Runyan Got a Heptathlon Record but Certainly Not Her Due

You’d think that setting a national record would be worthy of a mention at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Atlanta.

Marla Runyan certainly did.

But after the Camarillo High graduate ran the fastest 800 meters in U.S. heptathlon history Saturday night, the feat was ignored by meet officials.

“That was so incredibly disheartening,” said Runyan, who is legally blind. “They never announced it was a record. Nobody knew.”


Runyan capped a disappointing performance in the heptathlon--she finished 10th with 5,708 points--by running the 800 in 2 minutes 4.70 seconds, shattering by more than two seconds the record held by Kym Carter.

Runyan said she needed an emotional lift after finishing the first day of the two-day event in 21st place and 200 points short of her goal.

“That’s what made that 2:04 so meaningful,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get 6,000 [points], so I had to focus on breaking the record in the 800.”

An enthusiastic crowd cheered Runyan down the homestretch as she won her heat by more than 10 seconds.

Although officials failed to acknowledge Runyan’s record, other athletes congratulated her. They included Meredith Rainey, who Monday ran the fastest women’s 800 in the world this year (1:57.04) in qualifying for the Olympic team.

“Coming from her, that meant a lot,” Runyan said.

Runyan will go after another record Sunday when she anchors a 1,600-relay team of blind athletes in an attempt to set a national record for the blind. The team will compete only against the clock.

Add Runyan: After doing so well in the 800, Runyan faces a difficult decision: whether to continue competing in the heptathlon or concentrate on the 800.


“To go to one event is very tempting,” she said. “If I specialized in the 800, that would free up a lot of time. Training for the heptathlon is so time-consuming.”

But Runyan, 27, doesn’t expect to give up the heptathlon any time soon. With several of the nation’s top competitors, including Jackie Joyner-Kersee, expected to retire after the Olympics, Runyan said she might stick with the heptathlon.


For old time’s sake: Always a strict disciplinarian, Darryl Stroh retired last month after 27 years as baseball coach at Granada Hills High because, among other things, he was tired of dealing with what he calls a societal decay that affects even high school sports.


For Stroh, times have changed and not for the better. Some might see Stroh as an anachronism but not Dave Schmidt, one of his former players.

Schmidt, an All-City Section pitcher for the Highlanders in 1975 and a former major leaguer, credits Stroh’s approach with helping his development as a player and as a person.

“I know [playing for Stroh] was good for me,” said Schmidt, who recently resigned as UCLA’s pitching coach. “I owe him a lot. . . . I’d be willing to bet that almost every kid who ever played for him would say that it was a good experience.”



Pulling for a friend: Twenty years ago, Diedra Stark coached the Valley College women’s volleyball team to an undefeated season and the state championship.

The star of that team was Gail Castro, who recently made the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball team at age 38.

It wasn’t easy for Stark to watch on television Castro’s final match at the trials in Baltimore.

“It was nerve-racking and very exciting for me,” Stark said. “I am so thrilled and excited for her that she is going to the Olympics. She’s worked so hard for it and deserves it.”


Things to Do

The International Boxing Federation’s junior middleweight title will be at stake Wednesday when P.J. Goossen of North Hollywood takes on Greg Lonon of Las Vegas in a 12-round bout at Warner Center Marriott. Goossen is 16-0 with 11 knockouts. Lonon is 16-6 with 10 KOs. First bell for the seven-bout card is 7:30 p.m.

Sylmar High will host the “War on the Floor” basketball tournament beginning Wednesday. The tournament includes 14 high school teams from the region, including City 3-A runner-up Canoga Park. Pool play will begin at 9 a.m. Championship-bracket play will begin June 29 and will conclude with a championship game July 1. Admission is $3, $1 for children 12 and under.

Contributing: Fernando Dominguez, Rob Fernas, Irene Garcia, Paige A. Leech.