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Foster sets U.S. mark, qualifies for Junior World Championships

Clearwater Central Catholic's Char Foster defended her 400-meter hurdles title at the U.S. Junior National Track and Field Championships over the weekend in Walnut, Calif., and set more age-group national records in the process.

Foster, 15, won Saturday's final in a personal-best time of 57.64 seconds. That broke the national 15-year-old and high school freshman record of 58.68, which she had set in the preliminaries earlier in the day. Her victory qualified her for the Junior World Championships that will be held in Santiago, Chile, in early September.

Her time was the fifth-best in high school history, and just seven-tenths of a second off the national record for juniors. The Junior Nationals is for athletes ages 14 through 19. Foster won the 400 hurdles last year in Tallahassee.

Among those she beat Saturday were Ryan Tolbert of Vanderbilt (58.39), Cheryl Finley of the University of Tennessee (58.90), and Joanna Hayes of Riverside, Calif. (59.07), who had beaten Foster two weeks earlier at the Golden West high school invitational.

Foster's father, Art, coach of the Alpha Omega Track Club in Clearwater, said it has taken trips across the country to find good competition for her.

"Char had learned how to do things too darned easy," he said. "Winning was just nothing to her. At the level she needs to be at, winning has to be of importance to a point. It's been tough on her to find rhythm."

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas star Seilala Sua, who recently joined Foster's club, also will travel to the Junior World Championships. She finished second in the discus and shot put.

Sua's throw of 176 feet, 8 inches in the discus was the fifth-best high school mark of all time. She finished second to national high school record holder Suzy Powell, now at UCLA.