Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 31, 2013

It's the big stage now

Six local athletes and one relay team head to CIF State Track and Field Championships

by Keith Peters

For Menlo School junior Maddy Price, one good turn deserves another. For Palo Alto senior Victor Du, it will be a leap of faith. And, for Gunn junior Sarah Robinson, it'll be a matter of just going the distance.

Those are some of the storylines heading into this weekend's CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High in Clovis as local athletes test the state's best at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Four local athletes will compete in two events — Price in the girls' 200 and 400, Robinson in the girls' 1,600 and 3,200, Palo Alto junior Nick Sullivan in the 400 and 1,600 relay and SHP senior Nico Robinson in the 110 high hurdles and long jump.

Two others — Gunn freshman Maya Miklos (300 hurdles) and Du (long jump) — will go in one while the Palo Alto boys have their 1,600 relay team entered. Think of it as quality over quantity.

Field event qualifying begins Friday at 3 p.m., with running qualifying events starting at 5 p.m. On Saturday, field event finals start at 4:30 p.m., with running going off at 6 p.m.

Temperatures reportedly will be around 95 degrees on Friday and 102 on Saturday. The competition might be just as hot.

Only one of the six local individuals is guaranteed to be competing in Saturday's finals. That would be Robinson in the 3,200 meters. She'll attempt to double by going in the 1,600 prelims on Friday.

While running both events in the same meet is nothing new for Robinson, doing it in the state meet is since this will be her first trip. A year ago, she missed the SCVAL De Anza Division finals due to a conflict with her US Soccer U-17 team and thus could not compete after that.

She earned her trip to Clovis by taking third in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200 at last weekend's Central Coast Section finals at Gilroy High.

"She (Robinson) felt she had a better race in the 3,200 and that she still had a better race to run in the 1,600, so she wanted to run it again," said Gunn coach PattiSue Plumer, on why Robinson wanted to double.

Robinson ran 4:48.41 in the 1,600 and set a school record and personal best of 10:28.08 in the 3,200. Her 1,600 time is the No. 3 seed time while she's No. 4 in the metric two-miler. On the overall state list this season, Robinson ranks No. 3 in the 1,600 and No. 5 in the 3,200.

"This is my first time at the state meet, so I'm excited," said Robinson. "It's a big meet and I really want to do well in it."

Plumer wanted Robinson to run only one race, but Robinson decided there was work left undone in both.

What would make her happy this weekend?

"Being better than I was last week," she said.

That would mean a pair of personal bests and school records. That's her goal.

Friday's prelims in the 1,600 should be matter-of-fact for Robinson as there's a three-second gap between she and the No. 4 seed. Both finals should look very similar to the CCS finals as Robinson will test No. 1 Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley (4:42.57) and No. 2 Nikki Hiltz of Aptos (4:44.93) in the 1,600 and will see No. 2 Maxwell (10:22.02) and No. 10 Vanessa Fraser of Scotts Valley (10:32.33) in the 3,200 along with state leader Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley (10:17.58), one of three juniors among the top four seeds.

"Many of the top girls are doubling," Plumer said.

Plumer expects Robinson to make the finals in the 1,600 and perhaps finish among the top three.

"That would be excellent," Plumer said of that possible finish. "She's racing against some very fast girls. . . . I would like to see it culminate in something special."

Menlo School coaches Jorge Chen and Donoson FitzGerald could say the same about Price, who made the state meet last season in the 400 but failed to advance past the prelims. This season, Price is seeded No. 3 in the 400 and No. 9 in the 200 after winning CCS titles in both events last week. Her 54.78 clocking in the 400 ranks her No. 3 in the state and marked her first time under 55 seconds. Price's 200 time of 24.30 also would have been a school record, but it was wind-aided.

"I was so ecstatic at the double and the PR (in the 400)," Price said of her CCS effort. "It's been a long-term goal to get under 55. I'm just happy it happened at CCS."

Both times should provide momentum while last year's trip to the state meet will allow her to focus more on the task at hand this weekend.

"Last year at state I was pretty young," she said. "I came into the stadium and I was kind of awe-struck. That's why I didn't perform as well. It was my first time at state, and it's an honor just to run at state. This year I feel more like I belong. I just have a lot more experience. I've always had this confidence that I can beat anyone."

