Mt. SAC Relays Are a Breath of Fresh Air

The national governing body for track and field fired Executive Director Ollan Cassell, but he hasn't begun to clean out his desk in Indianapolis because the organization doesn't have enough money to buy him out of his contract.

The Bruce Jenner Invitational in San Jose, one of the United States' most prestigious meets, couldn't attract a sponsor and was canceled. So was a meet in New Orleans, scheduled to be one of only two in the country on the international Grand Prix circuit.

Even the president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, questioned during a meeting with reporters recently whether track and field has a pulse in the United States.

I wish he could see the Mt. San Antonio College Relays. Each time I cover the meet, my faith is renewed that the sport can be vital here even in a non-Olympic year.

The setting among the green, rolling hills of Walnut is picturesque; the stands are crowded; and the elite athletes, accustomed to big paydays in Europe, are compensated only for their expenses.

A regular among them for a decade and a half has been Carl Lewis. He ran at Mt. SAC for the last time Sunday before his retirement later this year, leading the Santa Monica Track Club to victories in two relays.

He will be remembered as the winner of nine Olympic gold medals. But I will remember him equally because of his appreciation for the sport in which he excelled. Sure, he has been a self-promoter. Track and field is an individual sport. But he has been more outspoken on behalf of the sport, voicing his concerns about too much drugs and too little promotion.

He's going to be missed, unless he decides to contribute from behind a desk. There's an opening in Indianapolis if he can buy out the executive director.

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The Angels have at least one consistent starter, Jason Dickson. Despite Troy Percival's injury, they also have found a couple of closers. Allen Watson and Chuck Finley were in that Missouri casino Friday at 4:45 a.m. . . .

I know the National League pitching is better than the American League's. You know it. But try telling that to Kenny Lofton, Michael Tucker and John Olerud. In their first month in the NL, they're among the league's top 10 hitters. . . .

The Seahawks' move to Los Angeles could still happen if they don't get approval to build a new stadium in Seattle. With Shawn Springs and Walter Jones, they'd be more attractive additions to our community than they would have been a year ago. . . .

Of course, they wouldn't have Paul Allen's Microsoft money to pay the two high first-round draft choices. He's activating his option to buy the Seahawks only if they remain in Seattle. . . .

Springs, the Ohio State cornerback, says he promised Keith Poole one catch if the Arizona State wide receiver wouldn't block him below the knees in this year's Rose Bowl game. . . .

Poole caught one pass. . . .

The best matchup in the NFL could be Orlando Pace's agent, Kevin Poston, vs. the protector of Georgia Frontiere's money, John Shaw. . . .

They can have those headlines in St. Louis. . . .

Jonathan Ogden, the former UCLA offensive tackle who proved the Baltimore Ravens didn't make a mistake by taking him in the first round last year, was at Mt. SAC on Sunday to watch Bruin track and field teammates John Godina and Mark Parlin in the throws. . . .

UCLA had no players drafted this year for the first time since 1942. . . .

USC football fans hope they saw their quarterback of the future in Saturday's spring game. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson allowed highly recruited Jason Thomas, the 6-foot-5 high school junior from Dominguez Hills, to eavesdrop on a few huddles. . . .

I'm pretty sure Henry Bibby could also find a place for Thomas on his basketball team. . . .

Pernell Whitaker saved his best shots against Oscar De La Hoya for those full-page advertisements Sour Pea bought last week in the Times and La Opinion. . . .

Magic Johnson was busy playing for the Harlem Globetrotters when he should have been attending to his duties as Shaquille O'Neal's free-throw coach. Shaq said last week he had improved from the line because Johnson advised him, "Bend your knees and shoot up." . . .

That's directly opposed to the counsel Australia Davis Cup Captain John Newcombe gave his hung-over players during a recent match. He told them, "Don't throw up."

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While wondering if Taco Bell's stock will plummet today, I was thinking: Wake me when De La Hoya fights Felix Trinidad, Guy Hebert needs to pick up his offense, and the Cubs were more fun when they were losing.

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