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TRACK AND FIELD NOTEBOOK: RIVALS ARE CLOSE FRIENDS.

Byline: Matthew Kredell Staff Writer

Standing at the starting line, Lancaster High's Marissa Hager and Quartz Hill's Brienna Morris don't look like they want to compete against each other.

The distance runners, who became friends when the Hager was helping out junior high programs on which Morris competed, joke around and laugh like buddies before the race.

Even after the gun, the two play around the first two laps of the four-lap, 1-mile race. Then things get serious.

Last year, Morris, then a freshman, upset Hager by a nose for the Golden League title. When their teams met in a dual meet early this season, Hager returned the favor.

``We were messing around the first two laps, and then she started picking it up,'' said Hager, a senior. ``We went all out the last lap, crossed the finish line at the same time, and we're like, 'Wait, who won?' ''

This time, it was Hager squeaking by.

``I wish we were on the same team so I could run with her,'' Hager said. ``We have the same body type and ambitions. It's a lot of fun running with her.''

Instead, Hager will have to be satisfied running against Morris. Judging by the last two races, the race should one to watch at the Golden League finals.

``It's nice when Brienna wins,'' Quartz Hill coach Ron Hamilton said, ``but it's really just a joy to watch them run against each other.''

Running against Morris should help Hager, who wants to make it to the state meet. Hager was encouraged by her fifth-place finish Saturday at the Pasadena Games, in which her time of 2:18.42 in the 800 meters was only a second behind her time at the Southern Section finals last year. Her goal is to lower the time to 2:10 by season's end.

--More Pasadena: Lancaster was the area's only team at the Pasadena Games. Another Eagles standout was Courtney Wheeler, who finished fourth in the 3,000 meters in 10:46.98. Hager, who hates running the 2-mile race, is happy to have Wheeler so she can skip the event in dual meets.

Hager's 800 time could qualify her for the invitational session April 9 at Arcadia, one of the nation's most competitive prep track and field meets.

--Aloha: The Highland track and field team heads to Hawaii for a competition this weekend. Highland has made the Hawaii trip an annual event, and often incorporates educational detours such as visiting Pearl Harbor.

Matthew Kredell, (818) 713-3607

matthew.kredell(at)dailynews.com

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Lancaster senior Marissa Hager has run 2:18.42 in the 800 meters this season.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 31, 2005
Words:447
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