The safe decision for Saratoga High senior Alicia Follmar would be to stick with one race, but the challenge is too tough to resist. Follmar will attempt to win a third consecutive state championship in the 1,600 meters -- something that has not been done since the 1980s -- as well as race the 800.
``It's a little bit of a risk,'' Saratoga Coach Peter Jordan said. ``But we've been taking risks all along. I think she would regret not taking on the challenge.''
Follmar has proved her stamina. She won the 1,600 and 800 and placed fourth in the 400 at the Hampton-Phillips Classic in April. At the Central Coast Section championships last weekend, she won the 1,600 and emerged from a stellar field to take the 800; the latter victory prompted the idea of attempting the double at state.
The girls 800 should be a highlight, with the top five entrants all from CCS schools. But Follmar could run two races each on Friday and Saturday, with the two finals beginning within 1 hour, 15 minutes of each other.
``I have no doubt she will be exhausted after this weekend,'' Jordan said, ``physically and emotionally.''
Four CCS girls have state-leading marks: Valley Christian's Khrystal Carter in the 100, Harbor's Julie Dufresne in the shot put, Menlo School's Libby Jenke in the 800 and Gunn's Tori Tyler in the 3,200. Each is seeking her first state title, and Carter to become just the second CCS girl to win the 100.
In the boys meet, there are no CCS athletes among the favorites, though Kyle Mills-Bunje of St. Francis has the third-best mark of the season among the long-jump entrants and Santa Clara's Scott Robinson is No. 4 in the 300 hurdles.
Despite straining his groin at the CCS finals, Mills-Bunje qualified in three events. He will drop the triple jump, however, because of the greater chance of injury and to focus on the long jump and pole vault.
Until jogging for 15 minutes Wednesday, Mills-Bunje had not worked out in four days.
``We talked about scratching him from the state meet entirely,'' St. Francis Coach Mike Saso said. ``But we feel he deserves to be there, and we feel he can compete.''
SACRAMENTO - There were two goals on Alicia Follmar's mind: run fast but not too fast. The Saratoga senior accomplished both during the state track and field trials Friday, easing through the 1,600 meters in 4 minutes, 56.54 seconds and winning her heat in the 800 with a time of 2:12.05.
But the best part: She didn't use too much energy.
``The effort wasn't that difficult,'' said Follmar, who today will attempt a double that has been accomplished just once in the history of the girls meet. ``But I am a little worried. My legs are a little tired.''
A third consecutive 1,600 title is not foremost in her mind. ``I don't really concern myself with what I did two years ago or one year ago. I just care about this year.''
In the 800, Follmar's top competition figures to come from Libby Jenke of Menlo School, the state leader and last year's runner-up, and Live Oak's Cobbie Jones, fourth a year ago. Christine Whalen and Renisha Robinson of Archbishop Mitty, both among the five Central Coast Section runners who owned the top times in the state, did not qualify.
For Whalen, simply walking into Hughes Stadium required a deep breath. On the morning of last year's finals, Whalen found out her father had died of cancer.
``I can't come in here without carrying it heavy on my mind,'' she said. ``It's been pretty tough.''
Though Whalen overcame her emotions to compete, she finished one spot from the final.
Valley Christian's Khrystal Carter would like to overcome some recent history in the 100 and 200 today.
After beating her in an indoor meet in January in Reno, Carter has not defeated Kristina Davis of James Logan in any of the five meets in which they have met. Davis qualified first in the 100 and second in the 200, and Carter was a spot behind in each with times of 11.63 and 23.87 seconds.
``Tomorrow, we're looking to turn that around.'' Valley Christian Coach Greg Marshall said.
Harbor's Julie Dufresne qualified easily for the final in the shot put, throwing 47 feet, 10 1/2 inches. It was the best mark of the day by four feet.
``She's certainly ready physically and mentally,'' her coach, former world-record holder Al Feuerbach, said. ``But she still has to step into the circle and do it. You can never take anything for granted.''
Two CCS champions were disqualified: In the 400 relay, Valley Christian's second handoff, between Carter and Dahlys Marshall, came outside the exchange zone. (It probably would not have mattered, as the Warriors had problems with handoffs all the way around the track and probably would not have advanced.) Also, Mt. Pleasant's Vashti Thomas committed a false start in the 100 hurdles.
SACRAMENTO - A day that began with the possibility of history at the state track and field championships turned instead into one of concession for Alicia Follmar.
Sapped of strength from an unfamiliar workload, Follmar staggered to fourth in the 1,600 meters and could do little more than finish the 800 at Hughes Stadium on Saturday, resulting in no titles and an uncharacteristic display of vulnerability for the two-time state 1,600 champion.
``It just shows that no one's inhuman,'' Leigh's Cobbie Jones said.
