind of lazy and my elbow dropped,” he said.

Mabry said he was otherwise exceptionally primed for the City meet at Birmingham High in Van Nuys. He gave his Mohican teammates, particularly triple jumper Henry Fraijo, pole vaulter Larry Merritt and shot putter Robert Walker, credit for motivating him.

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“My friends were pushing me, saying, ‘You know you can do it,’ ” Mabry said. “They all pump me up.

“We all have that drive because we love (track and field). They’re pushing me to knock it out--first the City title, then the state title.”

Gardena Coach Bill Berry and his staff have been doing their part to get Mabry to emulate a former Olympic great.

“They keep mentioning Dwight Stones,” Mabry said. “So I try to pattern my jumping off of him.

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“They’ve showed me a tape of him, and I’ve been watching that every time I get the chance. And then they brought a video camera here to tape me jumping.”

By comparing his form with Stones’, Mabry has learned one particularly valuable lesson.

“I have to use my arms more,” Mabry said. “I’m not using my arms at all. I’m just jumping with straight leg power. If I use my arms, that’ll give me an extra five inches.”

The high jumpers with the nine top marks at Friday’s preliminaries will advance to Saturday’s state finals, also at Cerritos College. Mabry is confident that he will be participating both days.

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“I’m going to come in at 6-8 and hit it,” he said of his plan for Friday. “I know I can do it.”

Mabry said 6-8 will be good enough to advance to the finals, and the records of his competitors also suggest that. Only seven high jumpers in the field have qualifying marks of 6-8 or higher.

“I’ll probably be nervous, most definitely,” he said. “But I’m going to try to focus everything I’ve got on that 6-8 jump.”

The 6-foot, 173-pound Mabry said he plans to continue his high-jumping career at Los Angeles Southwest College or El Camino College next year. He wants to transfer to USC in order to perform on the Trojans’ track team and study electrical engineering.

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His ultimate athletic goal is to high jump 8 feet.

“Eight is very high, but I believe I can do it,” he said.

For now, of course, he’s busy worrying about 6-8. And once that’s done, he’s got to start thinking about 9:30, because he has a boat to catch, after all.

His date for the prom, Laneia Moore, has been understanding about Mabry’s need to be at the state meet, he said.

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“She’s nervous, but she said it’s OK,” Mabry said. He added with a laugh: “I just might have to rent a helicopter, that’s all.”

Hawthorne and Morningside high schools have their girls’ relay teams in the state meet.

The Hawthorne 400-meter relay team is led off by sophomore Kanika Cartwright, followed by seniors Kee-Sha Adams and Mia Edmondson and freshman Porshia King.

Adams anchors the Cougars’ 1,600-meter relay team, preceded by King, freshman Jalauna Gilford and senior Tarina Johnson.

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For the Monarchs, freshman LaShawn Stringer leads off the 400-meter relay, followed by sophomore Sanoma Nickson, senior Toneshia Hodges and sophomore Santeshia Arnold. On the 1,600 relay, Stringer is first, Arnold second, Hodges third and Stringer fourth.

Arnold, who is also entered in the 100 and 200 meters, is competing in her first state meet, although she probably would have participated in 1989 if she hadn’t been sidelined by a stress fracture.

There are 28 entrants in each event at the two-day state meet. After Friday’s preliminary round, nine entrants per event will advance to Saturday’s finals.

Each CIF section sends a set number of competitors in each event to the state meet. The Southern Section sends five; the L.A. City Section and the North Coast Section each send four; the Central Section, Central Coast Section, Sac-Joaquin Section and San Diego Section each send three, and the Northern Section, Oakland Section and San Francisco Section each send one.

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On Friday, gates open at 3 p.m., when the field events get under way. Running events begin at 5 p.m. Admission is $3 for high school students with identification and $6 for general admission.

On Saturday, gates open at 4 p.m., when the field events start. Two hours later, track events begin. Admission is $4 for high school students and $7 for general admission.


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