‘This Valley Should be Proud of Her’
It only took 22.18 seconds.
Ready, set, silver.
Eighteen-year-old Santa Clarita resident Allyson Felix is leaving the 28th Olympic Games in Athens with a second-place medal in the women’s 200-meter dash.
It was Felix’s fastest time of the year, the second best in her impossibly young career. And it was good enough for a new junior world record.
It just wasn’t fast enough to catch Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell, who ran the race of her life Wednesday. The University of Arkansas student’s winning time of 22.05 easily elipsed Felix’s personal best of 22.11 and will likely stand as the fastest time in 2004. It was a full .08 seconds faster than her personal best, which she set in Tuesday’s semifinal heat.
For Felix, who was running in high school track meets for L.A. Baptist a little more than a year ago, an Olympic silver medal marks the culmination of a meteoric rise to the heights of her sport.
Back-to-back state high school titles in the 100- and 200-meters. A national high school record. A slot on the U.S. team at the World Championships in Paris.
“She’s a year away from absolutely dominating, in my opinion,” said Canyon track coach Dave DeLong. “She has everything it takes to be the world’s greatest, including a level head and the support system to handle what’s going to happen to her.”
For DeLong, watching Felix on the world stage was admittedly bittersweet. After watching her win the state title in the 100 as a sophomore, he had reason to believe she was going to become a Cowboy.
“Allyson’s coach (John Patton) came up to me to say Allyson was planning to transfer to our school. But that didn’t happen,” he said. “So to be honest, watching her run hurts a little because she could have come here.”
DeLong said staying at L.A. Baptist was the best decision Felix could have made, and it’s hard to argue the point.
Under Patton, who now trains sprinters at Hart, Felix dominated the prep scene. And following her senior year season, she signed a professional contract with Adidas, enrolled at USC and began training for the Olympics.
“It was surreal to see her compete on that stage,” said Valencia track coach Mike Pontious, who coached her brother Wes to Foothill League records in the 100 and 200. “She’s worked so hard. She and Wes are really focused kids. She’s got a big future if she wants it.”
As far as the local track scene goes, Felix has become somewhat of a legend, though not necessarily a standard-setter.
“I don’t think most of the athletes are thinking they can be like her,” DeLong said. “She’s so great, the kids can’t even relate.”
But there’s no arguing the legacy the youngster is already building. She was heavily featured on NBC’s Olympic coverage and is poised to become the face of U.S. women’s track and field for the coming decade.
Should that happen, the residual effect on SCV athletics can’t be overlooked.
“I truly hope Allyson’s success bumps the number of track participants at all four schools in this valley, and the two new schools as well,” said Hart track coach Jeff Gilkey. “That has to mean a lot to this valley. This valley should be proud of her.”
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