UCLA called and offered a scholarship. San Diego State, naturally, recruited her, too.

After all, her father, Mike, played baseball for the Aztecs and in the Houston Astros ‘ minor league system and her mother, Renee, still holds SDSU ‘s record in the 800 meters and competed in the U.S. Olympic trials three times.

But Christian High track star Mandy Ross, the CIF San Diego Section champion in the 100 and 200 meters and a two-time state-meet qualifier, signed a national letter-of-intent Thursday to attend Azusa Pacific University, an NAIA power in the Los Angeles area that won national titles in 2003 and 2004.

In this generation of ESPN poisoning the minds of high school athletics with constant replays that celebrate of the antics of Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and their ilk, I didn’t think it possible for high-profile prep athlete to turn down the glamour of a NCAA track power such as UCLA.

This is a time in high school sports when coaches and officials struggle with controlling athletes intent on mimicking the bad behavior they see on TV. But Ross provides a refreshing perspective.

“It was hard to turn down UCLA, especially after you see their Hall of Fame,” Ross said. “I love UCLA’s coach and I loved San Diego State and Rhan (Sheffield, SDSU ‘s coach), but I was more interested in the school that was the best fit for me than the publicity and the fame.”

Not surprisingly, Ross’ favorite athlete is at the other end of the spectrum from Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson.

“The one athlete I like is LaDainian Tomlinson, because he’s so humble,” Ross said. “I loved it when they asked him about his records last week, and he said the most important thing to him is team and the getting to the Super Bowl.”

– TOM SHANAHAN

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