Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 17, 2013

Plenty of motivation to chase CCS berths at track semifinals

by Keith Peters

For some, the semifinals of the Central Coast Section Track and Field Championships is just a mere stepping stone to the finals. For others, it's a much different story.

Take, for example, some of the story lines for Saturday's semifinals at Gilroy High.

Sacred Heart Prep senior Nico Robinson comes in as a favorite to advance to the finals in the 110 high hurdles, 300 intermediate hurdles and long jump.

Last year, Robinson had to take the SATs the morning of the semifinals. He rushed to the meet, false-started out of the high hurdles, didn't run the 300 IH and failed to qualify in the long jump and high jump.

To say he has some motivation heading into this week might be an understatement.

And then there's Menlo-Atherton senior George Baier. He was the unlucky loser twice last year as he missed advancing in the 800 and 1,600 by just one place. Fortunately for Baier, one 1,600 runner dropped out and he made the finals, using the second chance to win the CCS title in 4:20.77.

To be sure, Baier will not leave these next races to chance.

Gunn junior distance standout Sarah Robinson also has motivation this weekend. She missed last year's meet after also missing the SCVAL De Anza Division finals due to a soccer trip with the U.S. Under-17 National Team.

The same can be said for Menlo-Atherton junior Taylor Fortnam in the 3,200 and Gunn senior Eric Price in the triple jump. Each finished 13th in this meet last year, failing to advance by one spot.

The Palo Alto boys, meanwhile, used the CCS semifinals as a springboard to winning the program's first-ever section team crown last season. Whether the Vikings can do it again could be decided on Saturday. Senior Jayshawn Gates will have a say in that after finishing 18th in the 200 last year and 22nd in the 100. So will Nick Sullivan, who won the 200 (22.28) and 400 (49.24) at the SCVAL Championships last weekend.

The Vikings won five events and took second in four others while compiling 97 points to win the team title. Similar finishes will put Paly in great shape to defend its section crown.

The Gunn girls, meanwhile, finished third with Robinson winning the 1,600 (4:57.71) and 3,200 (10:44.88). Adriana Noronha was second in the shot put and discus while freshman Robin Peter qualified in the 100 hurdles, 100 and helped the 400 relay team advance.

The West Bay Athletic League will be well-represented at the semifinals following the league finals last weekend at Gunn High. The Sacred Heart Prep boys and Menlo School girls won team titles while SHP's Robinson and Menlo's Maddy Price were the individual standouts.

Robinson won four individual events to help the Gators score 148 points and dethrone defending champ Menlo School, which finished second with 136.

Price, a junior, went into the meet with a four-event schedule and a chance to duplicate Robinson's effort. She won the 200 (24.73) and 400 (58.13) and took second in shot put at 29-0 1/2 in only her second time competing. Price, however, scratched out of the 100 due to hamstring discomfort.

Nonetheless, Price's efforts helped Menlo produce 113 points and hold off Notre Dame-San Jose (101.5) for the second straight season.

Robinson, who may try his hand at the decathlon when he attends Dartmouth in the fall, got his team rolling by winning the 110 high hurdles in a personal record of 14.58, breaking his own meet and school record. He still ranks No. 3 in the CCS.

Robinson added the 300 intermediates to his list of titles as he clocked 38.63 for another meet and school record. Robinson shared the high jump title with teammate Cameron Van as both cleared 5-10. Robinson then captured the long jump at 22-2 to finish his day with 39 individual points.

The Menlo boys were led by senior Max Parker's victory in the 400 ((50.70), junior Matt Myers' triumph in the 800 (2:02.70), senior Walter Peacock's upset win in the 100 (11.12), senior Conor Shanley's victory in the discus (126-8), Paul Touma's meet record in the triple jump (43-3), a meet record of 43.56 in the 400 relay by the team of Michael Reed, Peacock, Parker and Travis Chambers plus a victory in the 1,600 relay 3:33.27) by Chambers, Myers, Reed and Parker.

For the girls, Menlo won the opening 400 relay with the team of Laura Gradiska, Laura Halprin, Lauren Henske and Daria Sprague (50.40) and freshman McKenzie Duffner won the 100 hurdles with a meet record of 15.90.

At the PAL Championships at Terra Nova High, the Menlo-Atherton girls pulled off a one-point victory to claim the league finals while the M-A boys finished third.

The M-A girls scored 89 points without winning a single event to hold off runner-up Sequoia (88).

It was all about depth for the Bears, who had seven runner-up finishes and 19 scoring finishes plus two relays.

Freshman Annalisa Crowe was second in the 800 (2:19.29) and 1,600 (5:14.92) to pace M-A. Fortnam was second in the 32,200 (11:51.86), Kathryn Mohr was second in the pole valt (8-6), Lisa Horwitz was runner-up in the discus (101-8) and Bears were second in both relays.

M-A held an 81-78 lead going into the final race of the day, the 1,600 relay. Sequoia won the race, but the Bears' second-place finished earned them eight points -- just enough for the team title.

In the boys' meet, Aragon won the team title with 105 points with Carlomont second (88) and Menlo-Atherton third (67.5).

Baier paced the Bears by finishing second in the 800 (1:58.83) and second in the 1,600 (4:18.47). He also ran on the winning 1,600 relay team that clocked 3:27.56 to also advance to the CCS semifinals. M-A's Deverick Meacham was second in the long jump (20-9) to also qualify.

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