Santa Monica High's Felice Lipscomb recorded the second-fastest time in the nation this season in the 300-meter low hurdles Friday night at the CIF Master's meet at Cerritos College.
Unfortunately for Lipscomb, the fastest time was set in the same race by defending state champion Twila Sims of Lompoc. Sims, a sophomore, came from behind in the final 10 meters to edge Lipscomb, 42.29 seconds to 42.30. The finish-line judge needed to review the film before declaring a winner.
Earlier, Lipscomb easily won the 100-meter low hurdles in 13.97. Sims finished third with a 14.55.
Both will attempt to improve their times today and Saturday at the State Track and Field Championships at Cerritos College.
Lipscomb, a USC-bound senior, is the defending state champion in the 100 hurdles and hasn't been beaten in the race this season. She's lost only twice in the past three years. But her real challenge remains the 300 hurdles.
Since Lipscomb began running track as a freshman four years ago, Santa Monica Coach Mike Griswold has been trying to persuade her to run the 300 hurdles. Lipscomb, who preferred the sprint races, refused to run the race.
"I must have asked her 200 times," Griswold said. "But since Felice was enjoying such success in the shorter races, she didn't see the reasoning in adding the longer hurdle race. Running 300 meters meant more pain, and she wasn't interested in that."
Finally in January on their way to a press conference for the Sunkist Indoor Invitational, Lipscomb gave in to her coach's plea and agreed to drop the 100-meter dash for the 300 hurdles. Although Sims, 16, has beaten her three times in the event this season, Lipscomb, 18, has improved in each race and appears ready to unseat the defending champion.
Sims easily defeated Lipscomb in the 300 hurdles in their first meeting at the Northridge Invitational two months ago, but barely beat her in their second race at the Arcadia Invitational in April. At the Master's meet, Lipscomb lead most of the race until Sims was able to overtake her on the final hurdle.
"I think the fact the I'm finishing second to Twila after only one year of competing in this race is quite an accomplishment," Lipscomb said. "I'm looking at state as if I have nothing to lose. I'm not the defending champ (in 300 hurdles), so the pressure isn't on me. I feel like I'm a contender, though, and hope that I can win the race."
Griswold predicts a double victory for Lipscomb in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
"Felice is the fastest hurdler in the state by far," he said. "How she finishes depends on how hard she wants to work."
One thing favoring Lipscomb is her strong desire to compete. She started running track after being beaten in a race during a gym class in the eighth grade. When she had the opportunity to join Santa Monica's track team the following year, Lipscomb decided to go out for the squad.
As a freshman, Lipscomb won the 100 hurdles in the Bay League championships and qualified for the Southern Section 4-A Division meet. The next year, she won the event at the Southern Section and Master's meet and finished third at state. She defended her titles as a junior and won the race at state.
She is a favorite to repeat her title in the event.
Despite Lipscomb's success in the 100 hurdles, Griswold feels her future remains in the longer hurdle race. He said she could become the best woman 400-meter hurdler in the nation in college.
"Felice has a very long stride for a sprinter," Griswold said. "And she is extremely quick. If she works hard enough, she could become the first woman college hurdler to run 13 steps between each hurdle. She's just got the natural stride."
In the 300 hurdles, Lipscomb runs 14 steps between the first two hurdles and increases it to 15 steps the rest of the way.
"The reason I didn't run the 300 hurdles earlier is because I didn't want to concentrate on marking my step," Lipscomb said. "It takes a lot of concentration. In the 100 hurdles, my stride is all natural. But I'm glad I decided to add the race. I honestly didn't think I'd do as well as I have."
Sims didn't run the 300 hurdles until the middle of last season, but at 5-foot-9 she has the natural size and speed for the event. Lipscomb, at 5-6, compensates for her size with quickness.
At the Master's meet, Lipscomb jumped out to an early lead in the 300 hurdles and lead Sims by several meters midway through the race.
"If I'm going to beat Twila at state, I'm going to have to jump out to an early lead again and then push it harder over the last few hurdles," Lipscomb said. "Twila has more endurance, but I have more speed. So, I've got to take advantage of that. I was a little upset by (Friday's) loss, but I'm ready to make up for it."