Anne Stuart thought her senior season had ended.
The Downey high jumper once again injured her quad in training, much like she had done earlier in her career, only this time it was much worse. She was sidelined from any activity for 12 days, a lifetime in track.
“You feel the pain, but it was more of a mental thing,” she remembered. “I waited. I calmed down. I stretched. I relaxed.”
About three months later, you can call Stuart’s rehab a ringing success. Not only will she make her second straight trip to the CIF State Championships, she’ll also do it as a Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion.
Stuart cleared 5-foot-4 on her second attempt, matching her 2-year-old PR, and thus became Downey’s first Masters winner since the fourth of Suzy Powell’s discus titles in 1994. Sophomore Hannah Lybbert of Davis of Yolo County placed second (5-3) and senior Aryel Moreland of Vanden was third (5-3).
“This is a great way to finish my senior year,” Stuart said. “I feel like I’m living a dream.”
Stuart, third at Masters last year, leaned hard on her experience. She was one of the few athletes to approach the bar from the right, which meant she turned into a 12-mph headwind.
5-4 Anne Stuart’s winning clearance in the high jump
No matter. Performing at peak level after commencement ceremonies Wednesday night, she cleared 4-11 and 5-1 on her first attempts, then hit 5-3 and 5-4 on her second tries. Her victory assured, she made three decent attempts at 5-5. Stuart’s confidence soared three weeks ago when she hit 5-3 and barely missed 5-5 at Sacramento’s Meet of Champions.
“I knew it would come down to scratches today. Everyone was really consistent with their jumping,” Stuart said. “It kind of made me nervous, and when I’m nervous I don’t jump as well.”
The girls high jump was one of six field-event finals staged on Day 1 of Masters, the section’s signature track event. The top three finishers in each event qualified for state, always the nation’s top prep meet, next weekend at Clovis’ Buchanan High.
Pitman junior Whitney Barnes extended her season to next week after her third in the shot put (38-10 1/2). Ranked fourth in the section entering the event, the three-time Masters qualifier delivered what was needed.
“I could have thrown better. Maybe I’ve saved it for next week,” Barnes said.
Modesto Christian senior Nicole Warwick, a three-time champion at the Section D-IV/V meet last week, gears for a busy Friday. She qualified for both the 100 and 300-meter hurdles but, before those title races, she’ll face off in the long jump against Katherine Jackson of Rodriguez in the long jump. Warwick is ranked second (20-0).
Enochs senior Claire Seymour, the defending Masters champion in the 400, made a statement. Loping about two seconds ahead of everyone in her heat, she recorded a section-best 55.27. Also winning their heats were Seymour’s major competition for a repeat title – 2015 champion Saravaughn King of Armijo and Emily Costello of Vista del Lago.
Gregori sophomore Briseida Garcia, taking advantage of the fastest of the heats in the 800, squeezed into the eighth and final qualifying berth (2:17.57). Later, she and teammates Lauren Poppin, Mikaylee Ricci and Kassandra Rojas notched the last Masters berth in the 4x400 relay (4:05.89).
I feel like I’m living a dream.
Downey’s Anne Stuart
Sierra senior Bikram Thiara, sixth in the state last year in the 300 hurdles, swept to a win in 38.38, second overall behind only Deion Lightfoot of Kimball.
Livingston’s Abhishek Singh, who barely advanced in the 400, anchored the Wolves 4x400 relay to an overall fifth.
Dominique Navarrette, top-ranked entering the discus final, became the first El Capitan track athlete to win a section title when he tossed 166-5.
As for Stuart, her motivation for state comes from her nightmarish experience at Clovis last year. Arriving behind schedule for the event, she missed warmup and also wore the wrong spikes. She said a quick good-bye after three misses at 5-3.
“I finally think that I redeemed myself after a little mishap at state last year,” she said. “It’s a good feeling.”