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PREP FOCUS: WESTLAKE SPRINTER DIES FAMILY TAKES 17-YEAR-OLD OFF LIFE SUPPORT.

Byline: Ross Siler and Vincent Bonsignore Staff Writers

Westlake High senior Nicole Johnson, who was critically injured in a car accident outside the school last week, was removed from life support Sunday morning and died at Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, a hospital official said. She was 17.

Johnson, a sprinter on the track team, was in her car waiting at a stoplight after practice Thursday afternoon when the car was rear-ended. She was declared brain dead Friday while her teammates competed in her honor at the Ventura County track and field championships.

Westlake coach Jim Benkert said Sunday that several of the Warriors' runners had spoken with Johnson's family, who gave their blessing to continue with the season, which includes this week's Marmonte League championships.

``Her parents told several of the kids at the hospital to go on with things,'' Benkert said. ``Especially with track, because that's what Nicole would have wanted them to do.''

Benkert said Johnson had been entered in several races at Tuesday's league preliminaries, including the 100- and 200-yard dashes. The entries likely won't be changed, with flowers instead being placed in Johnson's empty lane in tribute, Benkert said.

``We haven't confirmed that's what's going to be done,'' Benkert said. ``But that's what the coaches discussed doing Friday.''

The school will have a memorial service at 3 p.m. today for Johnson, who was to attend UC Santa Cruz in the fall. Johnson also was active in Westlake's student government and has a younger brother, Shane, who attends the school.

The driver of the car that hit Johnson's vehicle, Diana Shakhov, 31, of Agoura Hills, remained hospitalized Sunday in fair condition, the hospital said.

--New career path Former Crespi of Encino football standout Russell White, who coached the past two years at Crespi, is the new head football coach and a dean of students at Desert Chapel High, a 4-year-old coed Christian school in Palm Springs with about 100 students in grades 9-12.

Next fall, White also will become the school's athletic director as he undertakes his first season as a head coach, presiding over eight-man football, which White likens to arena football.

``I'm not happy unless I'm on the fresh-cut grass, cleats on and a pigskin in my hand,'' White said.

White, 32, played one season for the Los Angeles Rams after a four-year career at Cal.

But the extent of his NFL career was only two carries for 10 yards and eight kickoff returns. He subsequently tried to catch on with the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers and even played a season with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football.

The goal now is to become a college coach, but nothing is on the fast track, he said, and he likes where he is and who he is. He's up to 240 pounds and does not plan to lose an ounce. White, his wife, Aminah, and 18-month-old daughter, Yasmeen, live in a three-bedroom, two-car-garage house in Palm Springs.

``I'm now a cigar-puffing, golf-playing dad,'' he said proudly.

White's 568 career points at Crespi still rank as the fourth-highest total in Southern Section history, and his 84 career touchdowns are the third- highest. From 1986 to 1988, White rushed for 5,998 yards, then a state record.

--Preparation: Montclair Prep of Panorama City's Eshaya Murphy hadn't played in an organized basketball game in 2 1/2 months, but she didn't look winded at any point of the 29 minutes she played in the Battle of the Valley all-star game at Cal State Northridge on Saturday night.

``I've been running three miles a day for the past few weeks,'' Murphy said. ``I didn't want to make a fool of myself.''

The USC-bound guard scored 30 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the East to a 78-68 victory over the West. Murphy was named the MVP of the East team and set the girls' record for scoring in a game.

--There's a first time for everything: For the first time in 16 years, the Thousand Oaks softball tournament was rained out Saturday. All 16 teams will still play four games, but there will be no tournament champion. Teams will play two games Saturday and the other two at their convenience. The schedule for those games:

Thursday - Village Christian at Chaminade, Harvard Westlake at El Camino Real; Friday - El Modena at Royal, Hart at Westlake, ECR at Thousand Oaks, Hueneme at Hoover; May 12 - San Marcos at Moorpark; May 14 - Mater Dei at Thousand Oaks; May 15- Royal at Mater Dei; May 16 - El Modena at Westlake, Village Christian at Hart, Chaminade at Moorpark, Marina at Harvard-Westlake, Hoover at Millikan, Righetti at Camarillo, Peninsula vs Rio Mesa at Camarillo, Righetti vs. Rio Mesa at Camarillo, Peninsula at Camarillo.

Staff Writer Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.

CAPTION(S):

photo, 2 boxes

Photo:

Eshaya Murphy stayed in shape for the Valley all-star game and was named MVP.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 5, 2003
Words:841
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