LOS ANGELES Diondre Batson is used to being chased. Ever since his junior year at Laguna Creek High School and in two seasons competing for American River College, he has established himself as one of the top young sprinters in the western United States.
So here he found himself on a cool, clear day at UCLA's Drake Stadium chasing not another athlete, but a mark, in his quest to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100-meter dash.
Batson on Saturday won yet another 100 crown in a time of 10.29 at the USA Track & Field Jim Bush SoCal Championships, besting 39 other runners. But he would gladly trade the medal he won one that never went around his neck but rather in his gear bag along with his spikes and goggles for an invitation to run in the 100 at the Olympic Trials later this month in Eugene, Ore.
"I don't know if I'm going to get it now," Batson said, visibly dejected following the race.
His ticket to the Trials is already booked with a qualified 200 time, but his goal is to double up. Batson already has the "B" qualifying standard of 10.28, but that is provisional since those who run faster than 10.18 automatically qualify. Batson and his coach, Rick Anderson, both believe the field will fill with automatic berths. He has until June 19 to run it in a USATF-sanctioned meet.
The plan now is to run in the San Diego-Imperial Association Championships next Sunday in Chula Vista. Batson, his mother, Sonja, and likely a group of friends and family who were at UCLA on Saturday will make the drive.
Sonja Batson, a former sprinter, said she doesn't mind the driving as long as she gets to see Diondre compete in the sport they both so enjoy.
"I still cheer for him like it's his very first meet," said Sonja, who has driven Diondre as far as Iowa to compete in races.
Those lungs have received a workout, and Diondre has been peerless in California this year in winning every 100 he has run. Unfortunate circumstances, though, have kept him from the elusive mark. He did break the 10.18 barrier in the NorCal Community College Championship meet last month in San Mateo, but his 10.10 included more than the allowed tailwind.
At the state championships in Norwalk, he ran 10.36 into a stiff 2.3-meters- per-second headwind.
Saturday, he said two false starts caused him to be a bit tentative getting out of the blocks when the race was finally legal. On both starts that were called back, he appeared to be out more rapidly than on the third.
"That's the biggest part of the race," he said. "If you get out horrible, you lose or can only barely win."