Alicia Follmar of Saratoga finally faced the competition she'd been waiting for all year when she took to the track for the Central Coast Section championships on Friday at San Jose City College. After all, the fastest 1,600-meter runner in the state—Valley Christian's Amanda Thornberry, who ran 4:49.43 this year—stood just to her left.
And right from the start, Thornberry let everyone know it would be a fast pace. The state leader immediately broke away from the pack and came across the 800 mark at 2:19. Follmar was running a distant second when she passed the halfway mark at 2:25. Cheers from the stands greeted Thornberry as she neared the end of her third lap with a solid lead. But Follmar refused to panic, even when she began her final lap trailing Thornberry by 20 yards.
"I just wanted to stay in contact with her," said Follmar. "I knew I could probably beat her in the end."
She executed her race strategy perfectly, and produced an enormous kick on the backstretch. With 200 meters to go, Follmar flew by Thornberry and sustained her pace all the way to the finish line. The Saratoga sophomore finished in 4:52.74—nearly four seconds in front of Thornberry.
"That's exactly how I wanted it," said Follmar. "Everyone thought she'd probably win, so that put less pressure on me."
The only other Saratoga competitor that night—William Alleshouse—raced to fifth in the 400 in 50.67.
It's not easy for Westmont's Robert Jennings to make a name for himself when he's competing with the state leader in the discus. But that doesn't bother him because nothing can take away the fact that he's rewriting all the Westmont record books.
Jennings entered Friday's CCS finals with the second-best mark in the section (186-2), which placed him behind only Nik Kay—the defending CCS champion in the discus.
Knowing that the top three finishers move on to the state meet in Norwalk next week, Jennings' coach, Mike Ruiz, told Jennings some words of wisdom before the competition.
Said Ruiz: "I told him 'you will be the only reason you don't go to the state meet. Don't worry about what those other guys do. If you perform the way your are capable of, then you will go to the state meet.' "
Jennings must have listened, because moments after Kay put the crowd into a frenzy by throwing 203 feet, Jennings calmly threw 183-9 to put himself into second. As it turned out, Jennings' mark would defeat the third-place finisher by nearly 20 feet.
"I felt very relaxed today," said Jennings. "I warmed up really well, too."
Prior to the competition Ruiz suggested Jennings go for a swim to loosen up his muscles. Based on Jennings' results, it proved to be a good decision.
"The big thing was getting into the pool and just loosening up," said Ruiz. "I'm very pleased with his performance. It's such a technical event where anything can happen, but he's worked his rear end off all year."
Jennings already holds the school record in discus, and his earlier throw of 186-2 also broke the Blossom Valley Athletic League record. Friday's performance marks the first time a Westmont athlete will advance to the state meet in the discus. According to Ruiz, Jennings is the first athlete to advance in any event in the last 25 years for Westmont.
Jennings' teammate, Amanda Horowitz, came away with sixth in the shot put with her heave of 38-8.25.
Fermen Smith had not slept for the two days prior to Friday's competition due to a heavy workload in school. But based on his performance, no one could have detected it.
The senior high jumper cleared the bar for all five of his jumps en route to winning the high jump competition. The CCS champ called it quits after clearing 6-6.5 and grabbing sole possession of first.
"I didn't want to push too hard because I had a rough week," said Smith. "I just need to rest up and then bring my 'A' game to state."
Stevie Odle earned her school its only team points by finishing fourth in the pole vault after clearing 11-0.
Though Odle placed fourth in the CCS finals for the second-straight year (one spot shy of qualifying for the state meet), she was satisfied with her performance.
Lynbrook boasted a fair number of participants on Friday night. Garrick Wong sprinted to fifth in the 100 in 11.18, and Julie Chen came in sixth in the 100-meter hurdles in 15.75. Durrell Roberts added a seventh in the 100 in 11.20 and raced to a personal-best of 22.09 in the 200, placing him in fourth.
But the Vikings saved their best performance for last, as the boys' 4x400 meter relay team snatched a trip to the state meet by placing third with a blistering time of 3:23.08. Roberts gave his team a huge boost by running the opening 400 in 49.1. The Vikings found themselves in third after Chris Bencomo and Chris Deal completed their legs of the relay. Taimur Kahn ran a 48.8 on the final leg to seal the third-place finish.