Three titles would have tied a state record, and a 1,600-800 double, requiring four races over two days, had been accomplished only once before in the 32-year history of the girls' meet.
The contrast between Follmar's day and the one she hoped for was obvious in the 800. As she trailed the field, Menlo School's Libby Jenke, second to Follmar in the Central Coast Section finals last week, ran away with the title.
In all, four CCS girls won state titles -- tying a record for the section -- but Follmar was the one most expected to be among them.
``I don't regret doing the double at all,'' Follmar said. ``It wasn't my day today, I guess. I have to be happy with all I've done.''
Saratoga Coach Peter Jordan said he first noticed stress on the second lap when she failed to make an attempt to pull away from a slow and tightly-bunched pack.
Those familiar with Follmar's devastating finishing kick were waiting for it again when Corona del Mar junior Annie St. Geme, the daughter of former Stanford great Ceci Hopp, pulled ahead on the final lap. But Follmar had nothing.
To finish was a struggle. She was passed twice on the final straight, including once in the final steps and fell exhausted across the line in 4:55.64.
``Whenever I thought about the race,'' St. Geme said, ``I always pictured Alicia would be right there.''
Follmar knew she was spent, and considered pulling out of the 800, but ultimately chose to run, finishing in 2:16.02.
``There was going to be an empty lane,'' she said. ``I didn't want to let that that to happen. There are people that didn't make it that would have killed to be in that spot.''
It's possible a fresh Follmar could have changed the dynamics of the 800, but Jenke followed her game plan from the gun. She was helped by the fast initial pace of Aliso Niguel's Haley Lawrence that strung out the field from the start.
Jenke passed her and fought her off to get the inside on the final lap, pulled ahead with a strong move and stretched her lead to 25 meters. Though she tied up on the final stretch and the pack was closing, no one was in position to make a serious charge. She finished in 2:10.39 and became the first Menlo School state champion since Herb Fleishhacker won the 12-pound and 16-pound shot put titles in 1925.
Jenke's run faster, but perhaps has never run a better race.
``She came out to destroy the people in the field,'' her coach, Scott Evans, said. ``Instead of running other people's races, she came to run her own. If the others feel they're in the race, you're giving them courage.''
Jenke was effervescent.
``I just wanted it so badly,'' she said.
Follmar offered no contrast. Outwardly, she didn't seem too disappointed.
``I'm really happy for Libby,'' she said. ``She really deserves it. I just wish I could have helped her along a little bit.''
SACRAMENTO - A year ago, Harbor High shot putter Julie Dufresne was so nervous upon arriving at the state meet, she shook as she delivered her first throw.
On Saturday, the senior threw with confidence in winning the shot put.
Dufresne's struggles at the state meet last year prevented her from reaching the finals. But one of the goals of new coach Al Feuerbach, a former world-record holder and two-time Olympian, was to get Dufresne to believe in herself as a big-meet performer.
``I never accepted that she wasn't a good competitor,'' Feuerbach said. ``I took every opportunity to make sure that she knew that. Other people had mentioned it enough that she may have thought it was true. I saw it with the grimace on her face every time anyone mentioned the state meet. I never let that expression go by without a conversation.''
Dufresne's second throw of 47 feet, 7 1/2 inches was enough to beat the final toss of Selma's Rosario Sanchez (46-1 3/4). Dufresne's heave wasn't as long as her Central Coast Section record of 50-7 1/4 set last week, but that didn't matter. She became Harbor's first state track and field champion.
``In a meet like this, there's only one thing that matters,'' Feuerbach said. ``And that's the place.''
As the runners came out of the turn of the boys 300-meter hurdles, Santa Clara's Scott Robinson was in about fourth place as David Klech of California High ran away with the race.
But Robinson's work wasn't done. He made up ground over the home stretch, and the final hurdles race of his high school career was his finest as he passed two runners to finish second in a career-best 37.88 seconds, setting a school record. Klech won with the second-best time in the nation this year, 36.06.
``I ran a strong final 60 meters,'' said Robinson, who will compete at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania next season. ``Klech is an amazing runner and it was an honor to be able to run with him.''
• Evan Anderson was in last place as the runners finished the first lap of the 1,600 meters. But the Menlo-Atherton senior stayed patient and passed four runners as he sprinted down the stretch for fourth place with a time of 4:13.66.
Anderson ended up with a third-place medal when A.J. Acosta, who had finished second, was disqualified after the race for interference.
• St. Francis sophomore Casey Roche cleared a personal best of 15 feet, 8 inches to finish fifth in a strong field of pole vaulters.
• Serra senior Aren Wright, the son of former 49ers cornerback Eric Wright, took fourth in the triple jump with a mark of 49-6 1/2.
• Westmoor junior Jaime Gonzalez took fourth in the long jump with a leap of 22 feet.
