Double Jeopardy

Times Staff Writer

One has been the top-ranked female sprinter in the world for six consecutive seasons and is arguably the most popular track and field athlete on the planet.

The other holds the U.S. record in the women's discus throw.

Yet, Marion Jones and Suzy Powell could see their reigns as national high school record-holders come to an end this year if Allyson Felix of North Hills L.A. Baptist and Billie Jo Grant of Arroyo Grande continue their steady improvement.

Jones, who became the only woman to win five track and field medals in the same Olympics at Sydney in 2000, set the national high school record of 22.58 seconds in the girls' 200 meters when she was a junior at Thousand Oaks in 1992.

Powell, who set the U.S. record in the discus at 227 feet 10 inches last year, set a national high school record of 188-4 in the same event during her senior season at Modesto Downey in 1994.

Felix, who has signed with USC, moved to third on the all-time national performer list in the 200 last year when she won the state title in 22.83 while running into a wind of 1.3 meters per second.

A hamstring injury suffered in the final meters of that race hampered her in the U.S. and World junior championships last summer, but she is light years ahead of where she was at this point last season.

That was evident Sunday, when she ran a national high school indoor record of 23.14 in the 200 to finish second in the USA Track & Field championships at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center at Roxbury, Mass.

Her top-two finish qualified her for the U.S. team that will run in the World Indoor championships at Birmingham, England, from March 14-16 and her time was more than half a second faster than her 23.68 indoor best set on a 200-meter track last year.

"I'd definitely like to make an attempt at it and run faster than last year," Felix said when asked about Jones' record. "It would definitely mean a lot [to break the record] because she holds it."

Grant's best throw of 176-10 ties her for 13th on the all-time national list. Like Felix, she is ahead of where she was a year ago.

She set a meet record of 168-5 to win the discus competition of the L.A. Invitational at USC last month after throwing 145-1 last year.

"My goal for this year is 195," said the Arizona-bound Grant, who improved her best by 21 feet last year. "But I won't base the success of my season on whether I get the record or not. I just want to continue to get better."


Felix and Grant are not the only girls from the Southland with legitimate chances at breaking a national high school record this year.

Long Beach Poly could also set national bests in the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays, as could Long Beach Wilson in the 1,600 relay.

Poly ran nation-leading times of 45.32 in the 400 relay, 1:36:11 in the 800 relay and 3:35.99 in the 1,600 relay last year to move to 10th, fourth and second, respectively, on the all-time national lists. And all of the members from those teams will return.

Junior Shalonda Solomon was second to Felix in the 100 and 200 in the state championships last year and USC-bound teammate Dominique Dorsey was third in the 200. But junior Jasmine Lee has been the team's top performer during the indoor season, running a career-best 23.55 to defeat Felix in the Simplot Games at Idaho State last month.

Ashley Freeman, who has signed with Stanford, will lead a Wilson 1,600 relay team that could break the school and national record of 3:35.72 set in 2001.


Either Long Beach Poly or Riverside North have won or shared each of the last six state championships, so it should come as no surprise that those two schools are expected to battle for the state title at Cerritos College in Norwalk on June 6-7.

Poly, which was upset by North for the state title last year, will be led by Solomon, Dorsey and Lee.

North, which has won three of the last four state titles, will be paced by seniors Ashlee Brown and Lena Bettis.

Brown is the two-time defending state champion in the 300 low hurdles and Bettis is the defending state champion in the long jump.

Both have signed with Penn State.

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