Serra Top 7 Article

Mills' Laurent tops Top Seven in long jump
By Jelani Harper, STAFF WRITER
SAN MATEO -- Jason Laurent nearly leaped out of the long jump pit on his first attempt at Serra's Top Seven Invitational track meet Saturday afternoon.

"I hit the wood (at the end of the pit)," the Mills High junior said. "As soon as I jumped that first time, I knew it would be a good day."

Unfortunately, the soaring jump meant that Laurent would also have to take off from a different point and re-configure his steps, the most critical part to long-jumping, to maximize his leap.

"I had to move back another 8 feet, so I had to restructure my steps," Laurent said. "I had the wind behind me, so I felt a lot better, but I kept scratching."

Not for long. Laurent qualified for the finals with his leap of 20 feet, 5 inches, the first time around, and jumped a personal record 21 feet in the finals to win the competition.

The winning mark eclipsed Laurent's former PR by 6 inches.

The victory helped to make up for a subpar performance in the high jump (for which the junior was ranked as high as third in the Central Coast Section with a best mark of 6-2) in which Laurent failed to place on Saturday.

"I actually like the high jump better than the long jump, it's more fun to me," Laurent said. "But I wasn't feeling it today. I think I can get a lot better in both events. I just need to work on my landings, get my steps better and get better form."

Serra's Angelo Fobbs-Valentino had a similar experience to Laurent. The Serra junior, who normally runs the 200 and 400 meters, was set to run anchor in the Padres 400 relay team before Serra was disqualified for a bad handoff between the first and second legs.

Fobbs-Valentino made up for it, however, by edging Hillsdale's Chris Rochester in the 100.

"I didn't really know what to expect," Fobbs-Valentino said. "I was just trying something new and hoping to win something."

Despite getting out to a slow start, the Serra sprinter was able to overtake Rochester in the final 50 meters.

"I got out of the blocks slow because the wind was blowing and I kind of stumbled out," Fobbs-Valentino said. "But then I caught myself."

Sequoia's Mercedes Marchbanks has a bright future on the Cherokees track team. The multiple-event contestant, who's only a sophomore, took second in the 400 meters before coming back to win the triple jump with a mark of 33-10.

"I didn't get to do any run-throughs because I had just finished the 400, so I was kind of off in the beginning," Marchbanks said. "My coach tells me to put my feet out and have my butt hit the sand so I can go further, and I was trying to do that."

Marchbanks actually jumped her winning mark on her third attempt in the preliminaries, but the mark carried over to give her the win in the finals.

Marchbanks, who projects she'll be leaping 36 or 37 feet by the time she's a senior, also ran on the Cherokees 1,600 and 400 relays. With the speedy sophomore running anchor, Sequoia finished fourth in the 400.

"We had to switch some legs around and use a substitute since one of our runners was missing," Marchbanks said. "We could have done better."