Aaron Taub, a senior at Foothill High School, has set two big goals for the upcoming track and field season.
First, he wants to break 48 seconds for 400 meters.
Second, he wants to be able to touch his toes.
A slow, patient buildup to the Southern Section championships in May, as preached by Foothill assistant coach Tom Fitzgerald, should take care of the first order of business. Except for that time in the rain in India, running has always seemed to come easily to Taub. But more about that later.
The second item could prove more difficult, and probably more embarrassing for Taub. Flexibility is always an area of some concern for sprinters looking to improve by fractions of seconds. Taub has taken a yoga class in order to help, but it seems he's still a few inches short when he bends over to reach those elusive toes.
Now about that episode in India. . . .
Taub and his younger brother, Ethan, joined their father for an around-the-world-on-$20-a-day trip after Taub's sophomore year at Foothill. He seldom ran while traveling, but once found occasion to jog with his brother in a grove of coconut trees in India.
Not long after setting out at a modest pace in the suffocating heat, it began to rain. And the sweet Indian rain, apparently stronger than Southern California rain, began knocking the coconuts off the trees and onto the heads of Taubs.
Just when it couldn't get any stranger, it did.
A hog appeared from nowhere and began to chase the brothers.
"I mean, we really ran hard ," Aaron Taub said.
Normally, such an experience wouldn't qualify one to be Orange County's top 400-meter runner. Dodging coconuts and sprinting away from hogs in the wilds of India isn't a sure-fire way to reach greatness in track and field, but, heck, it can't hurt.
It certainly makes for interesting conversation with strangers. And it--the trip around the world, not just the escape in India--marked a turning point in Taub's life.
He said he became a better student and began to take track more seriously when he returned. After all, Taub was a year older and a year wiser.
Now 19, Taub had to get special clearance to compete this season. The NCAA allows Division I athletes to complete four seasons of eligibility in five years, but the Southern Section generally does not. Taub was an exception, however.
He wants to make the most of his senior season. Last year was only the beginning of what he hopes will be a long track career that will extend into college.
As a junior, he was third in the section 3-A championship, running a personal-best 48.75. He also anchored Foothill to a fifth-place finish in the State 1,600 relay in 3:18.35, which surprised many.
"Foothill has never really been a sprint school before," Knight Coach Jerry Whitaker said. "People are used to thinking of us as a distance- and field-events school, but we've become a speed school."
Taub is hardly satisfied with such distinction, however. Though he was fast last season, he often trailed in the wake of Roshawn Sims of Esperanza. Now, Sims has graduated and Taub hopes to become the county's best.
But, by design, it won't happen right away.
"I told (Fitzgerald) I wanted to break 49 last week," Taub said. "He said, 'If you do, you won't be doing anything later on. If you're smart about it, you'll make the State final.' "
So Taub is determined to wait for the fast times this season. He knows that a sub-48 clocking will come if he's patient. Finally stretching his fingers to his toes might be another story, however.
1992 Boys' Track and Field Preview
Top teams: Foothill, Irvine, Saddleback, Woodbridge.
Top athletes: Kevin Alexander (Valencia), sprints, relays; Korey Alexander (Valencia), sprints, relays; Brian Carlson (Katella), high jump; Charlie Davidson (Saddleback), hurdles; Andy Frogue (El Toro), middle distance; Tad Heath (Foothill), middle distance, relays; Travis Kirschke (Esperanza), throws; Chris Lynch (Laguna Hills), distances; Jeff Lynn (Mission Viejo), distances; Terry Mann (Sunny Hills), high jump; Greg Muniz (Woodbridge), hurdles; Jon Peck (Irvine), hurdles; Aaron Taub (Foothill), sprints, relays; Ethan Taub (Foothill), sprints, relays; Jeff Waldren (Cypress), high jump.
Important dates: Tustin Relays, March 27-28; Trabuco Hills Invitational, April 4; Arcadia Invitational, April 11; Mt. San Antonio College Relays, April 17-18; Orange County championships, Trabuco Hills HS, April 25; League finals week (Southern Section qualifying), May 4-8; Southern Section divisional preliminaries, various sites, May 15-16; Southern Section divisional finals, Cerritos College, May 23; Masters Meet (CIF State meet qualifying), Cerritos College, May 29; CIF State meet, Cerritos College, June 5-6.
Notes: No question about it, this has the makings of a disappointing boys' track and field season in Orange County. But it's not as if it comes as any surprise. After all, you could spot the gaping holes last June, when many longtime standouts graduated. Among the county's individual event leaders, only Woodbridge's Muniz returns for his senior season. Everyone else is gone. . . . Among those especially worth watching are the relays teams from Foothill, with Taub anchoring, and Valencia, with the Alexander brothers. . . . Saddleback's Davidson, a season-long runner-up to Huntington Beach's Adrian Brown in 1991, appears to be among the brightest individual talents this year. He broke the Sunkist Invitational indoor meet record in the 50-meter hurdles with a 6.80-second clocking Feb. 15. . . . Laguna Hills' Lynch led the Hawks to the CIF State Division III cross-country title and ran a personal-best 9:33.8 for two miles at Sunkist. . . . Katella's Carlson is the younger brother of Kevin Carlson, who last year improved his county record to 7-1 in the high jump.