State track finals has silver lining for Mount Miguel shot-putter

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It was a great day for East County high school track and field programs as nine area student-athletes lined up to compete in this year’s 98th annual California state championship meet prelims June 3 at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Never mind that the high temperature that day was 103 degrees, and 105 degrees the next day for the finals.

It was a great day for East County high school track and field programs as nine area student-athletes lined up to compete in this year’s 98th annual California state championship meet prelims June 3 at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Never mind that the high temperature that day was 103 degrees, and 105 degrees the next day for the finals.

Just making it to the state meet prelims was a big deal for these high school runners, jumpers and throwers, many of whom would be closing out their prep careers at the weekend meet.
While there was no golden moment for San Diego County participants this year (for the first time since 2002, the section was shut out in the gold medal department), there was a shining silver moment for Mount Miguel High School senior Laulauga Tausaga-Collins.

Out of more than 60 event qualifiers in the boys and girls fields from the section, only seven athletes came home with medals, including one athlete with two, for a section total of eight medals.

For those fortunate enough who did snare an elusive state medal, it was a moment to cherish.

Tausaga-Collins openly wept with joy after securing second place in the girls’ shot put. It was a move up from last year’s bronze medal, and she had to be thankful this year after almost not even making it to the finals with a subpar performance in prelim qualifying.
The silver medal was the prize. It was also the highest medal recorded by a section athlete at this year’s state meet.

“The season as a whole has been disappointing for me,” Tausaga-Collins admitted. “But by the grace of God I was able to compete against the best athletes in the state and win the tie-breaker to get second.

 “I didn’t expect to get this far after fouling in the discus throw. It was a surprise for me.”

The San Diego Section record-holder in the girls shot put (48-3.5) and discus throw (167-3), Tausaga-Collins had been chasing the 50-foot mark in the shot put event all season but never quite got there. Though she set a meet record of 166-4 in winning the discus throw at the section finals, she fouled on all three of her attempts at the state prelims.

And she barely qualified for this year’s state shot put finals after placing eighth in the state prelims with a mark of 42-0.

But, when it mattered most, everything fell into place despite not setting any records. The Lady Matador standout recorded a mark of 45-1.5 in the finals to tie San Francisco Lincoln junior Pamela Amaechi.

Valley Christian senior Elena Bruckner, the national leader and state record-holder, won the gold medal with a mark of 49-5.75.

Mount Miguel head coach Chris Conwright credited Tausaga-Collins’ “tremendous desire to compete” as her strength in the ring.

She is headed to the University of Iowa to continue her track and field career. “I’m excited about going to the next level, learning new things and being able to better my throw,” she said.

Making strides

As good as East County and other section student-athletes competed this year, there were others who performed better throughout the state in their respective events.

Much better, as it turned out.

But that’s not to be taken as a failure, as everyone who qualified for the state meet should be lauded for their efforts. It’s difficult to get this far.

Two of the nine East County qualifiers advanced to the second day of the two-day meet. Very few other student-athletes throughout the section managed to accomplish that feat, in fact. That was not necessarily surprising given the high temperatures and the high level of competition from throughout the state.

Athletes with the top nine prelim times and those with the top 12 field prelim marks also qualified for the finals. The top six place-finishers in each event in the finals received state medals.

Steele Canyon senior Tajanique Bell, competing in the girls’ 300-meter hurdles, joined Tausaga-Collins in the state finals. Bell turned in the fourth-fastest prelim qualifying time of 42.51 to advance to the finals. However, she placed seventh in 42.89 — one spot (and 0:02 second) from capturing a state medal.

Bell won the 300 hurdles event at the section finals by timing a meet record 41.99.

Bell also qualified to compete in the 100 low hurdles at this year’s state meet. Her time of 14.64 in the state prelims, however, was not fast enough to advance her to the state finals. She finished 13th among 25 prelim qualifiers in the event.

Bell finished third in the 100-meter low hurdles at the section finals (14.39) to qualify for the state meet. 

The times were good for No. 1 among Division I hurdlers in both events. Her 300 time is third best all-time in section annals.

“It feels great,” she said in making her third trip to the state meet.

Bell, the reigning Grossmont Hills League champion, blasted the field during the final 200 meters of the 300 hurdles event at the section finals to win by 1.80 seconds. Cathedral Catholic senior Dani Johnson, the defending champion, clocked 43.79 to place second.

Bell’s 41.99 ranked fourth among California leaders during the regular season; her 14.39 time in the 100 low hurdles was also a personal record.

“Never doubt yourself,” Bell noted as her motivating force on the track. “My goal is to (always) go after my competition.”

