San Benito Shines

‘Balers hold their own in tough competition at West Valley
Relays; boys take fourth, girls seventh in 35-team field on
After winning each of its three Tri-County Athletic League dual meets, the San Benito track and field team had been looking forward to testing itself against some top-flight competition. The Haybalers entered a loaded field at the West Valley Relays in Saratoga on Saturday and emerged with very encouraging results.

The San Benito boys received a strong group effort to finish an outstanding fourth in the 35-team field, while the ‘Baler girls, led by a couple of dominant individual performances, took seventh.

“We had to see where we stack up in CCS with some of the big players there,” said San Benito head coach Iran White. “It’s still pretty early … but it was good to be at a meet where we’re not the big dog.”

The top individual ‘Baler showings belonged to junior Rigo Vasquez on the boys side and seniors Amanda Boyd and Jackie Perrien for the girls. The San Benito boys team received 18 1/2 of its 50 1/2 points in the pole vault, buoyed by Josh Schroder’s first-place finish, and the ‘Baler girls team amassed more than half of its 38 points in the shot put and discus.

The meet offered the opportunity for the ‘Balers to compete in some different events – a 1500-meter race instead of the 1600, a 3000-meter rather than the 3200, and a 1600-meter sprint medley, for instance – and they fared well in those competitions.

Vasquez took second in the 1500, finishing just over two seconds behind Watsonville’s Alejandro Alvarez, in 4:12.00.

In the sprint medley – two 200-meter dashes, followed by a 400-meter segment and topped off with an 800-meter anchor – San Benito placed fourth in 3:48.00. Seniors Jason Ramirez and Jeff Weltz ran the opening sprints, freshman Ryan Shorey handled the 400, and then Vasquez closed with a 2:03 split in the 800.

Boyd, a returning State qualifier, enjoyed strong times in both of her slightly-shorter distance races. The senior took fourth in the 1500-meter, finishing in 4:53.25, but it was her second-place showing in the 3000 that had San Benito girls coach Julio Trinidad excited.

“It was a pretty big, exciting race,” said Trinidad, of the 3000-meter, in which Boyd finished in 10:44.14. “There was a lot of shifting and bumping in there. You can tell she worked, but she earned her place. She’s making her mark.”

Boyd’s 13 individual points where more than 22 entire teams earned at the meet.

Perrien also amassed more points than many of the schools at the Relays. The senior earned second place in the shot put with a best throw of 35-02.50, and took fifth in the discus at 95-04.

“She’s pretty much established herself as a bigtime thrower,” said Trinidad of Perrien.

Of the senior duo of Boyd and Perrien, Trinidad said: “Those two girls are strong forces in their events, they get a lot of points in their events [and] they get the rest of the girls excited to be out there and be a ‘Baler.”

Sophomores Lila (fourth) and Sarah Yoldi (eighth) gave the ‘Balers a total of three point earners in the shot put, finishing with throws of 31-11.50 and 31-02.00, respectively. Junior Morgan O’Laughlin finished fourth in the discus with a throw of 96-00, good for five points. Carly Brigantino, a first-year pole vaulter as a junior, soared over the bar at 7-06 to tie for sixth place.

Pole vault continues to be an outstanding event for the ‘Baler boys. Even on an off day for star senior Todd Merrigan, San Benito dominated the competition. Schroder won the event easily, topping 13-06 to beat the field by six inches. Fellow Haybaler junior Josh Liem tied for third at 11-06, and Billy Woods finished sixth by clearing 11-00.

Merrigan, who regularly vaults 15-00 but no-heighted at the Relays, posted an impressive second-place leap of 5-10 in the high jump. Fellow senior Francisco Faria finished just behind him, earning third place and six points by clearing 5-08.

The Haybaler boys also gained points with a sixth-place showing in the 4×400-meter relay, shaving off eight seconds from the team’s best time this season. Senior Randall Lopez joined Shorey, Vasquez and Weltz on a team that finished in 3:38.28.

“All four guys in that race, they stepped it up a little bit,” said White.

After the team’s strong showing on Saturday, San Benito’s head coach said it was good for the ‘Balers “to have a reality check. We’re good, but we have a lot of work to do, too. We just need to continue to train hard and keep things in proper perspective.”

San Benito returns to TCAL competition when it visits Salinas on Thursday. With a victory over Palma already in the books, White believes his team’s toughest league foe is in the rearview mirror, but he also cautioned against overlooking the Cowboys.

“We’re approaching this as if they’re as strong as ever,” said White. “We won’t ever underestimate Salinas because, if you do, you know they’ll surprise you.”

Trinidad fully expects the Salinas competition to be the Lady ‘Balers’ most hotly contested dual meet of the year. The San Benito girls coach said the Cowboys have defeated his team at least five years in a row.

Moreover, in light of the CCS sanctions levied against the Salinas athletic department, Trinidad believes that the Cowboys will enter the meet with an added incentive to win.

“They’re going to be bitter,” said Trinidad of the Cowboys. “They’re going to come out to prove a point and say, ‘We’re not going to CCS, but we’re gonna get you.’ That’s why this is the big one.

“Who wants it more? Who can outperform the other? We’ll see what happens in the end.”

Thursday’s San Benito-Salinas meet is scheduled to begin in Salinas at 3:30pm.

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