Track (and field) temperature heats up as run to the State Meet begins

ragostini@modbee.comMay 19, 2014 

The high school track and field countdown has begun in the Stanislaus District.

The dual and league meets have been completed, leading to this week’s Sac-Joaquin Section divisional competitions. Action begins at Cal State Stanislaus for the Division IV/V Championships today and Thursday. The D-I section meet will be held Wednesday and Friday at Elk Grove High.

Athletes hope to advance to the Section Masters Championships on May 29-30 at Elk Grove, followed by the State Meet at Clovis’ Buchanan High on June 6-7.

Here are 10 things you need to know as the track season intensifies:

1. Six Stanislaus District athletes lead the section: Modesto senior Jose Gonzalez in the high jump (6 feet, 9 inches), Oakdale sophomore Hannah Chappell in the discus (149-6), Oakdale senior Dezirae Pennington in the triple jump (38-41/4), Golden Valley senior Ryan Pust in the pole vault (16-3), Buhach Colony junior Brandy Coward in the 200 meters (24.59) and Atwater senior Armando Gauger in the discus (186-2). Chappell, a Masters champion as a freshman, placed seventh at state a year ago. Pust, the younger brother of 2012 Masters champion Steven Pust, placed ninth at state in 2013.

2. The D-IV/V athletes at Cal State Stanislaus must finish in the top five of their events to reach Masters, while the top 12 advance at D-I. The D-IV/V meet dropped a berth two years ago because its athletes weren’t faring as well at the higher levels, though that might be news to Chappell and Pennington. Finals will be staged in six field events, featuring Chappell and Pennington, today. Action begins at 3 p.m.

3. The D-I meet at Elk Grove cranks up Wednesday at 3 p.m. with finals in six field events. The spotlight will be on Pust, Gauger and Golden Valley senior shot putter Afolabi Olabode.

4. Coward qualified for state in the 200 as a freshman and in the 400 last year. Earlier this month, she sped to her section-leading 24.59 at the Central California Conference Championships. She also is ranked second in the 100 (12.02) behind Jelia Brice-Montgomery of Bear Creek (11.99). Brandy and sister Barbara combined for four wins at the CCCs.

5. Enochs graduate Faith Makau, the Masters champion in the 800 and 1,600 and sixth-place finisher at state in the 800 last year, completed a solid freshman season at UC Riverside. Two city sprinters have positioned themselves to follow in Makau’s footsteps, and both emerged in a big way at the Modesto Metro Conference Championships. Modesto senior Lovell Collins powered through the 100 in 10.8, third-best in the section, and Downey sophomore Erykah Hall made the section chart (eighth) with her 12.2 in the 100. That 12.2 was the best 100 run by a city female athlete in many years. Collins also contributes a leg on the Panthers’ 4x100 relay team that is ranked fourth in the section (42.7). A promising freshman is Enochs’ Claire Seymour in the 400 (57.5).

6. The best performance thus far this season by a Modesto athlete was the 6-9 high jump by Gonzalez at Sacramento’s Meet of Champions. Earlier in the season, Gonzalez broke the MHS record of 6-6 that stood since 1960. He and Granite Bay’s Brian Graber have cleared 6-9, but right behind them at 6-8 is Golden Valley basketball/track star Joshua Sykes. A year ago, Golden Valley grad Harman Purewal placed second at Masters and qualified for state.

7. Modesto Christian senior Lexi Tubbs was instrumental in the Crusaders’ state basketball title not long ago. The three-sport athlete, named the 2013 county High School Athlete of the Year at the Outstanding Athlete Awards Dinner, still seeks a state berth. She’s ranked fifth in the section in the 100 hurdles (14.73).

8. Sonora senior distance runner Steven Grolle is winding down a high-level career. He holds school records in the mile, 1,500 and 3,000, the rewards for a workout regimen that reaches 50 miles per week. He’s ranked in the section in the 800 and 1,600.

9. The discus success by Chappell and Gauger, along with 2013 Masters champion Kyle Peterson of Oakdale, bears a reminder to Downey graduate and three-time discus Olympian Suzy Powell. All she did was win three state titles, set the national high school record and in 1994 and was named the Girls National High School Track Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News. Powell will be inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame on July 2 in Boston.

10. See Scoreboard on Page C-4 for a list of section leaders, plus all district athletes in the top 10 of their events.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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