A Grand State-ment

Merrigan
&
amp; Schroder vault to San Benito’s first-ever State-bound duo;
Boyd advances in 1600 with 2nd at CCS Finals
n By Scott Campbell Sports Editor

San Jose – It was a night to remember. Two ‘Balers qualifying for the State Championships in the same event? Never been done before. An athlete advancing to State for the second straight year, but in a completely different event? A remarkable achievement.

Three San Benito track and field athletes took the Central Coast Section Finals by storm Friday night, making sure that Haybaler red stood out at San Jose City College. And with their outstanding performances, Amanda Boyd, Todd Merrigan and Josh Schroder punched their tickets to the big finale to the high school season. The CIF State Championships.

“There are so many athletes in CCS,” San Benito head coach Iran White said. “We’ve got three qualifiers. That’s awesome. This is State we’re talking about.”

A New Race

Amanda Boyd is no stranger to competing in big meets. For the second straight year, the San Benito senior qualified for the CCS Finals in both distance events – the 1600 and 3200-meter races. But last year, she chose to drop out of the 1600 in order to better her chances of advancing to the State Championships in the 3200 – then her favorite event. The strategy worked wonders as she took second in the 3200 at the section finals, securing the needed top-three finish for a State entry.

This season brought a new twist as the Finals approached. Boyd again qualified in both events, but she enjoyed a stronger season in the 1600, and took the fourth seed in that event into Friday night’s competition. With a trip to State not assured in either event, the Northern Arizona-bound runner took the track simply hoping to extend her senior season.

And prolong it she did. Jumping out near the front of the pack at the start, Boyd stayed in the top-three until the final lap and then ran down Aptos’ Jessica VanAusdall to finish a strong second with a PR of 5:01.27. Another State invitation for Boyd, but in a different event!

“I’m pretty stoked right now,” Boyd said immediately after the race. “I’m so excited. I have another shot at State.”

As for qualifying in a different event, Boyd said, “This is a huge, A HUGE, goal that I’ve accomplished.”

Boyd and ‘Balers distance coach Jess Morales spoke the day before the CCS Finals of the senior’s need to start strong and hope that the race developed into a fast-paced battle. When eventual CCS champion Taylor Johnson of San Lorenzo Valley burst to the front of the pack at the start, VanAusdall and Boyd followed right behind.

“She took us out fast,” Boyd said. “I hate ’em (when they do that), but at the same time … I was in a perfect position.”

During the four-lap race, the Lady ‘Baler said she was not only competing against the other runners, but also against herself.

“There’s a lot of mini battles going on out there,” Boyd said. “‘Yeah, my legs are getting tired. … I’ve come too hard and I’ve come too far.’ I had to tell myself, ‘If (Jessica) goes, I go.'”

Boyd said that after taking second to VanAusdall in her heat at the CCS Trials last Saturday, she knew she had a better finish in her.

“Last week at the Trials, I crossed the line and I was like, ‘I want another shot at the mile,'” Boyd said. “And I got it.”

The San Benito senior ran out strong in the 3200 race later Friday night, leading for most of the first half of the race, but eventually finished seventh in 11:16.57.

As for her early thoughts on competing in the 1600 next Friday in Southern California, Boyd said, “I’m going to break five (minutes) at State. I know it. I’m going to do it.”

A ‘Baler First

Todd Merrigan and Josh Schroder have taken the San Benito pole vaulting program to a spot alongside perennial CCS contender St. Francis this season. While more than holding their own against the Lancers would have been accomplishment enough at the CCS Finals, the ‘Balers did much more.

For the first time in San Benito history – according to a search by current and former coaches that dated back to 1915 – Merrigan and Schroder became the first ‘Baler duo to advance to the CIF State Championships in the same event.

“We just set a new record,” Merrigan said after both ‘Balers cleared 14-11, the automatic-qualifying mark for State. “That’s awesome.”

But that achievement very nearly didn’t come to pass.

Schroder, who injured an ankle in practice on Tuesday, missed his first two attempts at 14-6, his opening height. One more miss at that mark – interestingly, then his PR – and the San Benito junior would have been eliminated. But he calmly took the runway and nailed the height, to his teammate’s joy.

Asked Merrigan: “Were you scared?”

Answered Schroder: “No, because I knew I could do it.”

Schroder continued privately, “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever done. I make it to the next height – go to State – it’ll be a good day.”

When his turn at that height, 14-11, came, Schroder raced down, planted, and BOOM! Hit it.

After letting out a scream, Schroder said, “State! I just PRd! Man, I’m pumped!”

Having already hit the automatic-qualifying mark, Schroder was assured his new PR would vault him to the final weekend.

Meanwhile, Merrigan and two St. Francis vaulters, Ben Sheehan and Casey Roche, also cleared 14-11 to ensure the foursome would head south together. When the bar was raised to 15-4, Merrigan and Roche easily cleared it, but Schroder and Sheehan missed, leaving San Benito’s record holder to duke it out with his Lancer counterpart for the CCS title.

But while Roche vaulted 15-8 and then later 16-2, Merrigan didn’t have another PR in him on this day, and had to settle for second in the section.

“I didn’t want second place,” said Merrigan, who had extended his ‘Baler-best mark to 15-5 and then 15-6 the past two weeks. “I definitely don’t feel good about today. I wanted to beat this guy (Roche).”

Asked what he hopes to accomplish next week, Merrigan said, “I want to place really high in State. That’s my motivation. To get noticed.”

Schroder took third, beating out Sheehan in attempts, to give San Benito an impressive 2-3 finish in the event.

San Benito pole vault coach Julio Trinidad was glowing in his athletes’ feats after the competition.

“Those two …they’re going down right now as the best San Benito vaulting duo in history,” Trinidad said. “That’s special. That speaks for itself. Two big-time vault legends.”

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