All-American sprinter Bryan Howard of Moreno Valley Canyon Springs High figured all he needed was a good start in his bid to break the State track and field meet record in the 100 meters.
Such anticipation proved detrimental, however, as Howard jumped the gun in Saturday's final and was disqualified.
The State meet crowd of 10,000 at Cerritos College booed loudly as a meet official picked up Howard's starting block and told him to leave the track.
"The starter just held us too long in the blocks," said Howard, the defending State champion in the 100, who entered the final with the nation's fastest prep time this season in 10.32 seconds. "When you hold runners that long, someone is bound to jump. I didn't think I was the first to go, so I wasn't happy at all about the call."
Howard's absence opened the door for Pat Johnson of Redlands, a football player-turned-sprinter who gained national prominence earlier this season after several impressive races. He won going away in 10.43, far off the State record of 10.30 set by Riley Washington of Chula Vista Southwest in 1992.
"I didn't let Bryan's false start bother me," said Johnson, who will continue his football and track career at Oregon. "Everyone was so edgy at the start, I knew someone would jump. I just stayed still and tried to keep focused."
Howard, a junior, had a chance for redemption an hour later in the 200. Although he got the quick start he was looking for earlier, Howard ran out of gas down the stretch and was edged at the tape by Johnson, 21.01 to 21.14.
"I guess I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today," said Howard, who also finished second in the 200 at the State meet last year. "I was still upset about the 100 and just ran a stupid race. I went out too hard and didn't have enough at the end."
The 100 and 200 highlighted a meet in which no records were set. Even the team title races were less exciting than anticipated.
In the boys' team competition, Pasadena Muir ran away with the title with 36 points. Redlands and San Diego tied for second with 20.
Oakland Skyline won its first girls' team title with 36 points and Oakland Bishop O'Dowd was second with 32. Long Beach Poly, the two-time defending champion, finished third with 24.
Muir won its first title since 1990 behind a strong performance from Ken Haslip. The USC-bound senior won the 300-intermediate hurdles and finished third in the 110-high hurdles. He also ran on the Mustangs' 1,600 and 400 relays, which finished first and second, respectively.
"Everyone came through today, and we scored as I expected," said Muir Coach Clyde Turner. "There were no major disappointments."
The Long Beach Poly girls were favored to make it three consecutive titles, but they could not overcome the loss of All-American sprinter Andrea Anderson. Anderson re-aggravated a left hamstring injury during a preliminary heat in the 200 on Friday and sat out Saturday.
Besides Johnson, San Diego High's Mebrahtom Keflezighi was the only other individual double-event winner. The Eritrean-born Keflezighi started off with a victory in the 1,600 in 4:07.67 and added another in the 3,200 in 8:58.11.