PREP SPRINTER BEATS ELITE FELIX WINS 200 AT MT. SAC, SETS NATIONAL JUNIOR RECORD.
WALNUT - Allyson Felix is accustomed to running against this level of competition in the back of her head, the names and numbers she uses to push herself because other prep girls cannot.
But what happened Saturday was no figment of her imagination. Granted special permission to race against the professionals at the Mt. SAC Invitational, Felix beat a field of Olympic medalists and NCAA champions and broke Marion Jones' 11-year-old national junior record in the 200 meters. Her wind-legal time of 22.51 seconds also was the fastest by any woman in the nation this year.
In a few days, Felix will go back to class. But, for now, she is world- class.
``I think the record has always been in the back of my head,'' said Felix, from L.A. Baptist High of North Hills. ``I was just waiting for the right conditions and competition. ... It was an honor to run with such great women. That's definitely what I needed.''
Running in lane 6 and wearing a white uniform because she was unattached rather than representing L.A. Baptist, Felix got off to a good start behind four-time NCAA 100-meter champion Angela Williams. She led by the turn and proceeded to blow away the competition by half a second, reminiscent of her high school meets.
The electronic display indicated the time was in the 22.5 range, causing people in the know to hold their breaths before the time was announced at 22.51, seven-hundredths better than the record set by Jones when she was at Thousand Oaks High in 1992. Felix's previous best was 22.83 at the state finals last year.
Jones, who usually opens her season at Mt. SAC and might have competed in the race if not for her recent pregnancy, went on to win three gold medals at the 2000 Olympics.
Felix's record won't be recognized by the California Interscholastic Federation because it did not occur in a high school race, the same as Jones' mark, which is not counted. However, it will be the record with everyone else, including USA Track and Field.
``It definitely felt fast,'' Felix said. ``But I wasn't sure. It kind of felt like any of my other races. I had to wait and see.''
Felix reacted with her normal sheepish smile, a postrace routine for her, followed by an embarrassed giggle when asked about her performance. She doesn't seem to know quite what to think about beating her idols.
``We expected her to do well,'' said Williams, who first met Felix on the prep star's recruiting trip to USC, which Felix will attend in the fall. ``I'm not surprised. I knew she would bust something out today. Mt. SAC is where everybody performs. She has it in her. And she has a lot more in her.''
Felix broke Williams' Arcadia Invitational record in the 100 meters last week.
``I believe records are made to be broken,'' Williams said. ``When I was young, I was doing things people couldn't believe I was doing. So I look at her and think that was me back then.''
Felix's strange mixture of being humble and fervently competitive differs drastically from the notoriously talkative Jones. However, others are willing to boast for Felix.
``She's the truth,'' said Maurice Greene, one of the top male sprinters in the world and the Taft of Woodland Hills sprint coach who won the men's 200 meters right after Felix. ``If I was her, I'd skip college. She's that good. She's going to be a phenomenal athlete.''
Blowing out a prep field is one thing. Doing it against this group was difficult for Felix to explain. Second-place finisher Natasha Mayers won the NCAA title in the 200 last year for USC. Third-place finisher Inger Miller was the 1999 world champion in the 200 and won a gold medal in the 400 relay at the 1996 Olympics.
``I was surprised that she won the race,'' L.A. Baptist sprint coach Jon Patton said. ``They don't like to get beat by someone in high school. I know it's the opening day for most of them. But she's not supposed to go out there and win.''
Patton is the one who approached Mt. SAC officials with the idea of running Felix against the professionals rather than in the high school meet.
Mt. SAC director Scott Davis hadn't thought of the idea, but readily agreed.
``With the field we had against her, it would be unfair to say I expected her to win,'' Davis said. ``But I certainly didn't think she'd finish last, either.''
FASTEST GIRLS IN 200
1. Allyson Felix, L.A. Baptist, 2003, 22.51 seconds
2. Marion Jones, Thousand Oaks, 1992, 22.58
3. Chandra Cheeseborough, Ribault (Fla.), 1975, 22.77
4. Tania Woods, Skyline, 1999, 22.88
5. Kinshasa Davis, LB Wilson, 1997, 22.90
2 photos, box
(1 -- color) Allyson Felix of L.A. Baptist ran the fastest 200 meters in the nation this year to defeat a world-class field.
(2) Allyson Felix (34) outruns fourth-place finisher Crystal Cox (32) down the stretch in the women's 200.
Kirby Lee/Special to the Daily News
FASTEST GIRLS IN 200 (see text)