Knowles, Niederhaus pick up wins

Once considered a Southern Section small high-school gathering, the 69th annual Pasadena Games took on a much larger profile in Saturday afternoon's second and final day of races at Pasadena City College.

One of the biggest changes occurred with the appearance of Olympic and U.S. National Team runners, who competed throughout the course of the day.

Perhaps the most touted event was the open 400-meter relay.

The Nike Team that ran in the fifth lane consisted of starter Jason Richardson (2011 110-meter hurdle World Champion), Richard Thompson (second at 2008 Olympics in the 100 dash), Jaysuma Ndure (100-meter African championship bronze medalist) and anchor Walter Dix (2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 100 and 200).

While Richardson blazed to a quick start and Thompson built an insurmountable lead, the baton was dropped between the third and fourth hand off, thus disqualifying the dream team.

Even so, Dix still continued running and crossed the finish line two seconds faster than anyone else.

"It's definitely something in our nature and in our training camp, we just don't die [after dropping the baton]," Dix said. "We have [2011 World Outdoor 100 champion] Carmelita [Jeter] as our leader and Jason Richardson as a champion, so we're not just going to stop running."

The Cal Poly Pomona quartet of Sam Morales, James Weiner, Tanner Terry and Jake Deavers actually won the race with a time of 41.76 seconds.

Former USC standout Candice Rae Price was one of the day's bigger attractions, as the 26-year-old kick-started her route to the 2012 London Games with a victory in the 100-meter hurdles in 13.26.

"We practice here, so it was good to open at home and the fans really came out. That was nice," said Price, who is trained by PCC Coach Larry Wade. "I know there was a lot of stress on Coach Wade putting on this event the whole week, so I'm happy to give him a good result."

There was an upset in the men's 300-meter dash as Lionel Larry, who ran unattached, nipped Team USA 400-meter relay runner Rodney Martin by a thousandth of a second as both finished in 39.92.

"I thought [Martin] won, I really thought he did," said Larry, who held off a surge by Martin over the final 50 meters. "I have a real good history of having races to the wire like that. That was actually the first one that I've won."

Said Martin, "I just focused around that turn and I just wanted to bring it home. I was ready to get that race started. It was a good race and my hat's off to [Larry]."

U.S. Indoor Track silver medalist Leslie Cole won the women's 300 hurdles in a personal-best record of 36.50.

"I just wanted to get a good start and go out and duplicate what I've been doing lately," Cole said.

In high school action, there were a few notable results led by St. Francis' James Knowles and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's Noelle Niederhaus.

In the boys' 110 race, Knowles recovered from a shaky start to take a lead after the fourth hurdle and clinch a win in 14.65, ahead of Damien's Jarrett Gonzales (14.97).

"My start didn't feel the best, but I focused my run in between each hurdle," Knowles said. "I sprinted in between each hurdle and really started to pick up my pace."

Gonzales took his revenge in the 300 hurdles, winning in 38.00, ahead of a third-place Knowles (39.59).

Niederhaus delivered one of the day's most exciting wins, claiming the girls' 800-meter invitational in 2:17.09 over Serra's Renetia James (2:17.12).

"I got a little boxed in at 400, but since I'm a sprinter, I was able to go to the outside and go ahead," said Niederhaus, whose previous personal best was a 2:22. "I was just determined to get the win."

St. Francis' Andres Simmeth also claimed a win in the first heat of the open 300-meter hurdles, winning in 41.34, which placed him fourth overall in the event.

Flintridge Prep's Kate Evans finished sixth in the 1,600-meter invitational run in a time of 5:15.92, not too far off the winning time of Caitlin Turner (5:10.32).

Evans also finished ninth (2:24.42) in the 800-meter race won by Niederhaus.

andrew.campa@latimes.com

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