Westchester sprinter Kaaron Conwright acted like a Top Fuel dragster exploding off the starting line in the 100-meter finals of the CIF State Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Cerritos College.
"From what I was told I was in the lead for the first 50 meters," Conwright said after the race.
The city champion, however, felt more like a diesel truck at the halfway point. Passing Conwright was Marques Holiwell of West Bakersfield, followed by James Hinex of Grant, Bryan Harrison of Dana Hills and Vince Williams of University City.
"Other runners were switching to their second gear while I was still in first," Conwright said. "The race was decided by who had the best passing gears. It was obvious I didn't have it."
Holiwell won the race in 10.43. Conwright finished fifth at 10.71.
Considering this is the first season he ran without injuries, Conwright is proud of his performance.
The 5-foot-7, 155-pound running back hurt his right ankle during the 1993 football season. He also suffered shin splints during last year's track season.
"I know I'm capable of running a 10.5," Conwright said. "I also know what it takes to run 10.2 and 10.3."
Conwright signed to play football at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also has been courted by scouts who want to sign him to a minor-league baseball contract.
It's hard to keep up with Conwright, who will learn to change gears.
BACK TO TRACK
The most impressive performance at the state meet came from La Troya Mucker, who overcame a foot injury.
Mucker ran 24.50 to finish sixth in the 200 and 12.07 to take eighth in the 100. She also set a school-record 12.03 Friday in a qualifying heat. Mucker, who bruised her foot, managed only second-place finishes in the 100 and 200 during the city finals. St. Bernard's Malika Edmonson ran 55.40 to finish sixth in the 400 meters. She had the second-fastest qualifying time of 56.52 on Friday.
In boys races, Fairfax's Jason Lewis ran 37.70 to finish fourth in the 300 intermediate hurdles. Palisades distance runner Peter Gilmore ran 9:37.83 and finished 21st.
Josh Johnson, the son of Olympic gold medal decathlete Rafer Johnson, is a member of the UCLA men's track team, which finished second last week in the NCAA Track and Field Championships at Knoxville, Tenn.
Johnson, the former Windward High multi-sport star, threw the javelin 220 feet, 3 inches, finishing 12th. The red-shirt freshman qualified with a personal best of 229-5.
Johnson did not compete in track at Windward. Instead, he excelled in football, lacrosse, basketball and soccer.
UCLA had four individual winners to lead the men's team to a second-place finish. Arkansas scored 61 1/2 points and finished first for the fourth consecutive season. The Bruins had 55 points.
Bruin senior John Godina won two events: the shot put, with a collegiate record of 72-2 1/4, and the discus with a toss of 202-4. He was selected the 1995 male athlete of the year by the United States Track Coaches Assn.
In the javelin, Bruin senior Greg Johnson won on his last throw, 244-3. Junior Ato Boldon won the 200 meters in a track-record 20.24.
In women's competition, LSU had 69 points while winning its ninth consecutive team title. UCLA finished second with 58.
Senior Dawn Dumble won the discus at 187-2 and junior Valeyta Althouse won the shot put in a meet-record 59-11 3/4.
Sophomore Amy Acuff won the high jump at 6-5, a track and meet record.
UCLA's Bob Larsen was selected the men's national coach of the year by the United States Track Coaches Assn. and former Bruin All-American and Olympic gold medalist Jeanette Bolden was named the District 8 women's coach of the year for leading the UCLA women. Bolden was a member of the United States gold-medal 400 relay team during the 1984 Olympics.
At least five local baseball players were selected last week in the major league amateur draft.
St. Bernard pitcher/outfielder Brandon Pernell was drafted in the 19th round and was signed by the San Diego Padres. Pernell batted .407 with six home runs and 30 runs batted in. He had a 7-4 record with a 2.41 earned-run average.
Pernell said it was a tough decision to give up a baseball scholarship to the University of Miami so he could sign with the Padres.
"I played summer ball with the Padres and I really like the team," said Pernell, who will report Tuesday to the Padres' rookie team in Peoria, Ariz. "I decided I wanted to keep playing baseball throughout the year and not go to school. It was a hard decision to make."
St. Bernard's outfielder Dion Battee was taken in the 32nd round by the Florida Marlins. Battee batted .402 this season with nine home runs and 34 RBI. He is a candidate for The Times' Westside Player of the Year.
Ten Vikings have been drafted in the last 10 years.
Another player-of-the-year candidate, St. Monica's Carlos Casillas, was drafted in the 20th round by the Baltimore Orioles.
Pepperdine had two outfielders drafted by the Oakland A's. Ryan Christenson, the West Coast Conference player of the year, was selected in the 10th round. Christenson led the WCC with a .379 batting average. David Newhan, who had a .367 batting average, was taken in the 17th round.
UCLA shortstop Gar Vallone was drafted by the California Angels in the 24th round. Vallone batted .292 with eight home runs and 34 RBI.
Brentwood's tennis championship was such big news that even a local radio station talked about the win on Tuesday.
During his popular morning radio show on KIIS-FM (102.7), disc jockey Rick Dees praised the Eagles' performance and then made jokes about the highly affluent private school.
After hearing the school's enrollment cost, Dees remarked, "Who do they have as tennis coach, Roscoe Tanner?"
Actually Tanner, the former men's pro, could not do any better than Brentwood Coach Keith Sarkisian.
In his second year as coach, Sarkisian guided the Eagles to their second consecutive Southern Section Division III boys' title. The top-seeded Eagles defeated Etiwanda, 13-5, May 31.
Junior Scott Borenstein swept his three singles matches to lead the Eagles (19-3). Borenstein has lost only one singles match all season.
Former West Los Angeles baseball coach Art Harris was inducted into the California Community College Baseball Coaches' Hall of Fame last week.
Harris, 57, the only baseball coach in West L.A. history, was honored in conjunction with the state final four playoffs in Fresno.
"I am grateful that this comes 10 years after we shut down the [baseball] program," Harris said. "It is extra special to be selected by your peers, the people you played against and worked with. . . . It is so gratifying to know that they think you did well."
Harris, who also coached at Fairfax and Venice highs, had a 222-57 record as a high school coach. He had a 10-year record of 274-139 at West L.A.
When the program was discontinued in 1985, Harris remained to teach at the school. He also scouts for the Dodgers.
The Southern Section rules allow for a three-week window that provides football coaches with a look-see at next season's gridiron prospects. From May 15 until the end of the school year, coaches may conduct 15 after-school practice sessions. There is no Sunday practice and players are not allowed to wear pads.
"It's a great chance for coaches to evaluate talent, or for new coaches to get to know their personnel," Southern Section Commissioner Dean Crowley said.
Other late-spring and summer opportunities come in the form of passing leagues, football camps and the Watts Summer Games.