CLOVIS — Oakdale High School sophomore Hannah Chappell kept climbing, up and up, building on her work like a proud bricklayer.
She was the only underclassman, a virtual babe among the field of 12 discus finalists Saturday at the 96th CIF State Track and Field Championship.
When it was over, the sophomore inspected her work – second place, finishing with her day’s best of 147 feet, 11 inches – No. 3 on her best-ever chart. Her game-day poker-face gave way to an ear-to-ear grin and hugs and handshakes with family and friends.
“I’m very happy,” Chappell said. “Today was a struggle. I had to keep working to get my mark where I wanted. ... I like to keep it interesting.”
That she did in the discus venue behind Buchanan High’s Veterans Memorial Stadium. The only girl who beat her, the favored Dos Pueblos senior Stamatia Scarvelis, dominated the event with a 163-7 on her third attempt.
The fight broke down to second place, and Chappell seized it with steady improvement. Her performance arrow always pointed upward – from sixth, to fifth, to third and, at the end, the final push to second. It was her first state medal after a seventh in 2013.
That, too, is a harbinger.
Scarvelis, soon to become a UCLA Bruin, noticed the sophomore gaining ground. The Dos Pueblos star, third in the discus last year, became one of the meet’s stars. About 90 minutes after winning the discus, she successfully defended her shot put title.
“Keep at it,” Scarvelis offered as advice for Chappell. “State gets more comfortable over the years.”
Periodic huddles with Chappell’s father, Oakdale throws coach Brett Chappell, paid off. A below-average warmup proved irrelevant. The sophomore adjusted her spin and stayed more upright as she released.
Chappell is a hard act to follow. Oakdale senior Kyle Peterson understood the new ground rules since Chappell enrolled as a freshman.
But Peterson answered Chappell’s two Sac-Joaquin Section Masters titles with two of his own the last two years. And after he crashed and burned at the State prelims last year, he responded with a final flurry.
Peterson threw a personal-best 177-6 on his third try, which held up for sixth and the coveted medal. Before he ripped for his longest, Peterson sat in 10th place. Rocky Fenton of San Clement tossed 184-10 for the win.
“I didn’t think I would get on the podium,” said Peterson, who also exits as a three-time section divisional champion. “I knew what I had to do. Good way to end.”
Also climbing onto the podium, both in fifth place, were Golden Valley graduates Ryan Pust in the pole vault (16-0) and Afolabi Olabode in the shot put (60-61/4). Olabode, who will continue at UC Santa Barbara, opened with his best mark but couldn’t follow it up. Still, he improved over his 10th last year.
“After the first one, I was just falling short,” Olabode said. “I felt like 62 (feet) could happen. I had the power. I didn’t have it technically.”
Pust, one of the favorites in what was billed the best-ever field in the pole vault, was encouraged by his warmup but struggled in the competition. He didn’t clear his opening 15-6 until his third attempt and negotiated 16-0 on his second. Three misses at 16-6 ended the prep career of the Masters champion.
Sonora grad Steven Grolle, whose next stop is Stanford, placed 23rd in the 3,200 meters (9:24.51).
For Chappell, she’s halfway home to one of her major goals – four consecutive trips to State. But after what happened in the Clovis afternoon heat, she’s already raising the bar.
“I like winning,” she said with a sly smile. “Winning sounds like a good idea to me.”