The Notre Dame High boys' track and field team might be the best dual-meet squad in the region this season, but the Knights are still underdogs to Loyola in the Mission League title race.
Seniors Justin Fargas and Rod Arzu give Notre Dame a superb 1-2 punch in the sprints.
Junior Kevin Lelles and senior Sean Tallungan give the Knights depth in the distance races.
Senior Chris Leon is a quality performer in both the 110-meter high and 300 intermediate hurdles.
Eddie Simon is the defending league champion in the pole vault and fellow seniors Julian Maurel, Dave DeMartinis and Joe Donelly have each cleared 6-2 in the high jump.
Yet Loyola is still the team to beat in the Mission League, according to Notre Dame Coach Joe McNab.
"If everything goes well, then yeah, we could beat them," McNab said. "But everything will have to go well. They've got their whole team back."
Loyola lost its top high jumper and its No. 3 sprinter to graduation, but that was all for the seven-time defending league champion and winner of 64 consecutive dual meets.
Notre Dame, which finished second to Gardena Serra in the 1997 Southern Section Division III championships, lost division 400 champion Chris Forde to graduation, but the Knights shouldn't miss a beat in the sprints.
Fargas, the All-American running back who has signed a letter of intent with Michigan, is the defending state champion in the 100 and will drop the triple jump in favor of the 200 this season.
His personal best of 10.58 seconds in the 100 ranks sixth on the all-time region list and he ran a hand-timed 21.4 in the 200 in a season-opening meet against Westlake last week.
"He wants to run a good 200," McNab said about Fargas. "It's important to him."
Arzu, fourth in the 400 in the Southern Section Division III finals, has run 48.85 in that event and clocked a personal best of 21.9 in the 200 to finish second behind Fargas last week.
Fargas and Arzu will also run legs on the Knights' 400 and 1,600 relay teams that clocked region-leading times of 41.70 and 3:14.53 last year.
Notre Dame finished third in the state championships in the 1,600 relay, but McNab says the Knights can run faster this year.
The performances of athletes such as Lelles, Leon and Simon might ultimately determine whether Notre Dame unseats Loyola as Mission League champion.
Lelles was named to The Times' all-region cross-country team after finishing seventh in the state Division IV championships in November.
Leon has run 15.6 in the 110 highs and 41.50 in the intermediates and Simon has cleared 13-6 in the pole vault.
"If Chris runs well in the hurdles and the distance runners run well and the high jumpers jump well, then we could beat them," McNab said of Notre Dame's dual meet against Loyola. "But it won't be easy. They've got an awful lot of kids."
Teams to watch:
Birmingham--Seniors Demetrus Patterson and Paul Schill are the top returners for a team that has won 78 consecutive dual meets and tied Taft for third in the 1997 City Section championships.
Patterson placed second in the 100 and 200 in the City meet and then tied for sixth in the 100 in the state championships with a wind-aided time of 10.69. He also ran the anchor leg on a 400 relay team that clocked 41.8.
Schill placed fourth in the pole vault in the City finals and has a best of 13-6.
Camarillo--Senior Matt Lea and junior Greg Brown are big reasons the Scorpions have a good chance to win their second consecutive Marmonte League title.
Lea, who won the 500-yard run in the L.A. Invitational indoor meet at the Sports Arena five weeks ago, has already run personal bests of 21.5 in the 200 and 47.7 in the 400 in all-comers meets this year.
Brown won the league title in the 110 high hurdles in a wind-aided 15.12 last year.
Palmdale--Seniors Jason Anderson and Matt Leonard and sophomore Jerrick Holmes each won two individual events in the Golden League finals last year.
Anderson won the 100 and 200 and has bests of 11.06 and 22.1 in those events.
Leonard took the shotput and discus with personal bests of 49-10 and 146-5.
Holmes placed first in the 400 and high jump, events in which he has bests of 50.5 and 6-6.
Taft--Senior twins Larry and Lawrence Jones will give the Toreadors a terrific 1-2 punch in the 200 and 400 meters.
The duo finished first and third in the 400 in last year's City finals with personal bests of 47.80 and 48.12 and they also placed fifth and sixth in the 200.
They'll also team with Sedric Hurns and Blaine Bussey on the 400 and 1,600 relays.
That quartet won the 1,600 relay in the City meet and placed fourth in the state championships with a school record of 3:15.22.
Ventura--Seniors Matt Appel, Hashim Russell and Joe Martinez will try to help the Cougars win their first Channel League title in three years.
Appel is the defending Southern Section Division II champion in the 400 and has personal bests of 48.87 in that event and 22.0 in the 200.
Russell has run 10.8 in the 100 and 22.5 in the 200 and Martinez has a best of 152-0 in the discus.
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AT A GLANCE
* THE PROVEN: Senior Miguel Fletcher of Alemany placed second in the 100 and third in the 200 in the 1997 state championships. His personal bests of 10.47 seconds in the 100 and 21.06 in the 200 rank second on the region's all-time list. Senior Ryan Meuse of Simi Valley is the No. 5 returning 800 runner in the nation with a best of 1:52.57 and finished sixth in the state championships last year. Nordhoff senior Dusty Herman placed second in the West region cross-country championships in December and hopes to break the school record of 9:04.18 in the 3,200 this season. Oxnard senior Desmond Davis is the defending Ventura County champion in the 100 with a best of 10.78.
* THE PROMISING: Freshman Jason Lovell of Cleveland clocked 49.3 in the 400 as an eighth-grader. Junior Brandon Stewart of Harvard-Westlake will try to become one of the top long jumpers in the Southern Section after placing fourth in the 1997 City championships for Taft. Junior Jerome Stevens of Rio Mesa added nearly 4 1/2 feet to his best in the shotput when he won the Don Green Invitational at 53-0 on Saturday.
* FAST FACT: Quincy Watts, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the 400, is the only person to hold region records in more than one boys' event. Watts, who attended Taft, set region bests of 10.30 in the 100 and 20.50 in the 200 in 1987 and clocked 46.67 in the 400 in 1988.