Joe Davidson

Section Masters track champs get reality check as state meet looms

Myles Ellis of Antelope High School crosses the finish line ahead of Jordan Tillis of Franklin of Elk Grove in the 400 meters with a time of 47.47 seconds in the Masters Track and Field meet at Elk Grove High School on Friday, May 29, 2015.
Myles Ellis of Antelope High School crosses the finish line ahead of Jordan Tillis of Franklin of Elk Grove in the 400 meters with a time of 47.47 seconds in the Masters Track and Field meet at Elk Grove High School on Friday, May 29, 2015. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Now the fun really starts.

If the local athletes on the victory stand Friday night as Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track and Field champions were giddy in the moment, embracing their hard-earned medals, reality quickly barged into their senses.

The CIF State meet Friday and Saturday in Clovis promises to be the most daunting task yet, in sauna-like conditions. Southern California athletes have dominated the sprints, distance events, hurdles, relays and field events – pretty much everything – over the decades, a credit to the sheer volume of fast and strong competitors.

“It’s so exciting to win here, but I know it’ll get a lot harder now,” Pleasant Grove sophomore sprinter Rae’vyn Lawler said after winning the 100-meter dash in 12.08 seconds and taking second in the 200 to Natsumi McGee of Cosumnes Oaks in 25.10 at Elk Grove’s Thundering Herd Stadium. “It’ll be an honor just to make the state finals. That’s the first goal.”

The Sacramento region is still waiting for its first state girls champions in the 100, 200, 100 and 300 hurdles, 1,600, 3,200 and 4x100 and 4x400 relays. The only local girls runners to win state running events are Lindsay Hyatt of Placer in the 800, a four-time winner from 1996-99, and Nia Dorner of Cordova in the 400 in 2013.

Lawler’s 12.08 in the 100 is the 32nd fastest time in the state. McGee’s seasonal best of 11.97 is the 20th best.

If the region has a clear favorite for state champion, either gender, it’s Fiona O’Keeffe of Davis in the sport’s longest race. The junior leads the state in the 3,200 – by a whopping 11 seconds – and she upped her credentials even more with the most dominant effort of the Masters meet.

In lapping nine runners to a standing ovation, O’Keeffe won in a meet-record time of 10 minutes, 0.85 seconds, the second fastest time in the country this spring.

“The goal now is to win it,” Davis coach Bill Gregg said. “It’s all about this next weekend. I think Fiona is ready. She’s been incredible and she’ll be ready.”

Everyone has to be ready for the crunch of talent from the rest of the state. Coaches will warn their athletes of big-meet nerves, of getting enough rest, of eating right, of being prepared.

Isaiah Holmes of Oakmont is tied for the state lead in the high jump with a best of 7 feet, matched by Michael Burke of Lemoore and Darius Thomas of St. Francis of Mountain View. The only regional athletes to win a state high jump title are Griffin Childers of Woodland in 1992 (6-11) and Casey Ryan of Argonaut in 2006 (6-9).

Myles Ellis of Antelope produced the state’s fifth fastest 400 time and best in Northern California (47.47) in taking the Masters title.

“Now it’s about really learning the starting blocks, getting comfortable and running a good race,” Ellis said.

Darrin Paulo of Grant was second in the state in the discus last season, and he has the state’s ninth-best mark this spring with the 181-11 effort that won the Masters. The eight best throws in the state hail from Southern California. Paulo has Northern California’s best shot put mark this season at 61-61/2, with the top four throws coming from the South.

The Sheldon boys 400 relay won the Masters with a personal-best 41.89 seconds, the fastest time in Northern California. But it’s only the 16th best in the state. Woodcreek won the state 400 relay last season and in the Masters preliminaries recorded a season-best 41.94, the 17th best effort in the state.

In the boys 1,600 relay, it’s a similar theme. Davis on Friday ran the fastest time in Northern California, 3:17.53. It may take a better effort to just reach the state finals as eight Southern California teams have gone faster, including Vista Murrieta and Wilson of Long Beach recently clocking 3:13 times and four others going 3:16 or faster in the last week.

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