Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Track: California State Meet 1-2 June 2018

With nearly 4,500 high schools in California, and with our state one of only four in the country with just a single division, it's very hard to qualify for the California State Track Meet. Out of San Diego, only three athletes (plus a few who matched the state performance standard) in each event qualified for the State Prelims. Between 9 and 12 athletes out of the state advanced to the finals held the next day. To get to the coveted Podium Ceremony, an athlete must be among the top six finishers. Only the Nation's elite stand on the top step.  Before last week's State Meet, Coronado had only two athletes make it to the podium. Jamie Klages tied for fifth in the high jump in 2005 with a height of 5 feet, seven inches. In 2015 Erik Armes placed fifth in the 1600-meter run with a time of 4:10.09. Only one other in Coronado's history made it to the finals. That was Samantha Piper in 1998 who placed eighth in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:14.13. 

 At last week's State Meet, held at Buchanan High school in Clovis California, Alysah Hickey was among the state's top athletes and was competing in both the high jump and the long jump. One of the problems for the few athletes who are proficient in both the high jump and the long jump is that the two events usually begin at the same time. The long jump is a sprinters' event while high-jumpers, at the higher levels, tend to be specialists. At the state meet, Alysah was the only girl competing in both events at the same time. On Friday, during the warm-up for the prelims, both Alysah and our other female qualifier, Ruthie Grant-Williams, noticed that they were slipping on take-off. The left side of the take-off area was a little slippery, and Alysah didn't have her high-jump shoes with her. Usually, she competes in both the long jump and high jump wearing the same shoes. A high jump shoe has four extra spikes in the heel. Fortunately, one of Alysha's competitors wore the same size shoe and let her use them for her jumps. The goal at the prelims was to narrow the field down to 12 jumpers to compete in the finals the next day. As it turned out, exactly 12 jumpers cleared the second height of 5 feet 5 inches, so they stopped the competition at that height. This was fortunate because now Alysah could concentrate on the long jump. Although both events started at 3:00 PM, Alysah was in the third long jump flight which started after she qualified for the high jump finals. The top 12 jumpers out of the three flights would move on to Saturday's finals based on the three jumps each was allowed in the prelims. When Alysah got her take-off mark there was a tailwind. However, when she jumped the wind had died down. Both of her first two attempts were over 20 feet but in both cases her take-off foot was slightly over the line and neither counted. She had but one attempt left to move on. Her new long jump coach, Brazilian Olympian Jadel Gregorio, told her to move her take-off mark back about six inches. This did the trick, she hit the board with inches to spare and soared out to the top qualifying mark of 19 feet 2.5 inches.  Our other high jumper, Ruthie, didn't clear the opening height but she had a great year with a PR of 5 feet, 5 inches to tie for the third-best mark in San Diego this season.  Our third state meet qualifier was Ian Hurlburt in the 800 meter run who ran 1:54.94 but missed moving to the finals by less than a half second. Ian also had a great season and comes away with the top San Diego Section mark of 1:54.22 which is a new school record. Ian will matriculate at UCSB next year. At the Saturday Finals both the high jump and long jump started at 5:00 PM. This time there were no flights in the long jump so Alysah had to juggle both events at the same time. One advantage in the long jump is if you hit a big mark early in the competition you can pass the rest of your jumps. Friday's qualifying marks were not brought forward.  At the finals each of the 12 jumpers were allowed 3 tries. The top 9 were then allowed 3 more attempts with the top marks coming out of any of the jumps. On Alysah's first attempt she hit 19 feet 3.5 inches to immediately take the lead. However, there were three other girls also over 19 feet, so at that point it was too close for comfort.  After two more jumps, interspersed with high jump attempts she didn't improve her mark, but she did retain the lead.  Sometimes the only way to tell whether she was getting ready for the high jump or the long jump was the color of her shoes; the borrowed high jump shoes were green; her long jump shoes were red. Our high jump coach, Kerry Elders, was on one side of the field coaching her from the end zone while Jadel was coaching from the stadium. Jadel wasn't hard to spot from the field as he's 6 feet 8 inches tall. When the last three long jumps started. the high jump was in its final stages. Since she already had the lead, Jadel told her to pass until the last jump so she could concentrate on the high jump. Once the high jump was over she came back to the long jump pit, already the winner, as no one had exceeded her initial jump. She had nothing to lose so she went all out and cleared 19 feet 9.75 inches to win by nearly 7 inches.

This was a wind-legal Personal Record, a school record,  and is the fifth all-time best jump for San Diego County. Two-Time Olympic 100-meter champion, Gail Devers, has the top mark at 20 feet 7 inches. Alysah plans to go for that next season. Her long jump victory broke a 3-year drought of State Meet Track and Field Champions for the San Diego Section. The last State Champion was Madison’s Dotun Ogundeji who won the shot put in 2015.  At big meets, like the State Championships, it doesn't take too many top athletes for a team to place high in the rankings. Alysah scored enough points to put Coronado among the top 10 girls’ teams. We tied for eighth place with the next San Diego Section team, La Costa Canyon, coming in 43rd.

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