SACRAMENTO — Modesto Junior College sophomore Markus Sanders checks in at about 230 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than his days as a bulldozing fullback.
About 18 months have passed since Sanders last carried the ball for the Pirates. But on a muggy Saturday in Sacramento, the former Pitman High star arguably surpassed everything he had accomplished on the football field.
Sanders, peaking at the exact right moment, pulled off stunning victories in the hammer throw and the discus at the Northern California Community College Track and Field Championships.
How he did it was even more impressive than the wins themselves. He beat teammate Tyler Lamott, the hammer throw national leader, and recorded a personal-best 192 feet, 7 inches, on his final effort.
Two hours later despite windless conditions at American River Stadium, Sanders one-upped himself in the discus. He tossed 173-8 on his final try, launching it high and far as it hugged the right side of the sector, and broke Dave McThorn's 1986 school-record of 172-11.
"Coach Mac (throws coach Bob MacKay) cued me before my last throw," said Sanders, who didn't realize he had erased such a long-standing record. "He said, 'Keep everything lined up don't drop the shoulder, and throw it out there.' "
Sanders anchored an impressive seven-victory performance by MJC.
Cara McClain keyed a 1-2-3 sweep in the women's hammer throw, and Sanders topped a 1-2-4 finish by the MJC men. Victoria Dickerson upset the field in the discus and also qualified in the hammer and the shot put for next week's State Championships in San Mateo.
Also winning for MJC were Becky Hobby in the 1,500 meters, Sarah Mayfield in the 800 and Kianna Weinzheimer in the javelin.
All told, women accounted for five of the Pirates' seven wins. It didn't happen by accident. MJC has won the Big 8 Conference title the last two years, and it raced onto the podium for a third at NorCals. The Pirates totaled 87 points, 40 behind victorious Laney.
The MJC men earned 66½ points for fifth. American River pleased the home crowd with the team win.
Modesto's dominance started early in the day at the hammer throw ring, located about a one-quarter of a mile away from the stadium. Soccer fields, a ballpark and parking garage separated the track from the ring, a dusty outpost that simmered in 91-degree heat.
There, MJC ruled.
McClain, 5-4¾ and 120 pounds, looks better suited for the pole vault. But the Tracy product's speed and timing easily outdid everyone as she tossed 174-10, about six feet off her best.
"I was inspired about five years ago by Hal Connolly (the 1956 Olympic champion who died in 2010) at a clinic," McClain said. "He said, 'Cara, you're a giant killer. Use your speed.' I tried the hammer throw because it looked cool. Now I'm hooked."
Tellingly, Dickerson and Katy Cederlind capped the Modesto sweep. The program's hammer-throw talent has been building since MacKay, a former MJC coach, returned to the Pirates' staff two years ago after his stint at Moorpark.
Since then, hammer-throw talent has gravitated Modesto's way. Fourteen started this season, and five will advance to State.
"What Markus did was tremendous," MacKay said. "That's what you want to work so hard for so long and to come through on the right day."
Hobby, the former Hughson High star, outkicked Hartnell's Amy Johnston in the final 110 meters to take the 1,500 in 4:41.94. Hobby did it with a quick 71-second closing lap. She later advanced with a fourth in the 5,000.
Dickerson, seeded fifth in the discus, surprised observers with her 138-1 on her third attempt for the win.
Mayfield, a softball player who had not competed in track until this year, surged in front with about 150 meters left to upset runner-up Melissa Leyva of Sequoias in the 800. Mayfield's 2:13.75, the second-best time in school history, beat her previous best by six seconds. Later, she keynoted the 4x400 relay that placed third.
Weinzheimer continued her standout season with a going-away win in the javelin, saving her 135-2 for last.
Fifteen MJC athletes, nine women and six women, will wrap up the season at CSM's hillside venue next week.