CLOVIS State 400-meter girls leader Nia Dorner of Cordova made it look easy, and state boys high jump leader Xavier Howell of Center made it look hard on Friday at the 95th annual CIF State Track and Field Championships.
Despite a false start that disqualified two runners in her heat, Dorner ran the second-fastest time in the United States this year and a lifetime best of 53.12 seconds to coast into tonight's final.
Howell, the only California high jumper to soar 7 feet this year, cleared 6-7 on his final jump to land the 12th and final spot for today's final.
The normally shy and poker-faced Dorner had a big smile when she greeted a friend shortly after wowing the crowd with her sizzling run on the first of three 400 heats.
Only Ana Holland (52.49) of Regis in Aurora, Colo., has run faster this year.
"I didn't expect that," said Dorner, trying to become the Sac-Joaquin Section's first girls state sprint champion. "My goal was to run 53.23, so to run lower than that was shocking."
Dorner's previous best of 54.08 was set at last week's section Masters meet.
Dorner was nonplussed by the false start.
After officials conferred for a few minutes, Newark Memorial's Mianni Brown and Piedmont Hills of San Jose's Timarya Baynard were disqualified.
"I just had to get my focus back and run like I normally do," Dorner said.
Dorner's personal coach, David Lawrence, wasn't nearly as calm waiting for the verdict.
"Oh, man, you just hold your breath," Lawrence said. "But she didn't let it bother her. She ran her race. Expectations are being met, and she is representing our section and Cordova."
Dorner's time was more than a second and a half better than the second-fastest qualifier, Serra of Gardena's Chimere Ezumah (54.69), the 2010 state champion as a freshman.
Dorner, who finished second in the state 400 final last season, came back later in the evening with the second-fastest 200 time, another personal best of 23.74. Only Long Beach Poly's Ariana Washington, the state leader and running in the same heat as Dorner, was faster at 23.39.
Howell had a much different experience than Dorner.
He didn't get to bed until 3 a.m. after Center's graduation and grad night. He started warming up at 2:45 p.m. with no idea that his last jump at 6:20 would have so much on the line.
"There was panic in the first two jumps, so I just told myself I needed to calm down," Howell said.
Howell said fatigue wasn't the issue.
"I slept in the car, so I felt rested," Howell said. "But then I warmed up, and I'm ready to go, and there are 39 people in front of me. That kind of takes a little out of you mentally."
Howell should be better focused today.
"I'm going back to the hotel right now and sleep," Howell said. "(Today) there will be a lot less pressure, now that we're down to (12) and not 40."
In other meet highlights:
Antelope's Robert Ellis qualified in the boys 200 with the fourth-fastest time of 21.36, while Jesuit's Austin Mitsch qualified in the 200 and 100. Mitsch ran the 200 in 21.46 and the 100 in 10.63, matching his personal best. State leader Khalfani Muhammad of Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks had the fastest times in both at 20.94 and 10.40, respectively.
Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion Kylee Trageser of Ponderosa had the day's fourth-best girls pole vault at 11-10.
Monterey Trail's Tiara Webb and Cosumnes Oaks' Tais Marinho-Gomez reached the girls triple jump final. Webb had the sixth-best jump (38-6 1/4) and Marinho-Gomez the 12th (37-10 1/2).
Monterey Trail's Romin Geiger, after barely missing the final in the long jump with a 13th-place mark (22-9), made it in the triple jump. His 47-1 placed him 12th.
Rocklin's Leah Carter had the 10th-best girls high jump (5-6) and St. Francis' Kayla O'Brine the 12th-best girls discus mark (133-07).
Granite Bay, the surprise winner of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters 4x100 title, missed reaching the boys final by one place. The team of Tony Ellison, Tyler Brendel, Lucas Baiocchi and Colin Brown finished in 42.19. Central of Fresno landed the ninth and final spot with a 42.16.
Jesuit's Sina Javidan- Nejad in the boys discus (164-2) and Davis' Nick Denton in the shot put (54-11 3/4) placed 13th in their respective events, one place from qualifying.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.