Los Gatos athlete digs deep for victory

Mercury News

Early in Friday's shot put competition, Los Gatos senior Nik Kay was leading by just a quarter-inch when he approached the throwing ring and heard Coach Ron McKee yell, ``Nik, are you mad yet?''

Kay responded with his best effort ever -- a throw of 60- 3/4 feet -- before hitting a personal record of 62-11 to win the event at the Central Coast Section finals at San Jose City College.

He set another personal record -- and broke a CCS mark set in 1970 by Los Altos' Chris Adams -- with a toss of 204-10 in the discus.

``There's something about Coach McKee that fires me up real good,'' said Kay, who finished second in the state in the discus as a junior. ``He helps me get the most out of my ability. I'm looking forward to the state meet next week a lot more now.''

McKee, a former shot putter, has been instrumental in Kay's improvement in that event.

``In the shot put, throwing with aggression is important. You can throw with all your might,'' McKee said. ``We've been working on that, and Nik already knows that finesse is the key with the discus. Physically and mentally, everything is going in the right direction for Nik, and we're excited about next week.''

The CIF State Track and Field Championships will be held next Friday and Saturday at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

Aptos junior Jacob Evans had an impressive double -- beating league rival Alex Dunn of San Lorenzo Valley in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4 minutes, 11:09 seconds -- the second best in California this year.

Evans came back to defend his CCS title in the 800 with a burst of speed about 80 meters out to win in 1:54.02.

``I knew it was going to be tough to double in these events,'' said Evans, who will forgo the 800 to concentrate on the 1,600 at state.

``They went out fast in the 800, but I just dug as deep as I could and grinded it out. Being able to hang with a runner like Dunn gives me a lot of confidence. He's a good runner, and I have a lot of respect for him.''

Homestead hurdler Will Faules also doubled, dominating the 110 hurdles with a 14.61 and repeating as champion in the 300 hurdles with a 38.75.

``I got off to a great start in the 110, and when I can do that, everyone else usually has to play catch-up,'' said Faules, who finished second in the CCS 110 last season and seventh in the state.

North Salinas' Ronnie Drummer also doubled, winning the 100 (10.65) and the 200 (21.36).

Serra edged Los Gatos for the boys title on the last race when it finished second in the 1,600 relay. Angelo Fobbs-Valentino anchored the Padres' 400 and 1,600 relay teams and won the 400 (48.66) to lead Serra to the championship.

Results in Scoreboard, Page 11D.
Saratoga sophomore steals show

Special to the Mercury News

Valley Christian's Amanda Thornberry not only lost a race, but perhaps also a chance at a state title.

Moments after Saratoga's Alicia Follmar passed her on the final lap of the 1,600 meters at the Central Coast Section finals Friday, Thornberry limped off the San Jose City College track and subsequently scratched from her second event, the 800.

Valley Christian Coach Scott Evans said the scratch was precautionary with the CIF State Track and Field Championships coming up next weekend at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

``Is there a possibility she won't run? I'd say there's a possibility,'' said Evans, who did not know the extent of Thornberry's injury. ``But we fully plan on running.''

Instead, many of the meet highlights were provided by two sophomores -- Follmar and Mt. Pleasant's Galina Becker.

Becker won three titles to match the achievement of sister Undine in 2001. By finishing third in another, Becker scored 36 of her team's 56 points to lead the Cardinals to their third title in four seasons.

In both the long and triple jump, Becker came from behind to pass teammate Jade Myles and win. Becker won the long jump with an 18-11 on her fourth try to win by two inches. She saved an even more dramatic victory for the triple jump, passing Myles (39-11) on her sixth and final jump, a 40-5, the third-best jump in the state this season.

Despite being fatigued from competing in four events -- she also won the 100 hurdles (14.42) and was third in the 100 (12.32) -- and suffering from a sore back that had her contemplating dropping an event or two, Becker came up with something extra.

``I had nothing to lose,'' she said.

Follmar's victory was just as dramatic. She fell behind by four seconds after one lap and seemed too far back to make it a race, especially against a runner of Thornberry's caliber.

But just as Thornberry prefers to run from the front, Follmar likes to run from behind and unleashed a stirring kick that caught Thornberry with 200 to go.

Follmar's 4:52.74 was a personal record. Thornberry, who was unable to answer Follmar with a final push, faded to third.

In the 800, Silver Creek's Cherie McPherson overcame the ghosts of last year's meet to win in 2:11.13. A year ago, McPherson fell without being touched on the homestretch. Her victory on the same track at the mid-season Hampton-Phillips Invitational was a mental breakthrough, she said, but it took this race to overcome her fears.

In the high jump, Allie Miller of Los Altos set three personal records on her way to a victory at 5-9. Miller was stuck at 5-2 for much of the season before clearing 5-6 at the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League CCS qualifier two weeks ago.

By adjusting her approach from a wide turn to a hard cut, Miller discovered she could jump with more power. Her winning mark is the fourth-best in the state.

The only girls' meet record was set in the pole vault, which was won by Kirsten Loftin of Aptos. She broke the record of 11-6 set by former Soquel standout Chelsea Connolly.

Results in Scoreboard, Page 11D.