Diondre Batson is on the fast track to his home turf.
The Alabama sprinter targets the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in June at Sacramento State in his native city as a finish line of sorts, capping a stretch of performances that include some of the nation’s best times this spring.
Running fast – really fast – has been Batson’s calling since about the time he could walk. His mother, Sonja Batson, was a sprinter at Oklahoma. She encouraged her son to run track after he blew past kids on neighborhood streets and on the playground. Batson shattered school records at Laguna Creek High School and at American River College, where he won state titles in the 100 and 200 meters. He qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and earned All-America honors in the 200 in the 2013 indoor season, the 100 and 4x100 relay in the 2013 outdoor season and the 60 and 200 in the 2014 indoor season with the Crimson Tide.
Batson won the NCAA Indoor 200 in 20.32 seconds, the fastest collegiate time for 2014. He won the 100 at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut earlier this month in 10.06 with his mother in the stands, standing and swaying as if to help him lean into the tape. His lifetime best in the 100 is 10.01, which he has run twice at Alabama. Batson’s 400 relay team clocked a 38.91 effort this spring, the third-fastest time in the country for 2014.
All of this from a man who expected football to be his future. Batson gave that sport a go at ARC, and he blazed past cornerbacks as a 6-foot-3 wide receiver. But concussions had him thinking that the starting block and finish line might make for a better athletic pursuit. Batson also promised his mother he would give track an extended look in college, explaining: “I’m happy doing this now. And now I’m really ready to go.”
Mills in town
Billy Mills, the surprise gold medalist in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, will visit Hornet Stadium on Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. to look over the $1.4 million track resurfacing project and to discuss his career as one of the sport’s great upset winners. He will be joined by 2012 Olympian Kim Conley of UC Davis.
Mills, a Fair Oaks resident, was an unheralded runner who stunned the track world with his gold-medal effort in the 10,000, beating a field of 42 in the 25-lap race. He remains the only U.S. runner, male or female, to win Olympic gold in the 10,000, and his time of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds set Olympic and U.S. records.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mills’ gold-medal run, the Sacramento Sports Commission and the Sacramento Running Association will host The Billy Mills 10K, a 10-kilometer for the public on June 26 during the USA Outdoor Championships.
Conley will race in the 10,000 at the Payton Jordan Invitational on Sunday at Stanford in hopes of qualifying for the USA Championships. She recently became the fourth-fastest U.S. female miler in history with time of 4:25.54. Conley said her best chance to advance is the 10,000.
Kropp on board
Cosumnes Oaks graduate Alex Kropp was ready to give up playing quarterback, but he wasn’t ready to give up football. Kropp has accepted an offer from UCLA to be a student-assistant starting this summer. He’ll work in film sessions and in practice. Kropp came highly recommended by Cosumnes Oaks coach Ryan Gomes and UCLA cornerback Marcus Rios, a former Cosumnes Oaks standout. UCLA coach Jim Mora asked Rios about Kropp and soon signed off on it.
Nate Iese of Sheldon was used as a fullback in UCLA’s spring drills, though he’s still being considered for other positions. With the Bruins, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Iese has practiced or played wide receiver, tight end, defensive end and linebacker.
University of Idaho wide receiver Dezmon Epps (Grant, City College of San Francisco) was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence early Sunday morning in Pullman, Wash., after being pulled over for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Epps led the Vandals with 79 receptions for 980 yards and four touchdowns last fall. He had 11 catches for 121 yards and two scores in Idaho’s Silver and Gold spring game Friday.