Modesto Junior College’s Michael Thompson and Matthew Gallego, both crowned state champions last weekend, always will be joined at the hip for one basic reason.
When they needed their career-best performance to win, they delivered.
The State Community College Track and Field Championships, staged at American River, saw Gallego and Thompson at their very best when it mattered the most.
Gallego, on the final throw of the hammer throw competition, wheeled and launched 55.46 meters (181 feet, 11 inches) to overtake Eric McArthur of Saddleback for the title. The MJC sophomore never had topped 55 meters before that effort.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Thompson, a 6-foor-4 freshman who made his name as a swift wide receiver for the Pirates last fall, rolled out a 15.30 in the triple jump (50-2) for the win over Tristan Meye of De Anza. Thompson, third in the state triple jump last June for Stagg High, never had reached 50 feet.
For Thompson, it capped an amazing series during which he jumped personal-bests seven times. He was ranked fourth in the state going into the meet.
“I honestly can’t explain how I did it,” he said. “I knew I had to come out big to win.”
Thompson weighs in at about 195 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than last fall, and hopes to put on more weight for football. He caught 32 passes for 754 yards and six touchdowns for the Valley Conference champion Pirates, and his 83.8-yards-per-game average was 13th in the state.
I was not even expecting that, not at all. I was thinking, ‘Second place is all right.’ It was a miracle.
“You have to have speed and control both on the runway and in running your routes,” he said. “They’re actually similar in that way. You have to keep your balance.”
Thompson was beaten by Meye at NorCals, so revenge was in play.
“I told myself, ‘I’m not going to let him beat me again,’” he said.
Gallego, an Escalon High grad who didn’t qualify for state as an MJC freshman, was ranked first or second in the hammer all season. Helped by former MJC throwers Erick Loomis and Elsa Vaiasau, he parlayed a boost in confidence into a memorable campaign. McArthur passed Gallego to take the lead on the next-to-last round of the hammer final, however, forcing the MJC star to max out his talent.
“I was not even expecting that, not at all,” Gallego said. “I was thinking, ‘Second place is all right.’ It was a miracle.”
Gallego, a talented musician who can play piano, accordion, saxaphone, clarinet and standup bass, believes there’s a positive connection between the hammer and music.
“It’s rhythm,,” he said. “You need a solid rhythm when you throw the hammer. You can’t be off.”
MJC, led by its two state champs, placed seventh in team standings. That’s four straight top-10 finishes for the Pirates.
“We went into the season thinking we would do that well, but that was before we decided to redshirt four athletes,” MJC coach Demitrius Snaer said. “We were happy with that.”
The MJC 4x100 relay team – Dante Berggren, Windsor Jamison, Shakur Lewis and Taariq Chestnut-Davis – placed fourth in 40.78, second-best -in school history. Berggren also finished sixth in the 200 (21.56).
Sydney Holmes, the only MJC women’s qualifier at state, picked up a third in the pole vault with a PR 11-1. The Pitman High grad, who recovered from a knee injury following her transfer from Humboldt State, also was 10th in the triple jump (35-5 3/4).