Monterey Herald - 04/17/03

For one week, Nick Cunningham has the rest of the Central Coast Section's elite in the 200 meters looking up at him.

Rain and wind didn't keep the Monterey sprinter from scorching the track with a CCS-best 21.94 during last week's Carmel Classic.

Cunningham, who reached the state meet last year in the 200, has a career-best of 21.80.

The 200 may be the deepest event in the sprints this season with Serra's Angel Fobbs-Valentino, Bellarmine's Jared Belser and North Salinas' Ronnie Drummer.

"You get the best from the 100 and 400 in the 200," said Cunningham.

Belser, who rushed for more than 100 yards in wins over Palma and Salinas in the CCS football playoffs last fall, owns the top mark in the CCS in the 100 (10.75).

Fobbs-Valentino is the CCS leader in the 400 (49.01) while Drummer has reached the state meet the last two years in the 100 and 200.

With Cunningham increasing his stamina this spring by running more of the 400, it should not have come as a complete surprise that he dipped under 22 seconds this soon.

"The 400 did a lot for me," said Cunningham. "The 200 is just a full out sprint. I just feel physically and mentally stronger. My lung capacity feels like I can take more in."

The fact that he has been running more of the 400 has some believing it might be his best event. Cunningham is ranked second in the CCS at 50.24.

"I don't know yet," Cunningham said. "That last 100 meters is crazy. It just hits you. If I run the 400 real competitively, I'm afraid it might take a little out of me for the 200. It'll probably be a last-minute decision."

While Cunningham attempts to reach new standards, Toreadores teammate Kristin Gallup has set school records in the 3,200 both times she has run it this year.

Gallup shattered the old mark by 30 seconds, clocking 11:56.0.

"She trains with the guys," said Monterey coach Alex Peterson. "She's developing speed. We feel she can get a lot faster."

Time to reflect

With marks beginning to drop, a 13-day layoff isn't coming at the right time for Notre Dame. Or is it?

"The kids are tired," said Notre Dame coach Terri Sonniksen. "We've got a few nagging injuries. The time off might be good for us."

The Spirits won't compete again until April 26 in the Bill Kearney Invitational at Hartnell College.

Two members who have begun to assert themselves are Hailey Vaughn and Katie Richards.

The multi-talented Vaughn, a member of Notre Dame's CCS champion volleyball team, has been consistently over 5-feet in the high jump, just missing at 5-2.

Vaughn also has a career best of 108-feet in the discus and is a member of the Spirits 1,600 relay team, that includes Richards.

"She's (Vaughn) a very versatile athlete," said Sonniksen.

Richards, who specialized in the 400 last spring, has turned her focus to the 300 low hurdles, where she ran her first race last week in 51.16 on a dirt surface.

"It's something she worked on over the summer," said Sonniksen. "I liked to see her run it on a good track."

Notre Dame's only loss in the TCAL came against four-time champion Hollister. The Spirits have been winning meets with depth. Notre Dame has 64 athletes on the team

"We're still looking to see where some kids' best event might be," said Sonniksen. "But the kids are excited about their marks. They're dropping time."

Stabilizing a program

Nearly 10 weeks into the season, Gonzales coach Mike Ramirez is still moving athletes around in events, attempting to find their niche.

While the field events have been strong, the running events -- notably the sprints -- are filled with inexperience.

"We're still trying to put kids in the right events," Ramirez said. "We clean up in the field events, but we're so young in the sprints."

Ramirez has a boys 400 relay team comprised of two freshmen and two sophomores.

"Every one of them was a running back on the frosh-soph football team," said Ramirez.

Ramirez, who also serves as the school's co-athletic director, calls the hiring of a new football coach critical even to the track team.

"The last two football coaches really helped get their kids out," Ramirez said. "We need those kids to get the numbers up."

Ramirez needs only to point toward senior Felipe Zavala as an example. A flanker in football, Zavala is ranked second in the Mission Trail Athletic League in the triple jump at 41-9.

John Devine can be reached at 646-4405.