Saturday, June 19, 1999

H A W A I I _ P R E P _ S P O R T S

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Victoria Chang has already proven she can win against
top-flight competition on the mainland.

Chang a favorite
at Jr. Nationals

She is rated top outdoor
3,000- and 3,200-meter female
prep runner in the nation this year

By Pat Bigold


Some of the greatest names in track have won at the USA Track and Field Junior National Championships.

Marion Jones, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner, Renaldo Nehemiah and Lynn Jennings head the list.

Tomorrow, in Denton, Texas, a shy, slightly built Punahou junior goes for her share of the gold at the Junior Nationals.

Victoria Chang, already rated by Track and Field News as the top outdoor 3,000- and 3,200-meter female prep runner in the nation this year, enters the national championship 3,000 as a distinct favorite.

No Hawaii prep athlete has ever won at this level.

Chang proved she could win against top-flight competition on the mainland last weekend when she became the first Hawaii runner to triumph at the elite Golden West Invitational in Sacramento, Calif. Chang put four seconds between herself and her closest rival in the 3,200 meters final, an event she hadn't run in a year.

"It was an impressively dominant performance," said Doug Speck, a veteran track writer who covers races for several mainland publications .

A first or second-place finish tomorrow in Texas will earn her a place on the U.S. team heading to the Pan-American Junior Games next month.

Joining Chang in the Junior Nationals are two other highly regarded Hawaii athletes: Azusa Pacific decathlete Bryan Clay (1998 Castle High graduate) and Punahou senior Eri Macdonald, an 800-meter runner and Oregon recruit.

More than 800 athletes are competing this weekend in the championships for athletes 19 and under. Chang's competition in the 14-runner 3,000 field will include four college freshmen.

Chang's biggest obstacle to a national title might be a hard-charging high school competitor from Mountain Pointe, Arizona. Sara Gorton, the Arizona state 1,600- and 3,200-meter champion, pushed the pace in both the mile and two-mile finals in the Foot Locker National Outdoor Championships last weekend in Raleigh, N.C. She finished third in both (4:50.78, 10:19.53).

Mike Kennedy, girls' prep editor for Track and Field News, predicted it will be a two-runner race between Chang and Gorton.

Chang's coach, Dacre Bowen, has told her that because of her small size she must get out to a fast start to avoid getting jostled in the large field.

"But Gorton is like Chang," said Kennedy. "She likes to take it out, too. If they both take it out, it will be a fast race."

Chang's 3,000 times of 9:38.03, 9:38.94 and 9:43.15 during an eight-day stretch in May represented the best short-term set of performances in the nation.

Clay, a freshman who was third in the NAIA championships this year, is one of the favorites in the decathlon.

But his coach, Kevin Reid, said it will take an outstanding effort in all events (100 meters, 400 meters, 1,500 meters, javelin, long jump, shot put, discus, high jump, hurdles, pole vault) for Clay to win.

In Clay's favor is the fact that his personal record is 7,020 points - just 618 points shy of the national junior record.

Macdonald, who was nationally ranked in the 800 in 1998, will compete in the third of three preliminary heats tonight. If she is one of eight finalists tomorrow, her main competition will be national 800-meter leader Lindsay Hyatt of Placer High (Calif.).

Hyatt, who ran away from the field last weekend in the Golden West, has raced against Macdonald three times. Macdonald finished seventh to Hyatt at the Golden West but was second and third to her in mainland races last year.

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