Silent Running Is Her Strong Suit : Girls' track: Fountain Valley's Elinor Tolson, the county's top hurdler, expects to be faster and more outgoing this season.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The scene was repeated often last spring:

There was Elinor Tolson of Fountain Valley High School pulling away from the field, running to another decisive victory in the 100- or 300-meter low hurdles.

There was a pack of reporters waiting nearby to get a few insightful words on how the race progressed for Tolson.

Looking shy and withdrawn, Tolson answered in quiet tones, careful never to reveal too much with her responses.

Fast but quiet has always been the best description of Tolson, who has been Orange County's best hurdler since she was a freshman.

How fast?

Her 43.25-second mark for the 300 lows, set while winning the Masters Meet last year, is the third-fastest time in county history. And her 14.29 in the 100 lows, though wind-aided, isn't far off the county record of 14.00.

How quiet?

When Tolson's parents moved to Fountain Valley in April, 1990, Tolson said she wouldn't transfer from La Quinta to Fountain Valley.

She said Fountain Valley was "a big school with stuck-up people" and she wasn't going to transfer to a school where she knew no one.

When Al Tolson finally got his daughter enrolled at Fountain Valley, she was determined not to like the place. But it wasn't long before she changed her mind. Certainly her running never suffered, not with Sharon Hatfield around to help coach the Fountain Valley hurdlers.

After all, it's Hatfield's county record in the 300 hurdles that Tolson is chasing this season. Hatfield ran 42.55 for Fountain Valley in 1982, then became an All-American in the heptathlon at USC.

Hatfield said last year she believed Tolson will break her record and the 100 hurdles record, too. Watching Tolson run in early-season workouts and at the Sunkist Invitational--where she won the 50-meter hurdles in 7.51--has only reinforced Hatfield's beliefs.

"I know they're going this year--both of 'em," Hatfield said. "Her times so far have been so much faster than at this time last year, so I can only imagine how fast she can go."

As a freshman at La Quinta, Tolson had bests of 14.51 in the 100 hurdles, which led the county, and 44.91 for the 300 hurdles, which was fourth best. She went on to finish ninth in the State 100 hurdles final.

Her sophomore season was even better. In addition to bests of 14.29 and 43.25, she placed third in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 100s at the State meet.

Along the way, Tolson also:

--Won the Orange County championships in both events.

--Won the open 100-meter hurdles at the Arcadia Invitational.

--Won the 200 meters and both hurdle races at the Sunset League finals. The second-place finisher in the 100 hurdles was more than one second behind, and the runner-up in the 300 hurdles was three seconds back.

Now a junior, Tolson has run faster and undergone some changes in her personality, according to Hatfield.

Can it be?

Will we see a faster, more gregarious Elinor Tolson this season?

"She's turned over a new leaf," Hatfield said. "I think it has something to do with her settling in (at Fountain Valley). I think you'll see a difference in her this year."

1992 Girls' Track and Field Preview

Top teams: Mission Viejo, Newport Harbor, Orange Lutheran, Woodbridge.

Top athletes: Denisha Bendz (Costa Mesa), distances; Andrea Bill (University), throws; Barbara Boisvert (Orange Lutheran), distances; Tanja Brix (University), distances; Tracy Broughton (Irvine), high jump; Wendy Brown (Woodbridge), high jump; Lindsey Curtis (Newport Harbor), hurdles; Andrea Dean (Mission Viejo), sprints; Katy Eklof (Costa Mesa), distances; Christie Engesser (Ocean View), middle distance; Rajai Espinoza (Dana Hills), middle distance; Carrie Garritson (Sunny Hills), distances; Jennifer Gillis (Irvine), middle distance; Gina Heads (Newport Harbor), throws; Carrie Hoagland (Canyon), high jump; Cavetra Mitchell (Los Alamitos), sprints; Darci Morrison (Laguna Hills), high jump; Amber Parkinson (Orange Lutheran), distances; Kelly Roda (Irvine), middle distance; Heather Sterlin (Mission Viejo), jumps; Shelley Taylor (Edison), distances; Elinor Tolson (Fountain Valley), hurdles; Misha Wilson-Duval (Woodbridge), sprints.

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: Woodbridge's Wilson-Duval, a freshman, and Newport Harbor's Curtis, a sophomore, have been the season's early surprises. Wilson-Duval won the 100 meters at the Irvine Invitational in a swift 12.91 seconds Saturday. Curtis won the 300-meter low hurdles in 48.54 at Irvine. . . . And about the veterans: Edison's Taylor was the national leader at 1,600 meters for a brief period last season and later improved her personal best to 4:52.68. She also had a county-best of 2:12.68 in the 800 last season. Since then, she won the CIF State Division II cross-country championship, leading the Chargers to the team title last fall, and Monday said she'll continue her career at Arkansas. . . . Sunny Hills' Garritson ran 10:45.7 to win the Sunkist Invitational two-mile Feb. 15, the second-fastest indoor time in the country this winter. She was fifth in the State meet 3,200 meters in 10:39.17 last year. And to think, she's only a sophomore.

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