Track and field finals take 10 corsairs

The SCCC Track and Field Finals were held in Riverside this past weekend, and an astonishing 10 members of the Santa Monica College track and field team were there to represent the Corsairs. The day started with eliminations for the the women's 4x100 relay team, as they did not qualify for the state finals.

Also failing to qualify for the state finals were distance runners Terrence Luevano and Ashley Bootesaz, despite running close to their personal bests in the 1500-meters.

The competition was fierce, with California's fastest competing for only a few qualifying spots. But the SMC athletes took it all in stride. Luevano and Bootesaz already have plans to compete in the Jim Bush Meet at the University of California, Los Angeles on June 7.

SMC's best chance at qualifying for the state finals appeared to be in jeopardy during the 400-meter race featuring Toya Johnson. His starting blocks slipped as the race began, and he fell to the ground, catching himself with his hands.

The race was restarted, but it appeared that the slip may have unsettled him and impaired his focus during the race. Although Johnson got off to a rough start, he accelerated in the last turn and continued to gain ground on the field until he crossed the finish line in first, qualifying for the state finals.

"This race was one of the best I have ever competed in. I felt relaxed and confident," said Johnson. "The race really started the last 200 meters when I started to see where everyone was and I started to plan my kick. It was a little late but I was blessed to have the strength to pass everyone. I had so much energy left at the finish line that I gave out a loud roar. I could have run another 50 yards."

About three hours later he had to anchor the 4x400 meter relay. By the time the baton was handed to Johnson for the last leg, he was behind most of the pack. Again he managed to kick it in gear for the last half and passed several runners to secure fifth place for the team, a mere .08 seconds behind fourth place.

Although they finished fifth, they were able to secure a spot in the state finals at Mt. San Antonio College next Saturday, due to the fifth place Northern California team placing two seconds slower than the Corsair.

SMC 4x400 meter relay member Drew Brown initially expressed disappointment with the team's fifth place finish, but ultimately felt that qualifying for the 4x400 was a "blessing."

With Head Coach Larry Silva unavailable this week, coaching duties will fall on legendary track coach Joe Douglas, who founded the Santa Monica Track Club in 1972 at SMC.

"The athletes I have coached have set 37 world records and earned 25 Olympic records," said Douglas. "If you want to be good you should be in bed before 11p.m. I kicked a couple of men off the team because they were up late. You have to be disciplined if you want to be good."

SMC will head to Mt. San Antonio College this Saturday for the state finals. Although it has been a standout season thus far for the Corsairs, they will be facing their toughest competition yet.