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MT. SAC RELAYS: FELIX, HENDERSON TEAM UP.

Byline: MATTHEW KREDELL Staff Writer

WALNUT - Allyson Felix is the idol of many young sprinters these days.

Six years ago, when she was a freshman running at L.A. Baptist High of North Hills, Monique Henderson was one of the main athletes Felix looked at as a role model.

Henderson, then a runner at Morse High of San Diego, was at the top of the high school track world while Felix was making her way up.

As they ran together on a relay team for the first time at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays on Saturday, their roles were reversed.

Felix, who became the first female track athlete to turn professional straight out of high school, has two years of professional experience and an Olympic silver medal to her credit. Henderson, who starred at UCLA for four years, is beginning her first year on the pro circuit - and looking up to Felix.

"Even though she's younger, she's the veteran," Henderson said. "She has given me some advice, not to concentrate on what's coming up or get caught up in the pressure and everything."

Felix and Henderson, who have become workout partners, paired well together in the 400-meter relay, leading a team named USA Red to victory in 42.93 seconds.

Henderson won four 400-meter state titles in high school, running times that would have won the NCAA championship her junior and senior years. Felix won the 100-meter title as a sophomore in Henderson's final prep year, then went on to win the 100 and 200 meters each of the next two years.

Henderson remembers that she is 2-0 against Felix in the 200 meters from those high school years.

"We had a lot of respect for each other and it was easy to become friends," Felix said. "It was kind of fun to run with her for a change."

Torri Edwards was triumphant in her return to outdoor track and field after a two-year suspension for using a banned substance. Edwards, a former USC runner, flew past Geraldine Pillay of South Africa and Henderson to win the 200 meters in 22.98.

"For my first meet outdoors, 22.9 is not a bad start," Edwards said. "I'm not too far off where I was before."

Edwards, the 2003 world outdoor champion in the 100, was suspended after the banned substance nikethamide was detected in her system. She said the controversy stemmed from a pill from her trainer that she was unaware contained a banned substance.

Edwards was forced to miss the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, where she would have been a medal favorite. She worked hard to stay in shape during the suspension and is out to re-establish herself this year.

"Not so much to everyone else, but I want to prove to myself that I can come back out here, run fast and become a world-class athlete again," Edwards said.

Two USC sophomores, Lionel Larry and Carol Rodriguez, turned heads by winning their first races against professional athletes. Larry finished the 400 meters in 46.11 to beat a field that included Olympic 400 hurdles gold medalist Felix Sanchez and James Davis, who finished fifth last year at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Both are former Trojans.

"It helps you get used to competition at this level," Larry said. "Now I have a big race under my belt. So, once I get up to that level, it won't be as much of a problem to compete with those people."

Rodriguez finished a second off her wind-legal personal best, recording an 11.40 in the 100 meters.

matthew.kredell@dailynews.com

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 16, 2006
Words:607
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