Dorsey’s Gettis Is Going Somewhere Fast

Times Staff Writer

Traditional track and field wisdom says you don’t run your first high school race in the middle of April and win a state championship only eight weeks later.

It says you don’t cut more than two seconds off your best time in the 400 meters in the last three weeks of the high school season.

And it certainly says that if you want to run a career best in the USA Track & Field Youth Athletics championships that start Wednesday at the University at Buffalo in Amherst, N.Y., you shouldn’t have spent more time playing football in the previous three weeks than you did running intervals on the track.

But David Gettis, who will be a junior in the fall at Los Angeles Dorsey High, did not have a traditional track season -- his first -- this year.


His lack of experience, however, didn’t prevent him from winning the state title in the boys’ 400 or from slashing his best time in the 400 from a hand-timed 49.2 seconds to a fully automatic 47.14 in the final three weeks of the prep season.

“It’s an accomplishment,” Gettis said about winning the state title.

“But for me to come out late and accomplish what I did still seems kind of unreal.”

The 6-foot-2, 193-pound Gettis attended Los Angeles Price until enrolling in the college prep academic program at Dorsey as a sophomore.


He began playing football at an organized level when he was 10, but had never run track until he was encouraged to do so by Paul Knox, the head football and girls’ track coach at Dorsey.

Gettis’ first race was a promising 51.2-second clocking in a 400 in an all-comers meet, but because he was academically ineligible, he didn’t run his first official race for Dorsey until the Arcadia Invitational in April.

Gettis had a 49.9-second split while running the first leg for Dorsey’s 1,600 relay team in the seeded race of the Arcadia Invitational on April 12 and ran a then-career-best 49.2 to win the San Fernando Valley Invitational at Lake Balboa Birmingham two weeks later.

That remained his best until he clocked 48.14 to finish second in a qualifying heat of the City Section preliminaries at Birmingham on May 22.

He ran 47.99 to place third in the City championships a week later before clocking 47.14 -- the fastest time in the state this year -- in a qualifying heat of the state championships at Cerritos College on June 6.

He won the final in 47.41 the next day to become one of the most surprising champions in the 85-year-old meet.

“David is a competitor, that’s the best thing he is,” said Ralph Tilley, Dorsey’s boys’ track coach. “He likes to win. He’s just a young kid who likes to stop and shoot jump shots on the way to track practice, but once you get him out there on the track, he’s fine.”

James Robertson, a coach who worked with Gettis at Dorsey as well as with the Los Angeles Jets youth team this summer, says Gettis is extremely raw and strong.


“His biggest strength is his strength,” Robertson said. “He didn’t have much of [an endurance] base this year but still ran 47.14. If he has a big base next year, he could run 46.15 or even in the high 45s.”

Gettis, expected to be a starting wide receiver and defensive back for Dorsey’s varsity football team in the fall, says he won’t let success go to his head.

“I’m not going to slack off or anything,” he said. “I’m not going to take any of my competitors lightly. Even if I go into a race against a guy with the slowest time in the world, I’m going to look at him as someone who could beat me if I don’t get after it.

“I know what it’s like to win a state title and I don’t want to be there next year and have some young guy, like I was this year, come up and beat me.”


Track and Field

* What: USA Track & Field Youth Athletics championships.

* Where: University at Buffalo, Amherst, N.Y.


* When: Wednesday through Sunday.

* Fast facts: State champions David Gettis of Los Angeles Dorsey, Jasmine Lee of Long Beach Poly and Ashley Freeman and MacKenzie Hill of Long Beach Wilson are among more than 20 high school athletes from the Southland scheduled to compete.