PREP TRACK PREVIEW / CITY SECTION CHAMPIONSHIPS : Banner Hopes to Clear Way for Fast Start by Birmingham

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a linebacker on the Birmingham High football team, Raymond Banner set the tone for the defense with some vicious hits.

As a hurdler on the track team, he will try to set a victorious tone for the Braves at Birmingham today when they attempt to win their first City Section track championship.

The field events will start at 3 p.m., the running events at 4:30.

Banner, the defending City champion in the 110-meter high hurdles, is favored to win that event and the 300 intermediate hurdles. He also will run legs for the Braves' 400 and 1,600 relay teams.

The high hurdles will be the first running event. A win by Banner could ignite Birmingham on its way to a title. A loss could derail the team, but the 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior seems unfazed by that possibility.

"I'm looking forward to the (City finals)," Banner said. "I really don't feel that much pressure. I've run my best times in the big invitational races this season."

Banner has personal bests of 14.2 seconds in the high hurdles and 39.36 in the intermediates. Expected to challenge Banner in the high hurdles is junior Drue Powell of Reseda. Westchester senior Chris Hunt is Banner's chief rival in the intermediates.

"You can't worry too much about the other guys in the hurdles," Banner said. "You've just got to concentrate on your own race. It's not that I don't respect my opponents, because I do, but the hurdles is just a very technical event."

Birmingham, which finished second to Locke in last year's City meet, and Dorsey are the teams to beat. Locke and Belmont also appear capable of winning.

Birmingham junior Alvaro Mejia and sophomore James Lincoln also are favored to win events.

Mejia has the fastest times in the City in the 1,600 (4 minutes 23.85 seconds) and 3,200 (9:35.26). Lincoln is the City co-leader in the high jump (6 feet 7 1/4 inches) with Monroe junior Jeff Nadeau.

The sprints could be the make-or-break events for Birmingham.

Junior Tony Serpas could finish first in the 100 and second in the 200 (behind favorite Amado Coleman of Locke). Senior Mike Moguel, third in the 400 in last year's City meet, had the fifth-fastest qualifying time (a tie) in that event last week, but it was only five-hundredths slower than the No. 2 time.

"We're not going to be in awe of anyone this year," Moguel said.

North Hollywood junior Oshonda Posey has qualified for the girls' finals in the 100, 100 low hurdles and 300 low hurdles.

DORSEY SEEKS HAPPY ENDING: Dorsey High's athletic program has had a roller-coaster year, but 1991-92 could end on an up note with boys' and girls' City Section track titles. C11

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