CLOVIS -- It was a kicker's race. Nobody wanted to take an early lead in the first heat of the boys 1,600 meters. The entire field was within a couple yards of each other heading into the final lap.
Carlmont's Johain Ounadjela made a move and led for a while on the final lap before finishing in second in 4 minutes, 14.16 seconds, a time that held up as the third-fastest of the day at Friday's state meet trials at Buchanan High.
"I like those kinds of races," Ounadjela said. "I've always been a sit and kick kind of runner."
Ounadjela suffered a painful foot injury that left him hobbled after winning the Central Coast Section 1,600.
"I took Saturday (the day after the CCS final) off and only ran for 30 minutes on Sunday," he said. "I wore running shoes everywhere I went, even for graduation.
"I've never run in front of a crowd like this, it's a first in my final year of high school. Hopefully I can finish it off with a bang."
Bianca Bryant went out and pushed the pace in her heat of the girls 800. She was passed by two runners down the final straightaway but finished in a personal-best time of 2:08.72.
"There's more," Piedmont Hills coach Chioke Robinson said. "She got a little tense after leading like that. We might do some things tactically different (in the final)."
But when asked if he would have Bryant let someone else lead the race, Robinson said: "We'll talk about it, but I'm going to let her decide. It's going to be a dogfight."
Bryant's heat was so fast that Notre Dame-San Jose's Juliana Mount, who came in sixth in 2:09.55, did not qualify for the final. Mount was the sixth-place finisher at last year's state final.
Bryant's teammate, Timarya Baynard, ran a season-best 54.63 in the girls 400, the second-fastest qualifying time. Wilcox's D'Airrien Jackson also qualified for the final with a time of 55.42.
"We expected it," Robinson said of Baynard's time. "Make the finals first, then throw caution to the wind."
Darius Thomas of St. Francis and Darius Carbin of Mt. Pleasant, two of the top four ranked high jumpers in the state, both cleared 6 feet, 8 inches, and qualified for Saturday's finals.
Carbin also qualified eighth in the triple jump at 46-33/4. Serra's Jordan Kenison was another triple jump qualifier, going 45-71/4 to take 11th.
Branham's Shelby Shikashio went 38-71/4 to qualify ninth in the girls triple jump. She scratched her first jump and went 38-1 on her second.
"I just came to the meet to finish off my season," Shikashio said. "I didn't have any high expectations, just to have fun."
She said she planned on attending Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo strictly as a student. But after making the state finals, she said she might reconsider in regard to running track.
Valley Christian's Elena Bruckner, the national leader in both the girls shot put and discus, wasn't overly pleased with her mark of 147-9 in the discus, second-best among qualifiers for Saturday's finals.
"It was just the trials," Bruckner said. "It got me to the finals."
She came back with an effort of 49-111/2 in the shot put, the top mark among all qualifiers.
"That was good," Valley Christian throws coach Arpedge Rolle said. "Now rest up for the finals."
The California MileSplit website projected Valley Christian for a third-place finish in the girls team competition, and that was using Bruckner's subpar mark in the discus from the CCS meet, which would project to a seventh-place finish at the state finals, rather than her national-leading mark from the West Catholic Athletic League meet.
"We have a shot," Valley Christian coach Josh Small said of his hopes for a team title. "We need help, but we have a shot."
Ronna Stone qualified third in the discus at 146-1. She also qualified for Saturday's finals in the shot put at 42-41/2.
Newbury Park's Kendall Mader had the top mark in the discus at 154-2.'
Bellarmine College Prep's Marshall Godsil qualified in the boys discus with a throw of 172-3.
Mountain View's Rachael Estell nabbed the final qualifying spot in the girls long jump at 17-81/2.
Cupertino's Jade Harrison qualified in the girls 200 at 24.19.
Bellarmine's Andrew Lind qualified in the boys pole vault at 15-2, and Menlo-Atherton's Kathryn Mohr cleared 11-8 in the girls pole vault to also advance to Saturday's finals.
