In some parts of the country, they know it's spring when the daffodils start poking their way out of the ground.
Or when the first red-breasted robins show up from warmer climes.
In Southern California track circles, it's the arrival of the Mt. SAC Relays in way-out-there Walnut, located precisely near nowhere. Despite the geographical undesirability, thousands of high school kids, college runners and several Olympic standouts make the Mt. SACs, testament in part to the efforts of long-time meet director Scott Davis, one of the all-time good guys. Scott died last August.
Two Saturdays ago, they held the 2011 Mt. SACs. Scott surely wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Allyson Felix, who by now has her pick of meets to run in, very deliberately ran at the Mt. SACs, leading the "Kersee All Stars" to victory in the women's 400-meter relay in 43.1 seconds.
As was Scott Davis, so is Allyson Felix.
It's Allyson Felix's relative misfortune to be great, truly great, at a sport that gets remarkably little attention in a country seemingly desperate for genuine heroes.
I mean, what else would you want?
She ran on the 2008 Games gold-medal winning 1600-meter relay team.
She is the 2004 and 2008 Games silver medalist in the 200 meters.
She is the three-time world champion in the 200 -- 2009, 2007 and 2005.
Last season, she won the inaugural Samsung Diamond League titles in both the 200 and 400 meters, and was named the Jesse Owens Award winner as the top female athlete in the United States.
One of the sport's storylines for 2011, and probably 2012, is whether Allyson will run the 200-400 double at the world championships this summer in South Korea and then, presumably, at the London Games. She said she'll decide by this summer's U.S. nationals.
A back story: One of the Kersee assistant coaches, Valerie Briscoe-Hooks, was the first to do the 200-400 double at a single Games, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
She excels in the relays. Examples: She runs the second leg (2010 Penn Relays 400-meter relay). She runs anchor (2010 Penn Relays 1600-meter relay). She executes clean passes (both). She wins (both).
Allyson will run the Penn Relays again this coming weekend; her open season gets underway next weekend, in Doha, Qatar, the first 2011 Diamond League meet. In Doha, she will run just the 400.
Allyson runs clean. No one whispers about doping, the scourge of track and field, when it comes to Allyson Felix.
She has great form. The way she runs -- it looks almost effortless, which of course it's not. "I get that a lot," she said. "You have to watch the background. It's my long legs and long stride that make it seem like I'm not moving.
She runs with character. She serves on President Obama's Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
Allyson, who is University of Southern California through and through, said, "Sports are so uncertain. You work so hard but you never want to be in a situation where you can't do anything else. We," she and her brother, Wes, "were always encouraged to put academics first.
"It's great to make sure younger kids see that. To make sure kids who aren't so serious about sports -- to let them know that they can be great at anything. Having that complete package is a great thing."
Which, in its roundabout way, is why Allyson dropped in at the Mt. SACs a couple weeks back. Allyson is the complete package. And to get to where you're going you can't ever forget where you're from.
And, like thousands of other kids in Southern California, Allyson started at the Mt. SAC Relays.
"When I was in high school, Marion was running at the meet," she said, and that would be Marion Jones, of course.
"To me, she was everything. This was right before Sydney," when Jones would win five medals, all of which would ultimately be given back amid revelations of doping, "and I remember I stood in line with all these little kids fighting to be in front to get an autograph.
"Just to be able to get close to someone I had looked up to was such a big deal. I think it's so cool to go back and see those kids. I would never have thought," Allyson Felix said, "I would be in that position."