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  • ERIC PAUL ZAMORA / Fresno Bee

    Cordova sprinter Nia Dorner, second from left, adds a fourth-place finish in the 200 to her win in the 400. Ariana Washington, center, of Long Beach Poly won the 200.

  • ERIC PAUL ZAMORA / Fresno Bee

    Cordova High School's Nia Dorner celebrates on the medal podium after winning the 400-meter dash at the CIF State Track and Field Championships in Clovis. The senior became the first girls sprint champion in Sacramento-area and Sac-Joaquin Section history.

Hometown Report: Dorner's state title is one for all Sacramento-area women

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013 - 12:00 pm

Nia Dorner wasn't alone when she broke the tape Saturday night in Clovis.

When the Cordova High School senior won the CIF State Championship 400-meter dash in a national No. 2 seasonal time of 53.0 seconds, she scored a triumph for generations who weren't afforded such a platform or just missed the Title IX wave.

"That 53 (winning time) is monumental, believe me, for a lot of reasons," said Jerry Colman, a longtime area coach and meet coordinator. "What Nia did was special for a lot of area girls over the years, people who still follow the sport, still attend meets. They know of her and what this all means."

What it means is Dorner emphatically broke through. The CIF has fielded boys track finals for 95 years, girls finals for 40. Since 1974, not one area girl had won a state race, other than the 800, entering last weekend in Clovis. That's 350 races without a victory-stand salute.

"We've had great runners for years, and then here comes Dorner," Colman said.

Until the 1970s, a girls high school track team was fantasy. Title IX, mandating gender sports equity, was enacted in 1972.

Still, the efforts of local pioneers Marie Mulder, Kathy Hammond, Eileen Claugus and Evelyn Ashford set a national standard in sprint and distance races. With no school program to call their own, they competed in invitationals running for clubs such as "Will's Spikettes" under the late Will Stephens, who was assisted by Colman.

Mulder was deemed the future of American women's distance running as a 15-year-old at Foothill Farms Junior High, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated in May 1965. Three months later, against women much older, she clocked 2 minutes, 7.3 seconds in the 800 in Kiev, Ukraine. Mulder soon after moved to Maryland and was finished with running by the time she reached Long Beach State in 1969, undone by injuries. Mulder's effort in Kiev was a national prep record for eight years and is the second-fastest in area history behind Lindsay Hyatt's 2:06.3. Hyatt won the state 800 four times with Placer in the late 1990s.

Hammond, of Mira Loma, clocked a 51.8-second 400 (converted from the longer 440 yards) in 1969, a national mark that stood for a decade. It remains the fastest in regional history, though not recognized by the Sac-Joaquin Section because girls didn't have teams then.

Claugus, then a Rio Americano junior, placed fourth in the 1972 Olympic Trials. The next spring, she set a national mark in the mile (4:40.7) that stood for 10 years. She holds the second-fastest time by a local woman in the California International Marathon at 2:40:04 in 1985.

Ashford used to dust boys in sprints at lunchtime on the blacktop at Roseville in 1975. A co-captain on the boys track team, Ashford ran the anchor leg on the 400 relay team and won her share of sprints in local meets. Despite holding the fastest girls' sprint times in the state, Ashford was ineligible for the second girls state meet because she wasn't on a girls team.

Under Title IX, Ashford received the first women's full-ride athletic scholarship to UCLA. She was a member of four Olympic teams, winning five gold medals and a silver. She once held the 100 world record of 10.76.

Ashford told The Bee three years ago: "I was meant to run and run fast. I was a pioneer, and that was a little scary but also an honor."

Dorner, who will compete in the AAU National Championships in Reno this summer, will attend Texas on a scholarship.

"This is for so many people. I'm so proud," Dorner said of her win.

Follow on Joe Davidson @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on

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