RUNNING / JOHN ORTEGA : Watts Drops 400 and Triggers Controversy


Quincy Watts of USC caused an uproar at the World track and field championships in Tokyo last week when he bypassed the 400 meters to concentrate on the 1,600-meter relay. First-round heats in the 1,600 start today.

Watts, a former Taft High standout, finished third in the 400 at The Athletics Congress championships in June to qualify for the U. S. team.

He said in an interview on NBC on Sunday that he withdrew from the 400 because he was no longer among the top three runners in the country. Watts noted his two recent illnesses, the latest of which caused him to lose seven pounds during the Pan American Games in Havana.


“I felt that, hey, I’m just lucky to be here,” Watts said. “I’m glad to be here, and as far as the 400, I’d rather have the fastest three out there right now who can help the U. S.”

Watts’ attitude appeared unselfish, but a controversy ensued because his replacement, Danny Everett, had been coached in the past by UCLA sprint coach John Smith, who has been training Watts since June.

Track insiders speculated that a deal was made to drop Watts in favor of Everett, who has been the most consistent U. S. 400 runner on the European track circuit this summer. Everett, who finished fourth in the TAC championships, placed third in the 400 in Tokyo on Thursday.

“I do have some athletes here that I’ve worked with in the past,” Smith said on NBC. “And it may look like a deal was struck, but basically I feel, and Quincy feels, that you need to have the three best guys out there in America running.”

Craig Masback, a color commentator for NBC, asked rhetorically after the interview that if Watts was too worn out to run the open 400, why was he running the relay?

Watts would have been required to run at least six 400s in an eight-day span had he run in the finals of the 400 and the 1,600 relay.

As it is now, he will run no more than three 400s in a three-day span as a member of the 1,600 relay.

End of the line: Darcy Arreola’s track season apparently came to an end at the World championships Thursday when she failed to advance to the finals of the women’s 1,500 meters.

Arreola--the NCAA Division I champion for Cal State Northridge in June--ran 4 minutes 13.08 seconds to finish sixth in the second heat.

Hassiba Boulmerka of Algeria placed first in 4:08.20.

The top four finishers in each of the three heats, plus the next three fastest finishers, advanced to Saturday’s final.

Arreola had run a personal best of 4:09.32 to finish third in the TAC championships in June to qualify for the U. S. team, but her time Thursday ranked 24th among the 39 competitors.

The track and field season will continue for another three weeks--primarily in Europe--but it is doubtful that Arreola will race any more.

She has competed in 22 races this season, and she said two weeks ago that the World championships would be her final meet of the season.

Toreador update: Cornell Hill and Darnell Hendricks, former multisport athletes at Taft High who excelled in track for the Toreadors, are expected to attend Valley and Pierce, respectively, this fall.

Hill will play football and run track for the Monarchs, and Hendricks apparently will concentrate on football and baseball. Pierce does not have a men’s track team.

Hill placed third in the long jump with a personal best of 24 feet 4 1/4 inches at the state championships in June, and finished second in the City Section meet in May.

Hendricks ran a personal best of 39.34 seconds to finish third in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles at the City meet, despite the fact that he devoted most of his time in the spring to baseball.

Trivia question: Hill moved to fourth on the all-time regional list in the long jump with his performance at the state meet. Who ranks first, second, and third?

Bound for Bakersfield: Erick McBride, the 1990 NCAA Division II champion in the 800 meters as a Cal State Northridge freshman, will run cross-country for Cal State Bakersfield this fall.

McBride, 21, left Northridge for several reasons--including differences with Coach Don Strametz--after the fall semester last year, and attended Antelope Valley College during the spring semester.

“It’s kind of weird being back at a Division II school,” McBride said. “When I left Northridge, I told myself that I was going to do my best to end up at a Division I school, but Bakersfield just appealed to me.”

UCLA, Brigham Young, Wyoming and Georgetown expressed interest in McBride, but the former Palmdale High standout was comfortable with Bakersfield Coach Charlie Craig, who recruited him out of high school.

“I came very close to signing with Bakersfield before I signed with Northridge,” McBride said. “And they’ve kept in touch with me ever since I left Northridge.”

McBride, who has personal bests of 1:49.09 in the 800 (the Northridge school record) and 3:47 in the 1,500, has two seasons of collegiate eligibility left in cross-country and three in track.

Commerical watch: Injuries have prevented Sherri Howard of Sylmar from running competitively in the 400 since 1988, but her lack of exposure on the track does not appear to have hampered the 1980 Kennedy High graduate’s career as a model.

Howard, a three-time Olympian, is one of the featured athletes in a television commercial for Seiko watches, which has aired during coverage of the World track championships.

Proteges: Greg Switzer, a math teacher and the boys’ cross-country coach at Hoover High, must have made a good impression on Dave DeLong and Bryan Lowe when he coached at Burroughs from 1973-84.

DeLong and Lowe, 1979 Burroughs graduates, teach math and coach the cross-country teams at Canyon and Glendale highs.

Last week, the three coaches got together and took their respective teams on a weeklong, joint-training trip to Mammoth Lakes.

Trivia answer: Percy Knox of Antelope Valley, Anthony Bailous of Canoga Park and Paul Jones of Kennedy rank first, second and third on the all-time regional list in the long jump.

Knox, the 1987 state champion, leaped 25-5 1/2 that year. Bailous jumped 24-10 in 1983, and Jones went 24-6 1/2 in ’81.