MIGUEL FLETCHER: ALEMANY ALUM IS UP TO SPEED.
Miguel Fletcher balanced football and track at Alemany High without a problem. But juggling the sports his freshman year at USC has been a new experience for the Canyon Country resident.
For the past three weeks, Fletcher has been participating in spring football practice as well as competing in track.
``It has been a learning experience,'' Fletcher said. ``I am in good shape because of all the movement from football but I am out of track shape. I'm a little bit rusty. I feel a little bit sluggish after 50 yards.''
Spring football practices began March 26 and runs through April 23. Commitments to football kept Fletcher out of the Trojans' track meet against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Georgetown last Saturday.
Fletcher, however, will run in the Mt. San Antonio College Relays Sunday in the University/Open 100 meters. This season, he has a wind-aided best of 10.39 at the UNLV Invitational on April 10. A spot on the Trojans' 400-meter relay team at the Pac-10 and NCAA championships could hinge on his performance at Mt. SAC.
As an Alemany senior, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Fletcher finished second in the state in the 100 meters. He also tied for the state's fastest mark of the year of 10.36 in winning the Southern Section Division III title.
In football, Fletcher was a 1997 Prep Star All-American and rushed for 3,350 yards and 30 touchdowns in three seasons.
Although he has yet to eclipse his high-school bests in track, Fletcher said his 100 times have been more consistent than ever. He has run three times under 10.5 this season. Last season, Fletcher ran 20.94 for 200, the state's No. 2 mark in 1998, but has yet to run a competitive deuce this spring.
Fletcher is not the only Trojan sprinter pulling double-duty in track and football. Senior Chad Morton, the Trojan's leading rusher in 1998, and freshman redshirt Sultan McCullough are also competing in both sports.
The list will grow next season with incoming freshmen; defensive back Darrell Rideaux and wide receiver Kareem Kelly of Long Beach Poly, the defending state 100- and 200-meter champions; as well as wide receiver Marcell Allmond of St. Paul, the 1998 State 110-meter high hurdle champion.
The arrangement seems to work well. USC football coach Paul Hackett, himself a contributor to the Trojans' track booster club, has made it no secret of his mission to emphasize team speed.
At USC, Fletcher, who redshirted his freshman year, has made the move from tailback to cornerback this spring in hopes of greater playing time. Senior Petros Papadakis, McCullough and sophomore redshirt Malaefou MacKenzie are also battling for playing time behind Morton.
``It is all basic instincts and reaction,'' Fletcher said about the move to cornerback. ``It's not too much of a change. Plus, I like hitting people.''
Not has much has changed in his first year living away from home. He calls his parents in Canyon Country regularly and visits on the weekends. His father Ned, who coached Fletcher in track in childhood, comes to watch USC track workouts once or twice a week.
``He has taught me to be a good listener to make myself a better athlete,'' Fletcher said. ``All the talent here in practice makes you more aware than if you work out on your own. That is going to pay off when you get into a competition.''
PHOTO USC sprinter/football player Miguel Fletcher, who will run today at Mt. SAC, is having a busy spring trying to juggle both sports.
Kirby Lee/Special to the Daily News