He was destined to run this race, rooted in genetics and pride, at some point.
It’s a family legacy dating back 30 years to leg out a full lap for the Ellis family.
On Friday night in perfect conditions at Elk Grove High School, the new family champion in the 400 meters pumped his fists triumphantly on the victory stand. Myles Ellis of Antelope won the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters championship in a sizzling 47.47 seconds, continuing his torrid accent lately.
That’s the fastest time in Northern California this spring and third best in the state. It’s also the fastest quarter mile for bragging rights at the dinner table, as the sophomore bettered his father’s best by a hair. Robert Ellis won the section 400 in 47.52 for Highlands in 1985. Myles’ older brother Robert Ellis Jr. also ran high school track and won races at state powerhouse American River College in recent seasons.
“This race is a big family tradition,” Ellis said.
The top three finishers in each event advance to the CIF State Track and Field Championships next weekend in Clovis.
“My dad was so good at it, and so was my brother,” Ellis said. “I’m still learning how to run it.”
He’s a fast learner. Ellis didn’t pick up the 400 until this season, after much pleading from his coaches. He had to learn the blocks, how to pace himself and how to finish. Ellis beat Marcus Beloney of Sheldon (47.68) and Nick Gill of Vanden (48.31).
The most dominating effort of the meet belonged to Fiona O’Keeffe of Davis. The sensational junior lapped nine runners in taking the eight-lap 3,200 meters in a meet-record 10 minutes, 0.85 seconds. O’Keeffe was already the state leader by a virtual mile coming in, and she now has the nation’s third-fastest time, winning by nearly a minute. Peyton Bilo of St. Francis was second in 10:51.57.
“I felt great,” O’Keeffe said.
She was better than that, her coach Bill Gregg said, pointing out her 71-second final lap to a rousing standing ovation.
“Wow,” Gregg said. “I’m stunned. She’s just amazing.”
The short races featured some fast finishes to contrast O’Keeffe’s sizzling effort. The girls 100 meters was an all-Elk Grove Unified School District victory stand showing, with Pleasant Grove sophomore Rae’vyn Lawler winning in 12.08 to edge Natsumi McGee of Cosumnes Oaks (12.15) and Chinyere Dike of Franklin (12.20).
Like Ellis, Lawler is new to this race, and she learned to run and compete from her mother, Gaylon Ndia, a sprint star at Burbank in the 1980s. Lawler also is inspired by Olympic track great Allyson Felix.
“I love watching her run,” Lawler said. “I’m learning so much, having so much fun.”
Lawler also placed second in the 200 in 25.10, behind McGee (24.90).
The competition was just as fierce in the field events. National football recruit Jonah Williams of Folsom won the shot put with a 60-foot, 101/4-inch effort. Anthony Santiago of Sierra of Manteca was second at 57-11/4, and Darrin Paulo of Grant was third in 57 feet, 1/2 inch.
Williams and Paulo are good friends, having battled each other in the trenches in football and rooted for each other in track, except when going head-to-head. Second in the state in the discus last season, Paulo won at 181-11 here. Williams was sixth.
“It’s nice to win (the shot put), but (the distance) was not what I wanted,” Williams said, adding he wanted to better his personal best of 61-51/2. “It’s fun going against (Paulo). He got me pretty good in the discus, too.”
Check The Bee on Sunday for more track coverage and next week for a feature on O’Keeffe.