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National TV spotlight shines on South Bay Phillip Brents | Fri, Jan 20 2012 12:12 PM

Those sports fans channel surfing last Saturday between NBC and Fox must have experienced surprise, shock and jubilation at the events unfolding on screen. Those emotions added up to one thing: a sense of pride in the South Bay.

Immense pride, at that.

NBC telecast the men’s and women’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials from Houston. For those who had to know, they could access the results via the Internet in real time.

However, for those who desired a little suspense, they could watch the network’s tape-delayed telecast of the event, which began with the start of the women’s race.

The top three finishers in the race qualified for the U.S. team that will compete in the London Olympic Games later this summer. Among those favored to land a berth on the American squad, drum roll, was former Hilltop High School cross country and track standout Desiree Davila.

She was easy to pick out as she strode to the front of the pack about 20 minutes into the race. 

The former Lancer, now 28, finished second in the 26.2-mile race in two hours, 25 minutes, 55 seconds to earn her ticket to London. She crossed the finish line just 18 seconds behind race winner Shalane Flanagan (Portland, Ore.).

(As a bonus, San Diegan Meb Keflezghi, 36, won the men’s race.)

Davila, who attended Arizona State and now makes Rochester Hills, Mich., her home running base, burst into prominence after placing second in last year’s Boston Marathon. It was the fastest time ever recorded in the fabled race by a U.S. woman.

Davila has competed in six marathons — each faster than the last.

Her footsteps into history didn’t go unnoticed at her alma mater. Hilltop athletic director Nancy Acerrio used the words “amazing” and “fantastic” to sum up reaction at the west side Chula Vista school.

“How exciting it was to see that picture of her with the other two women with the (U.S.) flag,” Acerrio said. “It was so exciting to announce it at school (on Monday). It’s so exciting to the kids to see there are possibilities and one of them is ours. It was great for all the teachers and staff who knew her to look back and remember.”

Fast forward a couple more hours and those following the NFL playoffs on Fox were in for another surprise when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith threw the game-winning touchdown pass with nine seconds to play to cap an amazing come-from-behind 36-32 victory over the visiting New Orleans Saints in an NFC divisional contest.

Smith, 27, is the son of Pam Smith, a Chula Vista Elementary School District board member and director of the Aging and Independence Services of San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. The family lives in Bonita and the future NFL signal-caller attended Bonita Vista Middle School before going on to play football at both Helix High School and the University of Utah.

Smith, the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick in 2005, had languished through seven seasons with the 49ers under seven different offensive coordinators before finally experiencing his breakthrough moment on Saturday.

Smith passed for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the game and also rushed for a 28-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. During the regular season, he passed for 3,144 yards and 17 TDs.

The 49ers (14-3) will host the NFC championship game against the New York Giants (11-7) this Sunday, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl. Game time is 3:30 p.m. on Fox.

“I wasn’t anything back then,” Smith shyly told me once during an interview in regard to his untapped athletic ability at BVMS.

He’s now the toast of the NFL.

I plan on watching Sunday’s game. How about you?

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