Crossing the finish line

The competition at the California Community College State Track and Field Finals last Saturday was more fierce than expected. Four events produced the fastest times in the nation this year. Santa Monica College's Toya Johnson was up against the best of the best in the 400-meters. He managed to place fifth, with his personal record of 47.84 seconds. The winner, Akeem Alexander of College of the Sequoias, clocked in at 45.71, the fastest time in the nation this year.

He and his teammate Miguel Barton repeated their 1-2 victory from last year's State Finals, along with another teammate Michael Taylor finishing third, for a top three sweep in the 400-meters.

Despite finishing fifth, Johnson was still satisfied and proud of his accomplishment.

"I was extremely nervous about the 400," Johnson said. "I have always been the top guy coming into a race so I was not used to this feeling of being the underdog. It turned out to be the best race I ever competed in during my track career. No one at the division level of my previous university ran that fast."

SMC Head Coach Larry Silva was equally impressed with Johnson's finish. "You can't complain when a runner sets a personal best in his event," Silva said.

During the last event of the meet, the Corsairs 4x400-meter relay team ran into some unexpected trouble with the handoff from Kendall Holiday to Shacor Hamiltion, before the third leg of the race.

"The handoff was blocked because of Riverside walking into our lane during the switch from Kendall to Shacor," Johnson said.

SMC managed to place eighth, but ended up being disqualified for the lane change violation.

"I thought we could compete with any of those guys out there. We just didn't get a fair chance with the DQ and with our third leg being blocked at the handoff," Johnson said.

When asked why he did not look like he was going full throttle in either event, Johnson replied, "I always watch tapes of Olympians in the 400-meters and they look relaxed. None of them look like they are going all out. I believe that is what I tried to do, run smooth and fast without wasting any movements. I looked calm but at the same time I ran faster than I had all year."

The winning 400-meter relay time was the fifth fastest in the nation this year.

But that wasn't the highlight of the meet. Kemarley Brown of Merritt College in Oakland, won the 100-meters in 9.93 seconds, the fastest 100-meters since the Community College State Meet was first held in 1951.

It was also the US Community College All Time Record. And the fastest time in the world this year.

Kemarley came back an hour later to win the 200-meter race, posting the second fastest time among Community College Runners in the US this year.