Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 25, 2012

Paly boys hope for run of good fortune

by Keith Peters

Jason Fung probably doesn't have a wish list written down heading into the 2012 Central Coast Section Track and Field Championships on Friday at Gilroy High. If the Palo Alto High coach did, it would be a long one.

For starters, Fung could be wishing for:

The school's first-ever section team title.

School records in the 400 and 1,600 relays.

Individual victories by junior E.J. Floreal in the 100 and 200 and perhaps in the 800 by senior Nikolai Solgaard.

Qualifying both relay teams and as many athletes as possible to next week's CIF State Meet at Buchanan High in Clovis.

If everything falls into place, that elusive CCS title could go to the Vikings, whose previous best finish was second place in 1980.

"I've got to win everything I can," said Fung, who graduated from Paly in 1992 and was a member of the track team.

In addition to qualifying both relays out of last Saturday's CCS semifinals at Gilroy High, the Vikings will have six other spots in the finals that begin with field events at 4 p.m. Running starts at 6 p.m.

"Those six have to do some magic," Fung said.

For it to be a magical evening for the Vikings, the 400 relay team must get it started. Paly had the fastest qualifying time in 42.13, a season best, while Bellarmine was second in 42.38.

"We can beat Bellarmine," Fung said. "We've been very consistent with our handoffs, and our fastest time was last week. It's only going to get better."

The big goal is not just settling for a trip to the state meet, but making the finals. Paly failed to do that last year.

Winning on Friday will go a long way in making that happen. Plus, it's absolutely necessary if the Vikings want that team crown. Something under the school record of 42.07 from 2011 would be nice, as well, from the team of Tremaine Kirkman, Jayshawn Gates-Mouton, Morris Gates-Mouton and Floreal.

The same goes for the 1,600 relay, where the Vikings qualified second in a season best of 3:22.95, just missing the 1980 school mark of 3:22.6 (which converts to 3:22.74). Fung didn't even have Floreal, his fastest runner, on that squad. Instead, the squad was Morris Gates-Mouton, Solgaard (both seniors), junior Jonathan Alee and sophomore Nick Sullivan.

If the team title is hanging on the final relay come late Friday night, the mercurial Floreal will be running promised Fung.

Floreal will start his day anchoring the 400 relay, which is tied for 17th in the state. He'll then turn his attention to the 100, where his school record of 10.52 ranks No. 4 in the state and No. 18 in the nation. Floreal needs a good start, fast finish and needs to beat Bellarmine's Joey Sanfilippo, the No. 1 qualifier in 10.81.

After that, it'll be the 200. There, Floreal ranks No. 4 and No. 22, respectively, but has the potential to surpass his school mark of 21.16.

Floreal was the No. 3 qualifier in the 100 (10.85) and was No. 1 in the 200 (21.66) in the semifinals, but didn't run hard in either race. He shut it down in the 200 with more than 10 meters remaining while cruising across the finish line, looking over both shoulders.

Palo Alto also will have Kirkman in the 100 finals after he finished seventh in 11.03 last week. Alee would have been in the 200 finals, but false-started.

Solgaard, meanwhile, continued to impress in the 800 as he ran a personal best of 1:55.72 to finish second and advance to next Friday's finals, also at Gilroy High.

While the Paly runners are busy, junior Victor Du will be trying to add points in both the high jump and long jump after posting qualifying marks of 6-3 and 21-0 1/2, respectively.

"Victor has to move up," said Fung, "and other teams have to help me beat Bellarmine. We have enough firepower for top three (finish)."

Bellarmine has both relays in the finals plus 11 scoring spots. The scoring has been expanded this season to include the top eight finishers. Thus, every point for Paly is critical.

Based on the finishes Bellarmine and Paly had in the semifinals, the Bells would have 50 points and the Vikings 48 if they duplicated those performances in the finals. Bellarmine, however, reportedly has two injured relay members. SDefending champion St. Francis, meanwhile, would have 47 points based on its semifinal placings.

The Palo Alto girls, meanwhile, qualified their 400 relay in 49.84, freshman Anna Dukovic earned a trip to the finals in the high jump (5-1) and senior Lindsay Black did likewise in the shot put by setting a school record of 39-0 1/2.

Elsewhere, Menlo School sophomore Maddy Price was the Knights' lone qualifier as she finished fourth in the girls' 400 in a personal record of 57.38, shaving nearly a half-second off her previous best.

Menlo-Atherton got three boys in the CCS finals as Michael Hester finished sixth in the 800 in 1:56.82, Jack Beckwith advanced in the 3,200 (9:40.62) and Di'jonn Williams finished fifth in the long jump at 21-3 1/2. The Bears also qualified their boys' 1600 relay team (fifth at 3:23.88) and their girls' 1600 squad (4:01.78).

Sacred Heart Prep had one qualifier for the finals, Cameron Van in the high jump (6-3).

Stanford-bound Chris Waschura of Woodside was the No. 1 qualifier in the boys' 1,600 in a season best of 4:15.91.

The top three finishers, plus any athletes who achieve automatic marks, will advance to the state meet.

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