For many competitors the high school track and field season ended at the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League division meets last week. Others, though, were just getting warmed up, with visions of the state meet dancing in their heads.
The El Camino and De Anza finals signaled the start of the championship season, a series of challenges that grow in difficulty and prestige each week, culminating with the state meet, May 30-31 at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
But the road to Norwalk will narrow quickly. In fact, most of the contestants who advanced from the El Camino and De Anza finals will not clear this week's hurdle - the SCVAL qualifier meet May 9 at Los Gatos High. Of the 16 athletes in each event, only the best five will move down the road to Gilroy High for the Central Coast Section semifinals on May 17.
Then, out of about 30 challengers in each semifinal event, only eight (12 from the 1,600 and 3,200 races) will return to Gilroy on May 23 to compete for the CCS's three berths to the state meet.
Saratoga high jumper Kiersten Dolbec, a CCS gold medal winner and state finalist as a sophomore, started strong in her quest for a repeat trip to the state meet. She also recorded one of the few surprises at the El Camino championships, held April 30 at Santa Clara.
Dolbec's winning high jump of 5-7 was no surprise, considering she already had cleared 5-8 twice this season and shared the section lead in the event. What was unexpected was Dolbec's entry and victory in the long jump; her leap of 17-1.5 put her among the CCS top 10 in that event, too.
As expected, Dolbec and her teammates captured the team title. After going unbeaten in six division dual meets, Saratoga secured the El Camino team title with 109 points and first place at the EC finals. And they did it without any points from talented senior sisters Nicole and Rachel Sabes, who were on a cultural trip to Poland and Israel.
Junior Katie Nast also had a gold medal effort for the Falcons, running 11:48.15 to outleg Cupertino distance ace Sumika Shiokawa (11:56.79).
Like Dolbec, Homestead senior Sarah Engle competed at last year's state meet, tying for 12th in the pole vault. Engle, whose personal record of 12-2 leads CCS girls, and the other pole vault hopefuls did not compete at the division meets, but will be in action at the SCVAL qualifier.
Engle still was plenty busy at the El Camino meet. She captured the 100-meter hurdles race in 15.56, placed second to Dolbec in the long jump (16-8.5) and ran fourth in the low hurdles, leading the Mustangs (73 points) to third place.
Cupertino, which finished second to Saratoga in the dual meet season, also took second at the EC finals with 82 points.
Senior Stephanie Glick, who placed fourth in the CCS triple jump last spring and just missed a trip to the state meet, bounded 35-7 to win last week's contest. She also placed second in the high jump (5-0) and third in the long jump (16-5).
Chung won the discus with a throw of 119-10, far short of her CCS best effort of 142-4, and placed second in the shot put behind Wilcox sophomore Myeesha Hardiman.
Wilcox, paced by freshman sprinter Darynne Wickliffe's comfortable wins in the 200 and 400, finished fourth with 62 points, two better than Santa Clara.
Lynbrook freshman Cindy Huang also was a double winner, taking the 1,600 in 5:26.65 and 800 in 2:28.05. Homestead junior Emily Evans ran 5:28.80 for second in the four-lapper, edging Saratoga sophomore Karen Wai by .11 of a second.
Wai also finished third in the 800, clocking 2:30.3, two-tenths behind Fremont junior Alexa Wallin and .19 ahead of Evans. Lynbrook sophomore Michelle Yee placed fifth.
Junior sprinters Diana Lee of Lynbrook and Aly Rajah of Fremont both clocked 13.21 in the 100-meter dash, but Lee was judged the winner. Lee also placed second in the triple jump (35-2.5) and fourth in the long jump.
Close behind in the 100 race were two Saratoga runners, junior Katie Gasik (13.27) in third place, followed by sophomore Danielle Conway (13.39). Fifth place also was a tough decision, but Homestead sophomore Carolyn Newswanger got the nod over junior teammate Kaylyn Crump. Both clocked 13.58.