• Castilleja sophomore Tori Anthony took fourth in the girls pole vault, clearing 12-8.
• Branham junior Amber Kaufman took fifth in the high jump, clearing 5-7.
SACRAMENTO - Valley Christian's Khrystal Carter moved into the set position ready to explode out of the blocks and make a run at her first state title in the 100 meters Saturday.
The gun went off, but the race was quickly stopped by track officials who ruled that Carter's rival, Kristina Davis of Logan, had false-started.
The ruling upset the Hughes Stadium crowd and as Carter got set for the restart fans booed loudly at the starting line.
The Warriors' junior said she was thrown off by the crowd reaction and felt strange with an open lane to her left. She was unhappy with her third-place finish and time of 11.68, but there wasn't time to sulk, as the 200 meters was to begin about 40 minutes later.
Carter made the most of her second chance at gold, bursting out of the blocks and running a perfect turn. She bolted to the lead and edged Elizabeth Olear of Louisville, winning in 23.44 seconds. Mount Pleasant sophomore Jeneba Tarmoh finished third.
``I was just trying to forget about what happened in the 100 and focus on the 200 to see what I could do,'' said Carter who failed to reach the finals in either event last year. ``I knew if I ran a good curve like I usually do I would have a good chance to win. At the end I was thinking `Just go!' ''
The victory lessened the sting of a disappointing third-place finish in the 100 as Carter became the second Central Coast Section competitor to win the state 200-meter title since girls began competing in 1974. Andrew Hill's Kelia Bolton won the 200 gold in 1978.
Valley Christian Coach Greg Marshall was all smiles as he congratulated his first state champ in three years as head coach.
``Frankly I thought we had a better shot to win in the 100 the way things have been going,'' Marshall said. ``Khrystal is usually an iceman, she doesn't show emotion. But she was noticeably upset after the 100. I told her `the 100 is over, now the 200 is all that matters.' That seemed to settle her down and she ran a great race.''
More than halfway through the track season, Don Gaspar decided he hadn't logged the necessary miles to really be competitive in the 800 meters. So the Los Gatos junior, who likes exploding out of the blocks in the sprints, moved to the 400.
One month later, Gaspar stood atop the winner's podium at the Central Coast Section championships at Los Gatos High, having won the 400 with a time of 48.64 seconds, a school record and one second faster than his personal best.
``I wasn't sure if I could run that fast or not,'' Gaspar said. ``I had a mental barrier. It didn't seem like I could improve any more.''
Entering the section finals last month, Gaspar had been struggling to run faster than 49 seconds. He qualified with the third-best time at the CCS trials in 49.71, well behind Peter Wolfram of Piedmont Hills, who won in 49.26.
At the CCS final, Gaspar finally broke through on his home track, opening up a big lead after 300 meters before pulling away.
``Down the stretch, I knew I had them,'' he said. ``I was dying, but they were dying quicker. I just had to keep it.''
By winning a section title, Gaspar also advanced to last weekend's state meet at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento. He finished 10th in Friday's qualifying round, barely missing out on a spot in the finals. Before the meet, Gaspar said he knew he was facing some tough competition.
``There's a lot of tough guys out there all around the same range in time,'' he said.
When the season began, Gaspar couldn't envision making it this far, not after missing most of his sophomore season with an injury. After running the 400 as a freshman, he joined the cross-country team as a sophomore to help build endurance and logged a lot of miles. In the process, he injured his calves, limiting his workouts in the spring.
``We had to back off him and give him time to rest,'' said Los Gatos track coach Thomas Newman.
By the time Gaspar was back on the track in 2004, the season was almost complete. He participated in a handful of workouts before the league finals and advanced to the section trials in the 800, where his season ended.
Over the summer, Gaspar eased off the fast food and hit the weight room. He began the season running the 800 and competed in that event at some of the marquee early-season events, like the K-Bell Classic, the Arcadia Invitational and the CCS Top 8 meet.
But Gaspar realized his penchant to go out fast hurt him in the final lap.
``I didn't have any mileage behind me for that last lap,'' Gaspar said. ``I kind of fizzled out. I figured I had a better chance at the 400.''
When Gaspar approached Newman, the discussion was easy. Gaspar had been running the 100, 200, 400 and 800 during dual meets and owned the team's fastest times in all four events.
``He loves going out fast,'' Newman said. ``All the 800 heats, he'd go out really good and have a hard time hanging onto the pace at the end. He knows what he does best and what he wants to do. He came to us with that idea and we agreed with him.''
As far as next season is concerned, Los Gatos sprint coach Lloyd Murad, a two-time Olympian, doesn't want to pigeonhole Gaspar into any one event.
``I'm not sure what his best event is right now,'' said Murad. ``Next year, he could burst through in the 800. In my opinion, try for both of them, and later down the line he can pick.''