With 300 meters left in the Southern Section 3-A girls' 800-meter final Saturday, Shelley Taylor tested her kick a bit and began to slice into Christie Engesser's 10-meter lead. All the way down the backstretch at Cerritos College, Taylor chipped away, slowly but surely reeling in Engesser.
Midway through the final turn, Taylor stomped the gas one last time, swept past Engesser and headed for the finish line and the seventh, and final, section championship in her four-year career at Edison High School.
Her winning time was 2 minutes 11.59 seconds, just off her goal of 2:10, but a personal record, the second-best time in the state and No. 3 in the nation this year.
Coupled with a victory in the 1,600 meters two hours earlier, Taylor once again showed why she has reigned supreme in the middle distances for the past four years.
Engesser, an Ocean View junior who finished a well-beaten second in 2:13.38, took the 800 field through the halfway point in a blazing 61 seconds in hopes of burning off Taylor. It didn't work.
"The last 400 . . . Shelley's just so strong," Engesser said. "Shelley had a great double."
In the 1,600, the pack boxed Taylor in for the first 800 and plodded along at a modest, five-minute pace. But in the end that ploy didn't work either.
She merely slowed a bit, let the box slip past, worked her way to the outside, then shot past the others. Only Amy Skieresz, a tough-minded freshman from Agoura, stayed remotely close over the final two laps. Taylor's winning time was 4:55.58. Skieresz finished second in 4:57.77.
"Actually, it was a very comfortable, nice, easy pace," said Taylor, whose personal-best for 1,600 is 4:51.98, set in winning the Arcadia Invitational last month.
And now the big question: Will she run both the 800 and the 1,600 at the Masters meet next week?
"Probably, not," she said. "But I'm pretty happy to get a PR in the 800 today."
Like Taylor, Charlie Davidson went to the starting line bent on smashing his personal best. Winning is important to Davidson, but after laying waste to the boys' 3-A 110-meter high hurdles field, he is still waiting for that elusive clocking of less than 14 seconds.
His winning time of 14.29 was his second-fastest this season behind a 14.22 at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays on April 17. Richard Ford of Diamond Bar was second in 14.73, Greg Muniz of Woodbridge was third in a personal-best 14.84 and Dion Manly of Diamond Bar was fourth in 15.00.
Later, Muniz defeated Ford and Davidson in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, running 38.41. Ford was second in 38.73 with Davidson third in 38.87.
"I was kind of nervous because I felt like everybody was coming after me," Muniz said. "I felt it was my race to lose."
For the first time in four seasons the county did not win a team championship. Last year, Orange Lutheran won the girls' 1-A title, and Esperanza won consecutive boys' 3-A championships in 1989 and 1990.
Saturday, Valencia finished second to Inglewood Morningside in the boys' 2-A, Santa Ana Valley was second to La Puente Nogales in the boys' 3-A and Edison finished second behind Thousand Oaks in the girls' 3-A.
But that was the best county teams could do.
Other noteworthy county champions:
--Heather Sterlin of Mission Viejo won the girls' 4-A long jump by leaping 19 feet 1 3/4 inches, short of her county-leading mark of 19-6 but good enough to win by 10 inches Saturday. Moreover, Sterlin's four-jump series was highly impressive. She jumped 18-7 1/4 off the wrong foot, then followed with leaps of 19-1 3/4, 18-5 1/4 and 18-7 1/2.
Cheaza Figueroa of Quartz Hill jumped 18-3 1/4 to take second.
--Marina's Tony Parrish cranked out a personal-best 47-1 1/2 on his final jump and won the boys' 3-A triple jump. Parrish's previous best was 46-10 1/4 at the Orange County championships last month. Willie Farrow of Nogales was second with a jump of 46-3 3/4.
--Carrie Garritson of Sunny Hills won the girls' 2-A 3,200 in 10:55.07, and Tanja Brix of University, won the 3-A 3,200 in 10:55.86.
Fillmore's Maribella Aparicio won the 1-A in 10:41.88, the fastest time of the day. Brix's time was a seasonal best, bettering her previous best of 11:08.95 set in the preliminaries last week at Trabuco Hills.
--Foothill's 1,600-meter relay team of Nate Kuchera, Ethan Taub, Tad Heath and Aaron Taub lowered their school record to 3:16.64 in winning the 3-A race. Foothill's previous best was 3:17.09 at Mt. SAC last month. The victory also kept the relay team's unbeaten streak alive this season.
Foothill's Century League rival Santa Ana Valley was second in a season-best 3:20.21.
The top nine performers, regardless of division, advanced to the Masters meet next Friday at Cerritos College. Field events begin at 5:30 p.m., running events at 7.