The Bellarmine 4x100 relay team ran a season-best 41.91 and just missed qualifying. The Bells were 10th. The top nine advanced.
"We have three of our four runners back," Bellarmine sprints coach Dan Burke said. "But there's so many fast young runners in the state. Chaminade (which had the fastest qualifying time at 40.87) has a freshman and a sophomore."
Gunn's Maya Miklos also just missed. Her time in the 300 hurdles was 43.19, 10th best with the top nine moving on.
Darius Thomas has exceeded all expectations this season.
The St. Francis junior became only the fourth individual in Central Coast Section history to clear seven feet in the high jump. His best as a sophomore was 6-5.
Goals going into the season?
"I told him he needed to break the school record (6-71/4)," St. Francis coach Mike Saso said.
Mission accomplished, and then some. He won the CCS title Friday with a jump of 6-9.
Thomas heads into this weekend's state championships at Buchanan High in Clovis as one of three high jumpers in the state to have cleared 7-0. Eight entrants qualified by clearing 6-9 or better at section finals.
"It's a crazy good field," Saso said. "It's going to be tough to make finals."
Mt. Pleasant junior Darius Carbin is fourth in the state at 6-11.
"He's ready to jump 7 feet," Mt. Pleasant coach Steve Nelson said. "Darius is a gamer. He performs better at meets than in practice. He could win the high jump, he could take fourth or fifth."
Carbin broke the school record of 6-101/2, set by Joel Wyrick in 1978.
"When Darius broke his record, Joel sent a check for $1,000 that I'm holding on to for Darius' college expenses,'' Nelson said.
The CCS record is 7-3, set by Overfelt's Jeff Rogers in 1985.
"That will definitely be my goal for next year," Thomas said. "I will try my hardest to get that."
Carbin will also compete in the triple jump. He won the CCS title with a personal-best 47-4.
Valley Christian junior Elena Bruckner has the state's best marks in the girls shot put (53-51/2) and discus (182-8). Teammate Ronna Stone is No. 3 in the discus for the season at 158-10.
Bruckner, who took fourth in the shot put a year ago, is now No. 4 all-time in state history in the shot put and No. 5 in the discus. The top marks in state history of 54-43/4 in the shot put and 190-3 in the discus are clearly not beyond her reach.
Branham's Zachary Nichols cleared a personal-best 15-7 to win the pole vault at the CCS meet. That mark is fourth-best among qualifiers.
Nichols got a taste of state-meet competition a year ago and thinks the conditions will be right to go higher.
"It's an amazing place to jump," the UC Santa Barbara-bound senior said. "A great crowd, all cheering you on. It's warm, so the pole bends a little more. Great tail wind."
Cupertino junior Jade Harrison qualified for state in the 100, 200 and 400. Her time in the 200 (23.91) is fourth-best among qualifiers. Cupertino coach Paul Armstrong said she will take part in all three at Friday's trials.
"I've had her do it all year, and she showed she can handle it," Armstrong said.
Menlo School's Lizzie Lacy had the fifth-best qualifying mark in the girls 3,200 at 10:27.71. Branham's Aidan Kirwan won both hurdles at the CCS meet. His time in the 110 highs (14.38) is sixth-best among qualifiers.
Saratoga's Steven Sum was the CCS 3,200 champion in 9:08.73. His season-best time of 8:56.86 ranks No. 7 in the state.
CCS champion Bianca Bryant of Piedmont Hills and runner-up Juliana Mount of Notre Dame-San Jose placed fifth and sixth in the girls 800 state final a year ago. CCS girls 400 champ Timarya Baynard was seventh at state last season.
cif TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Preliminaries are Friday (field events start at 3 p.m., running events at 5 p.m.) and finals are Saturday (field events start at 4:30 p.m., running events at 6 p.m.) at Buchanan High in Clovis