It was wet. The rain was constant and so were the late-afternoon wind gusts.
The meet was held in conditions that might be favorable only for ducks, fish or anyone packing a pair of scuba diving fins, but the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track and Field Championships at Davis High School on Saturday still sizzled.
The top three finishers advanced to this weekend’s 101st CIF State finals in Clovis. And the weather this weekend in Fresno County?
Unseasonably cool, with Saturday’s highs projected to be 75 degrees with scattered thunderstorms. State meets are generally held in 100-degree temperatures.
Before, it was a mantra of “Don’t forget your sunscreen.” Now it might just as well be, “Don’t forget your umbrella.”
But funny thing about inclement weather. The winners don’t seem to mind, not when the view from the medal stand was a seasonal goal.
Zach Larrier came into Saturday’s meet as the state leader in the 400, and he bounds into the season’s final weekend as and the region’s lone state leader. The Monterey Trail senior blazed home Saturday in 48.02 seconds to repeat as Masters champion.
His best is 46.49 from the Arcadia Invitational in April – in good weather.
“It’s not too bad running in the rain,” Larrier said. “The running isn’t the problem. It’s trying to keep you body warm and keeping dry. I had tweaked my hamstring in the preliminary 400 and decided to drop the 200.”
And this bonus point from a Bee All-Metro football quarterback/defensive back: “For me, I love running in the rain because I know it doesn’t bother me, being a football guy.”
Larrier on Saturday also ran anchor leg on Monterey Trail’s victorious 4x400 relay (3 minutes, 23.18 seconds). The other legs: Prophet Brown, Camden Wheeler and Bubba Echols. The Mustangs 4x100 relay placed second to St. Mary’s of Stockton in 42.88 with Larrier running anchor.
Ryan Mulholland made quick work of his field and was in and out of the rain. The Del Oro sprinter won the 100 in 10.66 and the 200 in 22.05 (David Phillips of Dixon also qualified for the state meet by placing third in those sprints).
For the girls, Columba Effiong was a double-winner in the sprints, a trail of water in her wake.
The freshman from Christian Brothers took the 100 in a personal best 11.93, and she won the 200 in 25.14, edging Ceonna Pipion of Vista del Lago (25.41). Pipion won the 400 in 56.72.
Like all state qualifiers, the goal now is to reach the medal stand. But it’s not just the elements that make for such formidable hurdles. The sheer number of athletes in Southern California, and good weather, has made the Southland overwhelmingly dominant in the sprints.
The only area runners to win a boys 400 state title were Rod Connors of Cordova in 1974 and Johnny Ware of Sacramento in 1975.
“I’m extremely excited for the state meet,” Larrier said. “I’ve been working all year for four straight years straight to be able to have this opportunity.”
For the girls, no regional runner has won a CIF state 100 or 200 championship, and only one has prevailed in the 400.
Matt Strangio is no stranger to victory, or even slogging through bad weather.
The Jesuit junior was a double-winner Saturday, logging a total of 12 laps, each wetter than the one before. He took the 1,600 in 4:18.15 and the 3,200 in 9:11.94, just ahead of Garret Gough of Nevada Union (9:14.55).
Strangio won a CIF state cross country title in wet conditions in Fresno, only Saturday at Davis was much worse, he said. The difference in track is it’s not a course but a round-and-round run on an all-weather surface. Strangio will go for a CIF state repeat in the 3,200, his best time of 8:47.97 set in March still standing as the second fastest in the state this season.
At the time of his March effort, it was the fastest in the country. All runners by now understand that more rain may be in the forecast.
“I don’t mind racing in the rain,” Strangio said. “It’s actually pretty fun if their isn’t any wind. Saturday was a little windy but it wasn’t that bad.”
He added, “I’m feeling really confident going into state,” Strangio said. “I’ve had some really good workouts and I’m racing well. I’m ready for the double!”
Isabella Fauria of St. Francis was also a distance double winner. She took the 800 in 2:14.73 and the 1600 in 5:02.16.
“I feel really good considering all the rain and wind,” she said after the races. St. Francis won its first Masters team title, thanks also in part to Reyna Johnson, who won the 100 hurdles in 14.26, breaking her own school record for the sixth time this spring.
“I did not expect to (set a personal record) in these conditions,” Johnson said.
Johnson led off the St. Francis 4x100 relay that placed second in 48.79 to Sheldon (48.44). Sheldon’s 4x400 relay also won with legs Michaela Andrews, Tatumn LaChapelle, Jordin Abdur-Rahim and Thalia Reid clocking a 3:59.38.
Riley Chamberlain, a Del Oro freshman, won the 3200 in 10:41.98 in looking the part of the program’s next great girls cruiser.
Sarah Aanenson of Bear River won the girls long jump at 18 feet, 1/4 inch, landing in what felt like wet cement.
Pita Vi of Kennedy won the 300 hurdles in 38.86 and Taniela Fisilau of Burbank won the shot with a 52 feet, 5-inch effort.