Price will be tested in both events. Nia Dorner of Cordova is the No. 1 seed in the 400 (54.05) while Arianna Washington of Long Beach Poly leads the 200 in 23.18. Price's best shot to make the finals is in the 400.

"Making it to the 400 finals would be fantastic," she said. "It would be the highlight of my season."

Palo Alto's Du has similar feelings in the long jump.

"It would be really great to make finals," said Du, who missed out his sophomore year in the high jump despite leaping a personal best of 6-foot-5. Because of ties, only the top 11 advanced to the finals. Du was 12th.

Du heads into the state meet following a surprise victory in the CCS finals, where he leaped a personal record of 23-4 on his first attempt. It was his only jump of the competition, due to a nagging injury to his left heel.

That injury has limited Du this season, which makes his appearance in the state meet all the more remarkable. In his past four meets — De Anza Division finals, SCVAL Qualifier, CCS trials and CCS finals — Du has taken a total of four jumps.

"My heel has been bothering me for the past two months," he said. "For the past few weeks I looked at each jump as it might be my last. I don't expect to take more than one jump per meet."

Du first suffered the injury while competing in the triple jump in Paly's first dual meet of the season. He continued to take multiple attempts in the next meet but finally stopped when the pain increased. He also dropped the triple jump and stopped high jumping after last year.

Compounding the problem was the fact Palo Alto had no jumping facilities this season as new bleachers were added to the football field. Thus, no pits and an injured heel meant Du never jumped during practice.

Despite all of his setbacks, Du leaped a PR of 23-3 earlier this season before surpassing that at CCS.

"I wasn't expecting to get 23 on that jump," Du said. "That was a pleasant surprise to see that 23-4 . . . I came in not expecting to win. But, after that 23-4, I got really excited."

Du continued to keep warm in case he needed to jump again, especially after Mitty's Matt Wong jumped 23-3 1/2.

"After getting the 23-4, the mindset changed," Du said. "I can win this; I want to win this."

Du, ranked No. 13 overall in the state, will be the No. 8 seed in Friday's prelims at the state meet. He plans on taking just one jump.

"For now, I'm just hoping for another 23-footer. That should get me in (the finals). That's the goal now. If I pop another big jump, I'll be looking at a medal."

No matter what happens, though, Du is satisfied with his senior year.

"I've already exceeded expectations for this season," he said. "I'm already happy with what has happened — winning CCS and getting a PR. This has already been a great season. Anything else is just extra. I'm just happy to be able to jump against the best in the state. I'm going to go out, take that one jump and make sure it's good."

The No. 1 seed in the long jump is Adoree Jackson of Serra (Southern Section) at 24-9. There's only one other past 24 feet. Only 4 1/2 inches separates the next six jumpers, including Du.

SHP's Robinson is further back at 22-10, the No. 23 seed. He qualified in the long jump after taking fifth at CCS, surpassing the automatic qualifying mark. Robinson's best event, however, is the high hurdles, where his school record and third-place time of 14.34 from CCS earned him the No. 11 seed for the state prelims. He's also No. 14 overall in the state.

Also busy Friday will be Paly's Sullivan, Gunn's Miklos and the Paly 4x400 relay team of freshmen Eli Givens and Dami Bolarinwa, senior Jayshawn Gates and Sullivan, who anchored the Vikings to victory at CCS in a season best of 3:22.77 — taking Paly from fifth to first.

Sullivan is ranked No. 22 in the open 400 following his third-place finish of 48.97 at CCS.

"I expected him to win," Paly coach Jason Fung said of Sullivan.

In the girls' 300 hurdles, Gunn's Miklos will be the only freshman in the field after her stunning 43.39 victory at CCS shattered the school record and moved her to No. 14 in the state. She'll be seeded No. 10 in the prelims and Plumer isn't counting her out.

"She has no fear," Plumer said. "She races to the finish line. She never gives up. She loves to race. CCS champion as a freshman? We're in bonus territory now. I want her to make finals and I know she'll be disappointed if she doesn't make finals."

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