CLOVIS — Enochs High senior Faith Makau clutched her medal like it was worth a fortune.
And in this arena on this Saturday night, it was.
Makau wrapped up her excellent prep career with a satisfying, and unexpected, sixth-place finish in the 800 meters at the 95th CIF Track and Field Championships.
On her jersey was stamped the No. 11 sticker marking her as the 11th seed of 12 runners to reach the state final. Which is why she treated that medal (they go only to the top six in each event) with such reverence.
"The top six in California, and I was one of the six," Makau said in wonder. "I didn't think that was possible."
Neither did others. Makau bounced back from major disappointment the night before after she failed to reach the final in her favorite event, the 1,600, where she placed 11th here a year ago.
But to her credit, she squeezed into the title race of the 800 and made it count in the season's most pressurized event.
Consider: About 98,000 California track and field athletes started the season in the cold of winter. They were pared down to 903 entries at Buchanan High for the State Championships, 100 of them from the Sac-Joaquin Section. To get here is hard enough. To excel is something else.
Three Stanislaus District athletes, including Atwater senior Dallas Hoofard, also brought home medals. Hoofard was sixth in the 300 hurdles. A major surprise was Weston Ranch sophomore John McDonald, who announced his arrival to the track elite with a fourth in the 200 and a fifth in the 100.
Another "hello world" performance was turned in by Oakdale freshman Hannah Chappell with her seventh in the discus. She missed the podium by only six inches.
Makau positioned herself behind the lead pack during a fast opening lap of the 800. The strategy was sound, proven by her eager move at the top of the back stretch. She turned for home in fifth and held on for the final medal spot, thanks to a time of 2:11.01, a personal best by about two seconds.
"I was just where I wanted to be for that second lap," Makau said. "I just wanted to leave it all out there. Doing this was far-fetched, but anything is possible."
Chappell, fourth in the trials with a personal best of 144-4, contended from start to finish in the discus. Her 137-9 put her in fourth place going into the final three throws, but she improved only to 138-7 while older girls surged by her for the medals.
Chappell still enjoyed the experience in what should be the first of her state meets.
"It shows that age is no factor," the Masters champion said. "If I made the podium, great. I was hoping to make it to the finals on the second day."
McDonald, seeded 21st out of 27 in the 100 and 14th out of 27 in the 200 going into the trials, put together two remarkable days on the big stage. He thinks his PRs of 10.62 in the 100 and 21.77 on Friday night are a harbinger.
"Other than my coaches and my family, a lot of people didn't know about me," McDonald said. "Out here, it's go big or go home."
Hoofard, the Masters champ last week in the 300 hurdles, probably earned his medal with quick work to the first two hurdles. Fighting for it from the sometimes lonely Lane 9, he straightened for home, struggled toward the end, but protected his sixth with a time of 37.95.
That it wasn't a PR hardly mattered. He upticked from 16th at State last year to a medal.
"I didn't want to see anybody else until the turn," Hoofard said. "And I didn't."
Golden Valley junior Ryan Pust finished ninth in the pole vault after he failed to equal his personal best of 15-10. He cleared 15-3¾. Afolabi Olabode, Pust's GV teammate, was 10th in the shot put with a 56-2½.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter @modbeesports
HOW DISTRICT FARED
Faith Makau, Enochs, 800, 6th place (medal)
Dallas Hoofard, Atwater, 300 hurdles, 6th place (medal)
Hannah Chappell, Oakdale, discus, 7th place
Ryan Pust, Golden Valley, pole vault, 9th place
Afolabi Olabode, Golden Valley, shot put, 10th place
John McDonald, Weston Ranch, 100, 5th place (medal)
John McDonald, Weston Ranch, 200, 4th place (medal)