Crenshaw senior Jonathan Downard is expected to be one of the top finishers in the long jump and the 200 meters at today’s City Section track and field finals. The Cougars, along with rival Dorsey, are among the favorites to win the overall team title. (Photo by Rob Helfman)
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
Alex Amankwah only started running track six weeks ago but the Los Angeles High School senior could be in line for a big payoff at today’s City Section track and field finals at Lake Balboa Birmingham High School.
Amankwah ran 1:55.17 in the 800 meters at the prelims, but the surprise wasn’t that he ran that fast. He admitted afterwards that he could go even faster to win.
“I went slower than I thought I would,” Amankwah said.
Born in Ghana, he grew up playing basketball and soccer but never considered track until this year when the coaches approached him after basketball season. Head coach David Holland said that they started Amankwah on the 400 meters but once he was moved to the 800, they knew they had something special.
“The first time he ran, he did it 2:00 flat,” Holland said.
With each race, he’s only gotten faster and it gives the Romans their best shot at an individual City champion in recent memory.
It almost makes you wish more basketball players competed in track. Imagine how some of them could do in the high jump?
Outside of Amankwah, Crenshaw senior Jonathan Downard was another surprise at the City prelims as he posted the fastest time in the 200 – a wind-aided 21.32 seconds, just .01 ahead of his teammate De’Anthony Thomas.
It was Downard’s work in the field, however, that was impressive. He had the fifth-best effort in the long jump (21 feet, 7 inches) which could help the Cougars’ overall point total in competing for the City title.
“He never did the long jump before,” Crenshaw coach David Frierson said. “But he’s doing what he can to help the team.”
A three-sport star who played on the Cougars’ state runner-up football team, Downard will play a big role in Crenshaw’s day as he’s expected to place in the 100, 200 and long jump in addition to running in the 4 x 100 relay.
Teammate Gregory Ducre also ran well in the 400, posting the second fastest time (48.89) behind Taft’s Antuan Goodall. (48.66).
As expected, Dorsey’s Bejon Bryant posted the fastest prelim times in the 110 (15.18) and 300 hurdles (39.59). To observers, the senior ran each race smoothly but he was a harsher critic when asked about both races.
“I’m still trying to get a feel what I need to do better,” Bryant said, “I’d grade it about a 7 [out of 10].”
He was far more pleased with how sophomore teammate Te’von Mitchell ran – winning his heat with a time of 15.52.
“He’s made some great strides this year and he’ll be ready to take over after me and [fellow hurdler] Jorrian [Washington] leave,” he said.
When asked what he had to do better in today’s meet, he said simply, “Run harder.”
His teammate Monae Dale did her part in the 300 hurdles as she posted the fastest prelim time (46.32) despite stuttering at the first and last hurdles.
Both have been something she’s worked on this year and the junior admitted that bad habits contributed to it last week.
“The first I didn’t run full speed on and the last one was just being lazy,” Dale said.
She’ll be eager to correct it today as she’ll face still competition from Palisades freshman Kendall Gustafson, who ran 46.51 in her heat.