Gasik later ran 50.1 to earn second in the 300 hurdles behind Santa Clara's Emily Gordon.
Junior sisters Katie Marsh and Claire Marsh ran legs of Saratoga's winning 1,600 relay team and placed behind Wickliffe in both the 200 and 400 races. Katie (61.99) and Claire (62.57) ran second and third in the 400, before finishing fourth and sixth in the 200.
Other placers for the winning Falcons were sophomore Baylee Yates, third in the shot put; junior Ashley Cole, fifth in the long jump and triple jump; junior Samra Lovelady, sixth in the high jump; and junior Stephanie Wong, sixth in the discus. The Falcons' 400 relay team placed second behind Homestead.
Saratoga also won the girls junior varsity competition. Sophomore Sophia Cooper and freshman Shea Sullivan paced the Falcons. Cooper won the 1,600 and 3,200, while Sullivan was tops in the 200. Freshman Jenny Wen of Lynbrook was a double winner in the long jump and triple jump.
BRUINS SURPRISE VIKES
Although Lynbrook's hurdler supreme Eric Surprenant continued his run of outstanding performances, the Vikings could not follow their unbeaten dual meet season with a team victory at the EC finals.
Host Santa Clara won five events and scored 104.5 points, while Lynbrook totaled 80 points and shared second place with Saratoga, which received two wins from junior Kian Banks (1,600, 800) and a sprint victory from senior Mike Marshall (400).
Surprenant ran away from the field in both hurdles races, and he nearly surprised with victories in the 400 and high jump. The CCS hurdles leader posted winning times of 14.70 in the 110 and 39.48 in the 300. In between, he chased Marshall (50.92) in the 400, claiming second in 50.98, and stayed with Humer (6-2) in the high jump but had more misses.
Marshall was doing the chasing in the 200, running 23.29 to place second behind Santa Clara's David Zamora, who also won the 100.
Banks finished the 1,600 in 4:31.5, a few strides ahead of junior teammate Alan Menezes, who placed third in 4:32.7. Cupertino senior Abiy Gebrekristos (4:34.8) was fourth and Lynbrook sophomore Luca Signore (4:36.17) sixth.
Gebrekristos later placed second in the 3,200 with 10:06.86, about 15 seconds behind winner Kindu Ejigu of Santa Clara. Signore finished third, Menezes fourth, Cupertino junior Stas Rumyantsev fifth and Lynbrook sophomore Amrit Subramanian sixth.
Banks' winning time of 2:03.43 in the 800 was more than two seconds better than his closest challenger. Two Cupertino runners, senior Roger Hu and junior Peter Chew, placed fourth and fifth, respectively. Lynbrook junior Gene Burinskiy took sixth.
Lynbrook junior Scott Blomquist placed third behind tough competition in the 400 and high jump. He ran 53.19 in the quarter, losing only to Marshall and Surprenant, and his 5-8 high jump was beaten only by Humer and Surprenant.
Senior Michael Nguyen placed in three events for the Vikings, running third in the 300 hurdles (42.88) and sixth in the 100 (11.61) and 200 (24.33).
Other Lynbrook placers were senior Scott Day, fourth in the discus (125-8) and fifth in the shot put (43-1); senior Austin Webb, fourth in the triple jump (37-11.5); and senior Seyar Kalmoni, fourth in the long jump (19-0).
Saratoga placers included senior hurdler Walter Lam, third at 110 and second at 300; junior Tim Yen, fifth in the 100; and junior Michael Geurcio, fifth in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump.
Ted Kang and Alan Lee helped Lynbrook dominate the frosh-soph boys competition. Kang won the short sprints, while Lee placed first in the 65 hurdles and the discus throw. Varun Pemmaraju (1,600), Alvin Chang (800), Sebastian Liu (300 hurdles) and James Liaw (long jump) also earned gold medals for the Vikings.