Christian junior Benjamin Goodwin qualified to compete in two events – the boys 100- and 200-meter dashes — at this year’s state meet while Granite Hills senior Wyatt Adams qualified to compete in the boys 300-meter intermediate hurdles, Valhalla junior Zion White qualified to compete in the girls 400-meter dash and St. Augustine senior Nick Heid qualified to compete in the boys high jump.

White, the fourth-place finisher in the girls 400 dash at the section finals, advanced to the state meet after Cathedral Catholic sophomore Olivia Firsching, the second-place finisher in the event, scratched from competing at the state meet. That opened the door for White, who timed a personal record 57.41 in the event, to move up as the section’s third qualifier in the event.

White timed 59.01 at the state prelims to finish 24th in the field of 27 to end her season.

Goodwin won the 100 dash in 10.62 at the section finals — 0.12 second ahead of silver medalist Jaden Stokes, a sophomore from Del Norte.

Goodwin placed runner-up in the 200 dash in 21.76 at the section finals — 0.23 second behind race-winner Rashid Shaheed, a senior from Mt. Carmel.

Shaheed won both events at the section finals.

Goodwin’s time in the 100 dash was just off the personal best time10.60 he set the preceding week in the section prelim meet. He timed 10.89 at the state prelims in the 100 dash to finish 13th overall in prelim qualifying and 22.04 in the 200 dash to finish 11th overall in prelim qualifying.

His career best time in the 200 dash remains the 21.73 he set at this year’s section prelims.

Heid won the high jump championship by clearing a personal record 6-7 as the section’s top state qualifier. A two-time roller hockey MVP for the Saints, Heid — a Santee resident — won this year’s City Conference Western League title with a jump of 6-5.

But Heid ended his season on a disappointing note at the state meet by failing to clear opening height in the state prelims.

Heid, a well-rounded competitor, has played roller hockey four years at St. Augustine, competed three years on the school’s track and field team and played one year of football.

This was Heid’s first year advancing to the state track meet.

 “I’ve been working for this for the past two years,” he explained. “I was the last cut for state last year.”

Rancho Bernardo senior Yaniv Rokach also cleared 6-7 at the section finals to place second in the event while Del Norte senior Conner Nelson also cleared 6-7 to place third.

Neither Nelson (13th in the state prelims, 6-6) nor Rokach (16th in the state prelims, 6-4) qualified for the state high jump finals.

Adams’ qualification for the state meet wasn’t necessarily scripted the way he had in mind.

The Grossmont Conference champion in the 110 and 300 hurdles and 4×400 relay, Adams blew out to a huge lead midway through the 300 race but hit a hurdle, appeared to stumble and that was enough to give Rancho Buena Vista senior Devon Alvarado the opportunity to seize victory in a photo finish.

Alvarado crossed first in 38.39, followed by Adams in 38.85.

Amazingly, despite clipping the barrier, the 38.85 mark was good for a personal record for Adams.

“It was a very good race,” Adams conceded. “I hit the sixth hurdle and that put me off my stride a little. If I didn’t lose my stride, I feel I could have taken first.”

Adams had posted the second-fastest qualifying time (39.04) at the section prelims.

“My goal this season was to get in the 39s, and I’ve exceeded that,” he said. 

His goal at the state meet was to drop that time “in the 38s.”

Adams timed 39.36 to finish seventh in his heat at the state prelims; the time placed his 15th overall among the 26 prelim qualifiers.

“It was a very good experience getting the opportunity to compete with the best in the state, it was great to be included in their company, with all that talent,” explained Adams, who is headed this fall to Concordia University-Irvine. “It was an honor to be here.”

Adams finished seventh among Division I entrants at the section finals with a time of 15.23 in the 110-meter high hurdles. Alvarado also won the high hurdles in 14.43.

At the state meet, Alvarado went on to place fourth in the boys’ 110-meter high hurdles (14.10) and eighth in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles (38.42) in the finals. He also was also part of the foursome that included junior Marco Huerta Smith and seniors Zachary Kleppe and Jacob Milnes that placed seventh in the boys 4×400-meter relay (3:20.33) at the state finals.

Alvarado’s state prelim time (37.45) in the 300 hurdles was the sixth best all-time in the section while his prelim time in the high hurdles (14.06) was the 13th fastest in section history.

Section honor roll

La Costa Canyon senior Kyle Brown finished in a four-way tie for third place at the state finals in the boys pole vault at 15-8 while Poway senior Eli Hamson also cleared that height but placed seventh in the event on misses.

In the boys long jump, two section athletes medaled: St. Augustine senior Tanner Battikha placed third (23-11) while Tri City Christian junior Matthew DeRoos placed fifth (23-3.75). DeRoos also placed eighth in the triple jump (46-6.5) while Battikha was ninth (44-8.5) in the same event.

Three section athletes competed in the boys’ shot put finals. Oceanside senior Charles Lenford secured a third-place medal with a mark of 58-5 while Poway senior Colton Clark placed ninth (55-6.75) and El Camino senior Tanner Miller placed 10th (53-5).

