Valley Christian's Thornberry wins in new way

Special to the Mercury News

For Valley Christian's Amanda Thornberry, disappointment became a catalyst for action.

After a fifth-place finish in the 1,600 meters at the Central Coast Section girls track and field finals last year, short of her goal to finish in the top three and qualify for the state meet, Thornberry vowed a renewed dedication to running. Saturday at the Stanford Invitational, her dominating victory in the mile showed she not only should be a state qualifier, but a contender as well.

``My confidence comes from being able to control running my own race,'' the senior said. ``When I do that, I perform so much better.''

Against some of the top runners in Northern California, Thornberry led from start to finish, breaking away from the pack after the first lap and extending her lead until the finish to win in 4 minutes, 55.16 seconds.

It was her first use of that strategy against top competition. Two weeks ago, at the national indoor championships in New York, Thornberry held back and was cut off and boxed in, never truly getting in the race. She learned from her mistake.

``I realized that my ability to win wasn't based on running other people's races,'' she said. ``Now, I have the confidence to run my own race.''

San Lorenzo Valley junior Alex Dunn tried the same technique in the boys mile, but he was trying to drop the hammer on Lauren Jesperson, the defending 4A champion from Oregon and one of the nation's top high school milers. Dunn was in control until the end, when Jesperson, who will run at Stanford next season, used a 58-second final lap to win.

Dunn, the defending CCS champ in the 1,600, had relay splits around 4:18 this season, but he eclipsed them with a school-record time of 4:14.65.

``This was his breakthrough race,'' SLV Coach Rob Collins said.

Close behind was another surprise, Aptos junior Jacob Evans. In just his third race at this distance, the defending CCS 800-meter champion ran a 4:15.64 to finish third.

Unlike Dunn or Evans, Nik Kay can't creep up on anybody. Even on a bad day, the Los Gatos senior threw the discus 178 feet, 3 inches to win the competition by nearly 10 feet. Kay was the state runner-up last year, and his personal record is 199-4.

His victory seemed to be a foregone conclusion among his fellow competitors. With half of the event remaining, another boy watched Kay's throw land and muttered, ``There's our winner.''

Kay's bout with the flu and loss of 16 pounds over the past week wasn't enough to bring him back to the field. At 6-foot-7 and now 242 pounds, Kay said the drop in weight will help him once he regains his fitness.

``It's weight I could have lost anyway,'' he said. ``When I get it back, that weight will be muscle.''

Results in Scoreboard, Page 16E.