Christian Rodriguez of Dorsey has lost one 800-meter race this season. It was at the Arcadia Invitational, and he had an excuse for his 26th-place finish — his stomach. The night before the meet, the team went to a restaurant to celebrate a relay performance.
“The server kept serving garlic bread,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez learned not to stuff himself before a race. After all, he’s an amateur of sorts, having never competed in high school track and field. His former school, Luskin Academy, had no track program.
Rodriguez, a junior, could be ready to win a City Section championship in his rookie season. At Thursday’s City prelims, he won his heat in 1:56.57 at Birmingham. James Coomber of Verdugo Hills pushed him hard, finishing in 1:57.05.
He ran a personal best 1:55.72 at the Trabuco Hills Invitational on March 30.
“I have the potential to go 1:52, but I need competition,” he said.
Rodriguez wears a white head band to emulate his idol, former Vista Murrieta and USC 400-meter runner Michael Norman. He studied Norman’s races on YouTube.
“He’s great,” he said.
Rodriguez found out he had some speed when he was winning tag competitions in middle school. He also ran the fastest mile. Since his high school had no track program, he got on his computer, searched “track and Los Angeles” and came across the L.A. Jets youth program. He started running as a freshman.
“I called the dude and asked, ‘Can I join the team?’” he said.
He lives with his father and grandmother, both of whom came from Guatemala. His father, Oscar, attended Dorsey. Rodriguez has a 3.5 grade-point average and seems committed to running. He won the City Section Division IV cross-country championship last fall in 16:54.51.
“I never put pressure on myself,” he said. “I just do the work.”
He scratched from the 400 on Thursday to focus on the 800.
Woodland Hills El Camino Real coach Jun Reichl, who has developed several top distance runners, said he’s impressed with what he has seen from Rodriguez.
“I think he’s got so much room for growth,” Reichl said. “I think over the next two weeks we’ll see how he’s progressed.”
Rodriguez didn’t take any chances this time in his final dinner the night before Thursday’s competition. “I just ate soup that my grandmother made,” he said.
Among individuals, freshman Sofia Abrego of Granada Hills is in the running to pull off a rare triple in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. Caitlin Worline of View Park Prep ran 14.86 in the 100 hurdles.
Ameer Muhammad of Crenshaw won his 100 heat in 10.92 seconds. De Marq Jaque of Granada Hills led 400 qualifiers at 48.44.
Next up: the City finals next Friday at El Camino College.
Track finals: The Southern Section track and field finals are set for Saturday at El Camino College. Field events begin at 11 a.m. and running events at 1 p.m.
The 100 meters for boys and girls is loaded with top athletes. Everyone will be trying to run their fastest times, because they have to gain one of the nine qualifying spots for the Masters Meet regardless of division.
USC chosen as site: USC and the City Section have reached an agreement to hold the City baseball semifinals in the Open Division and Division I at Dedeaux Field. Division I will take place May 22 and Open Division on May 23. The finals are May 25 at Dodger Stadium.