San Benito High will be bringing a baker’s dozen of its track and field athletes to Saturday’s Central Coast Section Finals at Soquel High in Aptos. This after another sterling performance from the Haybalers contingent in the CCS Trials on June 12.
On the boys side, the 4×100-relay team of Malachi Zabala, Anthony Mercurio, Ramon Duran and Zach Sims hit a personal-record in 43.96 seconds, good for sixth place overall. Duran also finished sixth in the 300-meter hurdles in a PR of 40.93 seconds. Sims took third in the long jump with a mark of 21 feet and fourth in the triple jump in 42-9 ¼, displaying his athleticism and versatility.
Sims hit a solid PR in the triple jump as his previous best was 42-5. Recent graduate Nathaniel Marquez came up clutch in nailing a sizable PR of 40-7 in the triple jump that got him the 12th and final spot into the finals. Frank Hernandez had another solid day in the throwing events, taking fourth in the shot put in 48-6 ½ and eighth in the discus in 124-3.
On the girls side, Ellie Miller qualified in the high jump by equaling her mark of 5-2, which was tied for the top height with five other girls. She also was a part of the 4×400-relay team that included Gabriela Romero, Mia Villegas and Giavanna Felice, who finished in a PR of 4:14.32 to post the seventh best time in the trials. Lillian Thrasher was part of a huge logjam of high jump competitors to clear 5 feet and earn a spot in the finals.
Julia Hicks was a standout again in the throwing events, placing first in the shot put in 37-10 ¼ and first in the discus in 123-3. Her teammate, Jocelyn Alexander, had a big day as well, finishing fourth in the shot put in a PR of 33-7 ½ and sixth in the discus in 103-8. Kianna Robles narrowly missed out on qualifying for the finals in the pole vault, as she lost a tiebreaker as part of a group of girls that went 8-6.
Still, Robles delivered the performance of her career, smashing her previous PR of 7 feet even. Duran also had a PR—albeit a small one—in his signature event, which was all the more impressive considering he was coming off a disappointing showing in the 110 hurdles. Duran got out of the blocks slow in the 110 race and out of rhythm. However, he was determined to bring his form back into place by the end of the race.
“I was satisfied I didn’t give up through my 110 and regained my 3-step for the end of the race,” he said. “Obviously, I was disappointed to not qualify for the finals, but at that point I needed to regain focus again and put my energy toward the next race coming up. There was nothing I could do after that race which would change the result, so I had to turn that switch from the things that didn’t go right in the 110 to what I could do better in the 300.”
And that’s exactly what Duran did, running a smooth 300. He’s been remarkably consistent in that event this season, posting times within 2 ½ seconds of each other in the six times he’s contested the event. In practice, Duran has been focusing on breaking down each part of the event, from getting out of the blocks and maintaining the rhythmic steps in between each hurdle.
“Every hurdle is an individual race in its own sense,” Duran said. “I’ve been working on exploding out of the box, and I got a lot quicker and maintained good, clean form through the hurdles.”
Duran took satisfaction in being a part of the 4×100 relay team, as three of the four baton exchanges were excellent and one was OK but could’ve been cleaner. Duran said Zabala got the team off to a great start and his handoff to Mercurio was clean and set the tone for a fast race.
“The handoff between Anthony and I wasn’t the best,” Duran said. “I might have taken off a bit too early and that is something we can work on. We’re working as a team, which is good. And it was definitely a good day for us, but there is always room for improvement.”
Miller has high hopes for a PR in her best event. She cleared 5 feet in her freshman year, but didn’t have a great setup for practice in her sophomore season because of the school’s stadium construction and missed all of last season due to a broken collarbone. When she cleared 5-2 earlier this season, it was something that was three years in the making.
“Clearing 5-2 was a really big thing for me because of how long it took to get there,” she said. “I almost cried afterward.”
Miller has had her best season yet and is hoping to clear 5-4 in Saturday’s finals, which would qualify her to compete in the unofficial state meet at Arcadia on June 26.
“I need to bend when I go over the bar, make my curve better and need to get my running better,” she said. “There are so many different things for me to think about if I want to hit 5-4. But I feel this is the best I’ve ever jumped before and I’m super excited for Saturday.”
Miller was particularly enthralled with the performance of her teammates in the 4×400 relay. As the leadoff leg, Miller’s goal is to either get the lead or keep the team close to the lead. She did just that and felt it afterward.
“I almost fell at the end because I didn’t have enough energy and my leg almost gave out,” she said. “I was winded for the next 20 minutes. I tried my very hardest. This is my first year of running the race, and my teammates are amazing. They’re all sprinters and awesome. They definitely carry me.”
In clearing 5-2 on her third attempt at the trials, Miller hopes to carry herself to new heights in the finals.