On your mark

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Lexi Washington was searching for a camera to look into, flash a huge smile and shout, &uot;I’m going to Disneyland.&uot;

All right, so maybe Mickey and Minnie were not going to make an appearance at the LSU High School Indoor Classic last year, but after beating out world class leapers in the triple jump Washington was on cloud nine.

Washington and her Natchez High track mates return to LSU’s Fieldhouse for the third year to compete in an event that fields close to 240 schools and club teams from all over the country.

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&uot;It was so amazing to know that I was No. 1 over kids who have trainers and specialized coaches,&uot; Washington said. &uot;We have to rely on our own judgment for distance and times. I couldn’t believe it.&uot;

Head coach Larry Wesley brings his entire 18-man squad into Baton Rouge beginning Friday to gauge where both teams are, a year after each finished second at the indoor state championships.

The boys’ team lost by two points a year ago, while the girls’ fell by one point.

This is the first and only meet the Bulldogs will compete in before next week’s state championships.

They have two other remaining meets after state before the indoor season closes.

It will be a little complex to get a feel for how the athletes compete as one since Friday and Saturday’s events serve as showcasing individual performances, Wesley said.

&uot;Going up against all this talent, it’ll serve as a measuring stick for our program,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re going down there (Baton Rouge) to &045; how the children say &045; ‘represent.’

&uot;If my kids finish in the top 10, whatever the case may be, that’s a great achievement.&uot;

Last year, along with Washington’s fortunes, Taja Dorsey parlayed her success at LSU into a trip to New York where she competed in an event for the athletic footwear company New Balance.

Dorsey said she got a call from the New Balance people saying they’d pay for her flight up, but not her mom’s.

Minutes later another call came through. New Balance retracted its first offer and told Dorsey all expenses would be paid except for food.

&uot;I felt lucky because I got chosen out of so many down there (Baton Rouge),&uot; said Dorsey, who said she did some sightseeing up there, including a chance to tour the Statue of Liberty.

&uot;I got to see a lot of good runners up there (New York) in competition and learned a lot about technique and how to control my speed.&uot;

Dorsey hopes to catch the eye of another sponsor this weekend and expand her world much more beyond Natchez.

Similar to Janice Davis, a globetrotter if there ever was one.

An event like this weekend’s, where Davis took home first-place honors in the 400 and 50 meters last year, is an opportunity to bond with her friends from the USA Track Team.

But while they’ll share laughs and stories away form the track, when Davis laces her spikes up the lullabies and cuddly moments are over.

&uot;I hate to lose. I’m a workaholic,&uot; she said. &uot;My parents say I’m the only kid they know who gets upset when I miss practice.

&uot;If someone there wants to go at it hard, we’ll go. I want to be the best at whatever task I do.&uot;

She’ll have her chance, competing again in the 400, along with the 55 meters, the 4×200 relay team and the 4×400 squad.

Indoor season, which ends Feb. 8, is a little harder on athletes for intangible reasons, Wesley said.

The main factors center around controlling your breathing and sharpening up steps.

&uot;Outdoor there’s plenty of room to stretch out, but indoor you have to have quicker feet,&uot; Wesley said. &uot;Your breathing and pacing is different too. Indoor tracks are half the size of outdoor tracks, so almost all events indoor are all out sprints.&uot;

But most Bulldogs believe it helps them with their endurance come outdoor season.

Kedrick Gibbons finished fourth in the long jump and eighth in the 50 meters at LSU last year.

Like Washington and Dorsey, Gibbons procured his indoor eminence over to the outdoor season where he was the state champion in the 110-meter hurdles.

&uot;To me there is no huge difference,&uot; said Gibbons, who’ll compete in the 55-meter hurdles, the long and high jumps and the 4×400 relay. &uot;It makes your feet much quicker. Outdoor you have time to catch people. You don’t have that kind of time in indoor.&uot;

Doesn’t Washington know it.

She knows there won’t be a lot of moments this weekend where she can reflect on what happened a year ago at the same track.

&uot;Just as easy as I was able to obtain it, it can be taken away from me,&uot; Washington said. &uot;I’ll take everything in stride, but I hope I can win it again.&uot;