CLOVIS — Faith Makau started Friday in tears of disappointment and finished in tears of relief.
The Enochs High senior shocked herself twice during the first day of the 95th CIF Track and Field Championships. Neither she, nor anyone else, could have predicted that she would not reach the finals of the 1,600 meters, her best event, but advance to tonight's final of the 800.
"I learned a lot about myself today," said Makau, who swept to victories in both races at last week's Sac-Joaquin Section Masters. "When you think you know it all, you'll find out there is a factor you weren't aware of."
Makau's scrappy performance accented the first day of one of the nation's best prep track meets. Six of 10 athletes from the Stanislaus District spiced by amazing performances by Oakdale freshman discus thrower Hannah Chappell and Weston Ranch's sophomore sprinter John McDonald qualified for the finals tonight at Buchanan High.
Expectations for Makau were raised after she squeaked into the 2012 state finals field in the 1,600 and eventually placed 11th. But a year later, Dame Fate threw her a wicked change-up.
Her heat of the 1,600, a typical-push-and-shove affair with everyone fighting for the inside lane, rejected Makau. Resigned to the outside position, she faded badly in the final 200 meters and placed sixth in her heat with a time of 4:55.78.
After the results of the other heats were recorded, Makau mumbled to herself, "Oh my God." She sensed the news wouldn't be good. Overall, she finished an unlucky 13th, because only 12 advance to tonight.
The Enochs star missed by three-tenths of a second.
Miserable afterward, Makau did allow herself a shred of hope. The 800 would be contested in about two hours.
"That was the toughest race I've ever been in," she said. "That's why I didn't scratch out of the 800 because I figured things like that could happen."
Makau gathered herself for the 800 and raced through her disappointment. She made a game move at the 300-meter mark and eventually placed fourth in her heat with a PR of 2:13.22. Later, she learned that she finished 11th overall. Her ticket for tonight was punched.
"If you told me before that I'd make it in the 800 and not in the 1,600, I would have said, 'That's funny,' " she said. "There's always someone out there who can beat you."
A surprise of a different kind was seen in the girls discus. Chappell, another Masters champion, needed a clutch throw in her final attempt to advance. And she got it, a toss of 144 feet, 4 inches a personal best by six feet to finish fourth overall. She was seeded 14th.
Asked what she did right, Chappel was succint.
McDonald, not tall but extremely quick, was not expected to be a factor in the 100 and 200. Then he unleashed two by-plenty PRs 10.62 in the 100 for fifth overall, and 21.32 in the 200 for third overall.
Also extending their respective seasons to the final day were Golden Valley pair Ryan Pust in the pole vault (15-5¾) and Afolabi Olabode in the shot put (57-11), and Atwater's Dallas Hoofard in the 300-meter hurdles (38.24).
Modesto Christian's James Warwick, a double winner in the hurdles at the Section D-4/5 and a runner-up in the Masters 110s, took fifth in his 110 heat (14.67).
Oakdale junior Kyle Peterson, the 2013 Masters champion, labored through a difficult day in the discus. One week after throwing 170-7 to win in Elk Grove, he misfired in the Clovis heat. Peterson sandwiched two sector violations around a 142-9 and did not qualify for today's finals.
He hoped for better, given the fact he entered as the ninth seed out of 23. Twelve advanced.
"I felt great," said Peterson, who topped 180 feet during practice this week. "It was one of those things. If you miss on one little thing, it all goes out the window."
Peterson, who failed to reach the 2012 Masters finals only to rebound for the title a year later, plans for the same progression as a senior.
"I'll do everything I can to make sure it does," he said.