They came, they saw and, for the most part, the competitors at last weekend’s state track and field championship meet at Buchanan High School in Clovis wilted in triple-digit temperatures.
The hot and humid weather — par for the course in the Central Valley at this time of year — captured the spotlight.
Last year’s event took place in unseasonably mild and misty conditions and produced a gold medal for Otay Ranch triple jumper Marques Roberts.
But the weather returned more to form this year, and well beyond, as athletes and spectators battled to keep properly hydrated throughout the two days of competition.
The temperature at the start of last Friday’s prelims was 104 degrees. It felt worse because of the humidity.
When factoring the expected nervousness of first-time qualifiers into the equation, the result was a slew of less than stellar performances.
For those who did manage to persevere through the sweltering prelims, they were rewarded with slightly cooler temperatures (97 degrees) and a stiff breeze that served to make the second day reserved for finals competition much more bearable.
The section came away with three gold medals, led by La Costa Canyon distance star Darren Fahy, who obviously kicked it into a higher gear with dramatic first-place finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
But for many of San Diego’s supermen and superwomen, their powers were noticeably weakened as their bodies were drained by the heat.
The Metro Conference qualified athletes in a sizable eight events for last Friday’s state prelims. Included in the impressive cast list were six division champions. However, only Castle Park senior Chevy King advanced to the second day.
King entered the meet with the state’s No. 2 long jump mark of 24-6. He posted a 23-8.5 to rank fourth in prelim qualifying and finished the finals eighth with a jump of 22-4.5.
Serra (Southern Section) sophomore Adoree Jackson won the state title at 25-0.
The top six finishers in each event at Saturday’s finals received medals.
Sweetwater junior Saladin Nasser joined King in last Friday’s state long jump prelims. Nasser finished second to King at the preceding section championships with a jump of 23-5.5. His only legal jump at the state prelims went for 21-11.5 (20th best in the field of 33 jumpers).
“I think just being in an environment like state meet is difficult for most kids the first time,” Sweetwater coach Tim Latham said. “Hopefully, Saladin Nasser will get another chance next year. He had two good jumps that most likely would have gotten him to finals, but both were scratches by a small amount.”
Nasser was joined by Sweetwater senior Spencer Curtis, the defending Division I section champion in the boys high jump. Curtis failed to make his opening height at the state meet.
As for Curtis’ performance, Latham suggested that all the things that add up to a successful outing just didn’t align properly for the SuHi jumper.
“After three good weeks in a row — league, CIF prelims and CIF finals — he just had a really off day,” Latham said.
Curtis won the Division I title at the section finals by clearing a personal best 6-7 while Bonita Vista senior Branden Greene finished second at 6-5.
The opening height at the state prelims was 6-2. Curtis and Greene both elected to pass until 6-4. Greene cleared the height while Curtis missed on all three of his attempts.
The bar then went to 6-6. Seventeen of the remaining 23 entrants in the event cleared that height to advance to 6-8. However, Greene was not one of them. Nine of the remaining 17 jumpers cleared 6-8 to qualify for the state finals.
The BV jumper, who owned a regular season-best height of 6-9 to lead the section, finished 18th in the elite field of 31 assembled in Clovis.
The temperature was 102 degrees during the boys high jump competition.
“It was a very tiring day,” said Curtis, a first team all-section pick. “No excuses, though.”
By the time the girls 800 prelims rolled around at sunset, temperatures had cooled somewhat into the 90s.
It was still very hot, however.
Otay Ranch junior Carina Gillespie entered the event seeded seventh in the state prelims based on her runner-up finish (a school record 2:11.00) to Canyon Crest Academy senior Charlotte Kuzminsky at the section finals.
Kuzminsky was seeded third at the state prelims based on her section-winning time of 2:10.16.
Gillespie competed in the first of three heats, and boldly took the lead midway through the race. However, down the final straightaway, she dropped back into second, and then third, finishing in 2:13.33.
Kuzminsky finished fourth in her heat in 2:12.75 — well behind winner Kody Atkins, a senior from Chico, who clocked the fastest prelim time at 2:08.54.
When the qualifying results were tabulated from the three heats, Kuzminsky was 10th and Gillespie was 11th.
The top nine qualified.
Westmoor junior Kylie Goo grabbed the last finals spot with a prelim time of 2:10.51.
It would have taken another record showing by Gillespie to advance under very trying circumstances.
Then there were those who were just happy to be there. For the second consecutive year, Olympian qualified a relay team for the state meet. Last year, the Eagles 4x400 unit made the trip to Clovis; this year, the school’s 4x100 squad qualified.
Olympian finished 20th overall with a prelim time of 49.07; the Eagles posted a 48.28 to win the Division II title the previous week at the section finals.
The Olympian foursome was comprised of sophomore Nicole Johnson, freshman Ralaina LiDrazzah, senior Nirelle Davis and sophomore Sydney Magdalena.
“It felt really good because we all worked hard at improving,” Davis said. “We knew we could do it. We felt rewarded because we worked so hard to get (to state).”
Otay Ranch junior Alyssa Chang (girls 100 hurdles) and Mater Dei Catholic senior Eddie Medrano (boys discus throw) rounded out the Metro’s 2012 state qualifying field.
Chang finished 22nd (out of 28) in qualifying in 15.25 while Medrano was 25th (out of 26) at 140-5.
Chang timed 14.76 at the section finals while Medrano recorded a 159-10 mark.
SuHi’s Latham bestowed with CIF model coach award
Prior to the start of this year’s state meet, Sweetwater’s Latham was honored with the 2011-12 CIF Model Coach Award. He was one of 15 winners statewide. Nominations began at the section level and proceeded through committee to the state level.
The award is now in its 11th year and is designed to recognize coaches who have served as positive role models in their schools and communities.
Selection criteria is based on demonstrating and teaching six core ethical values (what the CIF office refers to as the “six pillars of character”): trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.
“This is the highest and most prestigious award the CIF bestows upon its coaches,” CIF Executive Director Marie M. Ishida said. “We are honored to be able to recognize coaches throughout our state who are dedicated to impacting the lives of high school student-athletes by not only teaching them the values of pursuing victory with honor and the six pillars of character, but also that there is more to participating in sports than just winning and losing.”
“It’s obviously an honor,” Latham said succinctly.