By JOHN MURPHY
More than four decades ago, when Ted Lopez was running in the Riverside City Championships, his father Freddie would perch himself on a bluff overlooking Riverside City College, and observe.
"They had a place called 'Cheap Man's Hill' or something like that and people would sit in their car with an ice chest and watch," said Lopez, now the Riverside Poly coach.
That was back in 1970. Richard Millhouse Nixon was the president of the United States, The Baltimore Orioles won the World Series and a pretty good band from Liverpool, The Beatles, broke up.
"It was a high-profile meet," said Lopez, who ran first for Norte Vista during his high school career and then for Riverside Notre Dame. "It was for bragging rights. If you won the 100 in this meet, you were the best 100 guy around and the same went for all of the events. You got to see who was the best in the city."
By the early 1990s, the City Championships faded away, but they have been lovingly replaced by the Riverside City Championships/Raincross Tradition high school meet scheduled for Saturday at King High. Field events begin at 8 a.m. and running events at 9.
This will be the ninth running of the meet since it was revived in 2010.
"The best track talent in Riverside will be on display," veteran King coach John Corona said. "It's nice to be able to celebrate the rich history of the sport in the community."
Several of the original judges and timers from the first incarnation of the meet are expected back. They include Gil Dyrr, Paul Mahoney, Wayne Cochrun and Larry Hilasbeck. Riverside Poly graduate Rosie Bonds, who ran for the United States in the 1964 Olympic Games, may be on hand to distribute some medals. She is the brother of former major league baseball star Bobby Bonds and aunt of all-time big-league home run king Barry Bonds.
The old guard will be represented in other ways as well. Various events will be named after former area greats, with those in attendance treated to the Earl Marshall Mile, the Joanna Hayes 100 Hurdles, the Clyde Jeffery 100, the Rosie Bonds 300 Hurdles, the Chaunte Howard High Jump and the Tyree Washington 400.
There will also be a moment of silence for the late North coach Charles Leathers, who coached the Huskies for 15 years, leading the girls to 12 Southern Section titles, three girls state titles and two boys section championships. Leathers died in February.
There will be 18 schools from the Riverside area, including Moreno Valley which was an original entrant 48 years ago.
Poly, North, Arlington, Ramona, King, Moreno Valley, Patriot, Rubidoux, Norte Vista, La Sierra and Hillcrest will be in Division I of the meet. Smaller schools Sherman Indian, California School for the Deaf Riverside, Notre Dame, Woodcrest Christian and Carnegie School are in Division II.
Although some competitors from these schools may be tempted to compete in the prestigious Mt. San Antonio College which is also this weekend, rest assured there should still be plenty of talent on hand Saturday at King's all-weather track.
Corona and others are eagerly awaiting Saturday.
"I'm excited about it, the coaches and kids are looking forward to it and I think we can look forward to some exciting competition," he said.