Del Norte senior standout Michelle Altice placed fourth in the girls’ shot put (45-1.25) and fifth in the discus throw (146-5).

Rancho Bernardo senior Jackie Patterson finished seventh in the 200-meter dash (24.06) and eighth in the girls’ 100-meter dash (11.85).

Also of note:

•Mt. Carmel’s Shaheed placed eighth in the boys’ 200-meter dash (21.87).

•University City senior Allen Siegler finished eighth in the boys’ 1600-meter run (4:09.26).

•Calvin Christian senior Olivia Nash placed eighth in the girls’ triple jump (38-2).

•Ramona senior Holly Stallman placed 10th in the girls’ long jump (18-2.5).

•Poway junior Jarett Chinn finished 11th in the boys 800-meter run (2:00.47) after clocking the fourth-best prelim time of 1:53.46.

•Rancho Bernardo senior Nia Atkins finished 12th in the girls 800-meter run (2:13.60).

In the individual distance races:

Mt. Carmel junior Laura Moran (11:02.83) finished 20th in the girls’ 3200-meter run, followed by Canyon Crest Academy junior Kira Loren (22nd, 11:06.86) and Westview junior Erica Barrett (24th, 11:13.13).

Barrett had posted the top time of 10:44.34 at the section finals.

Davis senior Fiona O’Keeffe won the state title in 10:12.02.

Mt. Carmel sophomore Samuel Boone (9:33.69) finished 28th in the boys’ 3200-meter run, followed by Torrey Pines senior Charlie Pope (29th, 9:55.14) and Sage Creek junior Beau Prince (30th, 9:56.55). The three section runners brought up the rear among the 30 place-finishers in the race.

Pope had posted the top time of 9:16.13 at the section finals.

Meanwhile, it was a dramatic sprint to the finish for St. Joseph’s Cooper Teare and Great Oak senior Cole Spencer as they tied for the lead with times of 8:51.85. Teare was later awarded first place in the photo finish by 0.002 second.

On a disappointing note:

•Carlsbad junior Alana Snow failed to make opening height in the girls’ high jump finals.

Almost famous

Granite Hills just missed qualifying for the state meet in the boys’ 4×400 relay after dropping from third to fourth place on the final lap at the section finals. The 3:21.79 time was faster than the 3:23.03 set at the section prelims but the Eagles dropped from second (at the section prelims) to fourth (at the section finals).

Esteban Acosta, Dylan Coleman and Brady DeHaven completed the Granite Hills’ 4×400 unit. Mira Mesa won the event in 3:19.79, followed by Mt. Carmel in 3:20.44 and RBV in 3:20.59.

Hot wheels

Para-athletes competed for the first time at this year’s state championship meet, including two from the San Diego Section: Escondido Charter’s Michael Seo and Southwest El Centro’s Mauricio Pena.

Seo, who won three gold medals at the section finals, competed in three events at the state meet. He finished third in the para-boys 100-meter dash (21.12), seventh in the mixed 200-meter dash (39.91) and fifth in the mixed 400-meter dash (1:20.08).

Pena finished fourth in the para-boys 100 dash (25.58), ninth in the mixed 200 dash (1:02.73) and seventh in the mixed 400 dash (1:52.84).

Seo and Pena both compete in wheelchairs.

They competed in the San Diego Section finals’ first wheelchair races. Seo wheeled to victory in all three races contested at 100, 200 and 400 meters.

The wheelchair athletes received a standing ovation from spectators as they neared the finish line in each race.

Seo, a sophomore, became the section’s first three-event gold medalist. He took his newfound celebrity status in stride, however.

“It’s all in God’s plans,” he said. “It’s what God wants for me. It’s all about His work.”

Seo was born with a form of cancer that affected his spine so much so that it rendered him unable to walk. He proved he could get around in a wheelchair just fine. He rides with his legs tucked under the chair.

He clapped his hands together when accepting his third gold medal.

“It feels great,” he said. “It’s so big.”

At the section finals, Seo won the 100-meter race in 21.82 seconds while posting first-place times of 41.17 in the 200-meter race and 1:24.73 in the 400-meter race.

Pena timed 22.37 in the 100-meter race, 48:34 in the 200-meter race and 1:35.99 in the 400-meter race.

Above and beyond

Vista Murrieta senior Michael Norman won four gold medals at this year’s state finals. He repeated as the individual champion in the 200-meter dash (20.42) and 400-meter dash (45.77) while also running legs on the Broncos’ victorious 4×100-meter relay team (40.32) and 4×400-meter relay team (3:14.97).

Not surprisingly, Vista Murrieta won the boys team title.

Carson won the girls team championship.

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