HANDICAPPING THE STATE MEET

Boys and girls track state team titles are often decided by a twinge of a muscle or a handful of missteps by a relay runner. Long Beach Poly is the only school with a legitmate chance at sweeping both crowns.

So how can Taft of Woodland Hills be considered among four favorites to win the boys team title at this weekend's CIF state track championships when the Toreadors were second behind Birmingham of Van Nuys in last week's L.A. City Section meet?

Because at the state meet it's not about the depth of your team but more about the two or three standouts who lead it. Entering last year's meet, Arroyo Grande was a distant second behind Long Beach Poly in the CIF Southern Section Div. I championships. But in Sacramento, a strong threesome in the field events -- Sean Shields, Ryan Zimmerman and John Howard -- placed high enough in their competitions to win the team title over Poly, which was not able to put enough of its deep team on the first, second or third spots on the medal stand.

Trials for this year's meet, which will be held for the 14th time at Cerritos College in Norwalk, begin on Friday afternoon. Finals are Saturday with field events at 2 p.m. and running events at 4 p.m.

In team scoring at the state meet, there's a big difference between a first-place and a fourth-place finisher, 10 points to four, even though there might not be that much of a difference on the clock. So the key to declaring who might most likely win that title is to determine which team has more solid favorites in various events.

Of course, track is a very unforgiving sport. Hamstring and quad muscles can get a little touchy this late in the season and a contending team can see its chances go up in smoke by having just one runner not able to do their best due to injury. False starts, tripping over hurdles, dropping the baton in a relay race and many other calamities also have been known to dash the title hopes of many formidable teams.

With all that in mind, it still would be very surprising if a school other than Bakersfield, Long Beach Poly, Taft of Woodland Hills or Rancho Bernardo of San Diego happens to win this year's boys team title. On the girls side, the list of likely team champs is even smaller as either Long Beach Poly and J.W. North of Riverside appear to have way too much potential scoring for anybody else.

The Bakersfield vs. Long Beach Poly scenario on the boys side also could help determine which school should be State School of the Year. If Bakersfield adds a boys track state title to its state crown from the winter in wrestling (the Drillers also were unbeaten in football and girls soccer) and Poly ends the school year with no state titles, the edge could go to the Kern County school. If Poly wins a boys team title and gets a sweep on the girls side, that would pretty much wrap it up for the Jackrabbits, who were No. 2 in the state in football and were among the best in both boys and girls basketball.

Here's our handicap of the teams that are most likely to win a state track title this weekend:

Boys: Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits

Coach: Don Norford

No. of CIF state titles: 7

What has to happen for Poly to win: Junior Derrick Jones beats the Taft and Bakersfield runners in the 100 and 200 and grabs no worse than a fourth-place finish. Both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams beat Taft and Bakersfield and win their races. Chreston Anderson in the 100 and David Hill in the 400 each come through with fifth-place finishes.

Boys: Bakersfield Drillers

Coach: Bob Coons

No. of CIF state titles: 3

What has to happen for BHS to win: Thomas Mack sweeps the 110 high and 300 intermediate hurdles events, which he's favored to do. Blake Mackey nets a third or a fourth in the 400. Neither the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams have to win, but they have to score points, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 between the two.

Boys: Rancho Bernardo Broncos

Coach: Don Jones

No. of CIF state titles: 0

What has to happen for RB to win: Keno White has to win one of the field events he's in -- most likely the triple jump or high jump -- and score significant points in one of the others. Deun White has to place in the top three or four in the 400 and nab a point or two in the 200. Nick Alotta in the weight events or one of the two pole vaulters -- Zach Miller or Ryan Spitz -- needs to come up big and grab a medal or two. Root for San Diego school Helix to beat Taft, LB Poly and Bakersfield in the 4x100.

Boys: Taft Toreadors

Coach: Mel Hein

No. of CIF state titles: 1

What has to happen for Taft to win: Justin Tryon has to beat Bakersfield's Blake Mackey in the 400 and win the event for a 10 spot. Mike Pratt or Tyrone Melton have to jump up and grab an extra point or two in the same race. Noah Smith has to score between eight and 10 points in the two sprint events. Both relay teams have to finish first or second.

Girls: Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits

Coach: Don Norford

No. of CIF state titles: 6 (including co-titles)

What has to happen for Poly to win: Shalonda Solomon has to be second in both sprints (Allyson Felix of L.A. Baptist is heavily favored in both) and more points need to come from Jasmine Lee and Dominique Dorsey for a combined sprint total of 22 to 26 points, which could be overwhelming for anyone to overcome. The favored 4x100 relay team needs to take care of business with a win and the 4x400 needs to at least finish second. Tunisia Johnson has to win the 300 hurdles or come up with at least 10 to 12 points in the two hurdles races. Taren James or Deshante Harris need to add points in their events, James in either the long jump or triple jump and Harris in the 100 hurdles.

Girls: J.W. North Huskies

Coach: Charles Leathers

No. of CIF state titles: 2

What has to happen for North to win: Chaunte Howard has to win at least two of the events she's entered in (high jump, triple jump or long jump) and score points in the other to make up for Poly's probable points in the 100 and 200. Dominique Manning and Ashlee Brown both need to beat Poly's Tunisia Johnson in the 100 hurdles and Brown needs to score points in the 300 hurdles. Lena Bettis has to place third or fourth in the long jump. Both relay teams have to score significant points, probably no less than a combined total of 10.


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