Rosemont's Dorner to contend for state title in 400 meters

Published: Friday, Jun. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 5, 2012 - 1:33 am

No Sac-Joaquin Section girls sprinter has won a CIF State Track and Field championships.

That could change Saturday if Rosemont junior Nia Dorner is on her game at the 94th annual event that starts with trials today at Buchanan High School in Clovis.

Dorner ranks second in California in the 400 meters with a time of 54.94 seconds. She ran the 31st-best time nationally this season at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II-III championships May 18 at Bella Vista.

Only Renetia James of Serra of Gardena has run faster in California. James set her season best of 54.41 in Friday's Southern Section Masters final.

Dorner ran a 55.07 the same night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters final.

She defeated runner-up Joy Weems of Del Campo by more than two seconds (57.18) in unseasonably cold and windy conditions at Elk Grove High School.

While most would gladly accept such a time considering the conditions – only three other girls in California have run faster this season – Dorner had a different perspective.

"No, I'm not happy," Dorner said seconds after receiving her first-place medal. "I felt like I could have done better."

Those who know her say that's typical Nia Dorner.

Known for her work ethic, Dorner is her own toughest critic and no doubt frustrated that she has yet to surpass her personal best of 54.83 set early in her sophomore season.

"She wanted to finish in the mid 54s," said Rosemont coach Scott Maddox. "Nia works so hard and puts so much time into practice. And as talented and special as she is on the track, she's an even better individual and quality student on campus."

Maddox calls Dorner a "practice stopper." When she runs, her teammates halt what they're doing to watch.

He credits sprint coach David Lawrence for Dorner's consistency. She has won 11 of 12 races in the 400 this season.

"She is a student of track and field," Maddox said. "Coach Lawrence has done a marvelous job preparing her."

The only girls to beat Dorner in head-to-head competition were junior Ellisa Bryant of San Jose's Piedmont Hills and James in the Mount Sac Relays on April 1. Both also are entered in today's 26-person trials field, with the top nine qualifying for Saturday's finals.

Dorner finished fifth (55.54) in last year's state meet. She had the 16th-best time (56.58) in the state meet trials as a freshman.

"In past years, there were individuals she would have had to do something incredible to beat," Maddox said. "But she's coming in with the No. 2 time and isn't that far from the leader. It's exciting to have a horse in the race."

A surprising leap – At the start of the season, Rio Americano's Basil Okoroike had no idea that he would be competing in today's state triple jump trials.

Okoroike, a football and basketball standout for the Raiders, had only dabbled in track.

"Qualifying for state … it was like a fantasy," said Okoroike, a senior sprinter and jumper.

But Okoroike made a leaps-and-bounds improvement in the triple jump during the season. His best of 47 feet, 5 inches – set May 16 at the D-II-III section finals – is nearly 5 feet better than his first jump of the season.

"I just started training harder, put all my focus into this event and kept improving an inch here, a foot there," Okoroike said.

Now Okoroike is thinking that his ticket to a college scholarship isn't in football, where he was an All-Capital Athletic League performer, but in track.

"Free money is free money," Okoroike said with a smile after placing second in the triple jump (47-4 1/2) in the Masters finals.

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Read more articles by Bill Paterson



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