Area track and field athletes will find out in a hurry that they aren’t the only ones bearing down on the medal stand in Clovis this weekend.
Sac-Joaquin Section runners, jumpers and throwers will try to ward off a crush of contenders from the Southland at the CIF State Track and Field Championships on Friday and Saturday at Buchanan High School near Fresno, where the 94th meet will sizzle in temperatures forecasted at 107 degrees.
Cameron Stone of Sheldon High School has the state’s fastest 400-meter time this season of 46.99 seconds. That’s also the area’s record, bettering the mark of 47.16 by Mike Kenyon of Del Campo in 1997. The Woodcreek 400 relay team of Alex Rotteveel, Colton George, Aspyn Walton and Tyus Williamson has the state’s best time of 40.93, which is also an area record.
Still, state meet history doesn’t favor regional sprinters.
The only locals to win the state 400 are Rod Connors of Cordova in 1974 (47.2 seconds) and Johnny Ware of Sacramento High in 1975 (47.7). The last NorCal runner to take the one-lap race was Eddie Levine of Golden Valley of Merced in 1997 (46.77).
And the lone area 400 relay team to win at state was Johnson in 1986 at 41.30. SoCal teams have won 14 consecutive 400 relay titles, with Vallejo the last from the North to win in 1999 at 40.94.
Woodcreek clocked a 41.29 last week to win the section Masters race and is the No. 2 seed behind Great Oak of Temecula, which ran 41.13 at the Southern Section Masters.
“It was a little bit sloppy, but that may have been a little bit nerves because it was a Masters race,” Woodcreek coach Marco Hanan said. “We’re happy we finished first and got another week to keep going.”
The next 11 fastest 400 relay times are owned by SoCal teams. George called the state finals “A lifetime opportunity. We’re ready.”
So is St. Francis in girls races – short and long. The last girls event of the season will be the 4x400 relay, and the Troubadours will be in the medal hunt with the seventh-fastest time in the state at 3 minutes, 47.79 seconds. Sheldon is the section leader at 3:47.54.
Long Beach Poly leads the state in a nation-leading best of 3:41.31. SoCal teams have won 18 of the last 19 4x400 relays. The South has won the last 13 4x100 relays, too. Poly has won 16 combined state relay races since 1991. No Sac-Joaquin Section teams have won a girls relay.
Why is the South so strong, boys and girls? For one, sheer numbers. Though the Sac-Joaquin section is the second largest of the 10 in the state with 197 member schools, it is dwarfed by the Southern Section in the heart of Los Angeles and Orange County with 575 schools.
“When you have 9 million people down south and we have 1 or 2 million, yes, strength in numbers,” said John DuCray, in his 37th year at St. Francis. “And the weather is great for year-round training, and they have great athletes. Poly has 5,000 students. Give me 5,000 students, and I’ll tell you what – I’d be kicking everyone’s butt, too.”
While Poly is the favorite in the boys 4x400 with a best of 3:14.79, Stone leads a Sheldon relay team that is seeded No. 2 and has the state’s fourth-fastest time in 3:16.6. Led by 800 standout Arturo Sotomayor, Roseville is seeded No. 3 and has the sixth-fastest time of 3:16.54. The only area boys team to win a state 4x400 was Cordova in 1973.
Sotomayor has the No. 1-seeded 800 time of 1:51.93. Blake Croft of Davis is seeded No. 4 at 1:52.45. Folsom’s Austin Carter, a Masters champion in the 110 and 300 hurdles, has the second-best 300 time in the state at 37.14. Masters champion Garrett Migliozzi of Nevada Union has the No. 2-seeded time in the 1,600 in 4:10.30. Granite Bay’s Brian Graber has the fourth-best high jump at 6-9.
In the girls, Masters 400 champion Jazmine Smith of Elk Grove has the fourth-fastest time in NorCal at 55.82. She grew up racing, reminding that this included rushing to the dinner table to beat her older brother. Lillian Enes of St. Francis has the sixth-fastest NorCal time in 56.25. Kendall Derry of Bella Vista is looking to medal in the 1,600, having won the Masters in a personal-best 4:53.91, third best in NorCal this season. Ariane Arndt of St. Francis won the Masters 800 in 2:15.27.
Lauren LaRocco of St. Francis was second in the Masters 1,600 in 4:57.58 and won the 3,200 in 10:32.72, beating rival Fiona O’Keeffe of Davis, who has the top NorCal time and state’s fifth-fastest in 10:14.60. Melissa Maneatis of Del Oro won the Masters pole vault at 12 feet, 5 inches, and her best of 12-6 is fourth best in the state. Meghan Tucker of Placer won the Masters long jump at 19-8, and her wind-aided best of 20-1 is the third fastest in the state under any conditions.
The CIF finals is also about redemption. LaRocco missed six weeks this season because of injury and kept in shape on a bike and in the pool. DuCray said a fitting finish for the senior is to be on the medal stand.
“She’s as tough as anyone we’ve ever had, physically, emotionally, grit,” DuCray said. “We told her, ‘We know what you can do. Go after it.’ You root for kids like that, and we’ll be pulling for all the local athletes.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.