Track and Field: Balers thrive in league finals

Balers teammates Anthony Delgado left, and Isaac Regalado went 1-2 in the 110-meter hurdles in last week's MBL Championships at Gilroy High.

The San Benito High track and field team entered last Friday’s Monterey Bay League Championships with the goal of sweeping the team competition. Even though the Haybalers didn’t achieve their goal—the girls finished first with 140 points and the boys second with 108—they had plenty of reasons to smile afterward.
That’s because a number of San Benito athletes won individual titles and established personal-records (PRs) in the process. Marisa Villegas took home three more individual league titles, winning the 800-meter run, 1600 and 3200 in runaway fashion.
Villegas finished the 800 in 2 minutes, 20.02 seconds, the 1600 in 5:10.05 and the 3200 in 11:51.08. The junior won four league titles last season, and two as a freshman. Even though Villegas didn’t establish a PR in any of her events, she knows there is still plenty of time to peak for the most important event: the CCS Finals in three weeks, and what she hopes will be another berth to the CIF State Meet.
“This is a really similar feeling to last year, which was fun and great,” Villegas said. “But I think this year is a little nicer because I was doing one less event. It makes a big difference on the body and mind. I ran decent times, and I’m getting to the form I’ll need to be in for the next couple of weeks. From here on out, it’s all business.”
Kaylie Voechting earned the unofficial title of the MBL’s fastest girl after winning the 100-meter dash in 12.82 seconds. The senior has overcome some serious adversity to get to this point. Voechting was born with Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI), a condition where the bones of the hip are abnormally shaped. Shortly after Voechting’s track season ended last year, she underwent reconstructive hip surgery.
“I never knew what the condition meant until last year,” Voechting said. “Growing up I would always walk on my tippy toes, but I was always fast and did some distance running. But after each race last year, it was always very painful for me to walk or run. My coaches literally had to catch me after I crossed the finish line.”
Voechting’s times have improved dramatically over the years, a testament to her determination and resolve to not let FAI deter her. As a freshman, Voechting routinely ran in the mid-13s in the 100, and low 28s in the 200. This season, Voechting has a PR of 12.58 in the 100 and a 27.04 in the 200, which she just achieved in the league finals to finish in fourth place.
In the 100, Voechting was side by side with North Salinas’ Leilani Russell until she edged slightly ahead with 60 meters to go. Russell had one last push at the end, but Voechting was able to hold her off. When Voechting crossed the finish line, she pumped her fist in jubilation.
“I thought I wasn’t going to make it toward the end, but I pulled it out,” she said. “It was pretty emotional because this is everything I’ve worked for. It means so much. Before the season started, I didn’t expect to be first or a league champion. I just knew I could accomplish a lot if I worked hard. It’s been pretty hard to deal with the hip disorder, but it’s just another obstacle I’ve had to push through. It’s been quite the season and a battle.”
Standout junior Camille Finley won her first individual league title, going 5 feet in the high jump. Finley also took fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump.
“It’s really exciting to win one of my favorite events,” Finley said. “I’ve been working really hard at it, and now I’m working to get the school record (of 5-6). The high jump takes so much concentration, but I’m able to control and adjust myself better during competition. That’s what makes it so fun.”
Super sophomore Annie Breger won the triple jump with a mark of 35 feet, 4 ½ inches, took second in the long jump in 16-7 and fourth in the high jump in 4-8. Breger competed in the same three events at last year’s MBL Championships, and came away with a pair of third-place finishes and a fifth-place finish.
However, Breger has taken a huge jump—pun intended—forward this season.
“When I won it was pretty exciting because I was over there with Camille and my friend Amy, who does sprints,” Breger said. “Camille and I are basically the only two girls in practice who does all three jumps. It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come in all three events … I go into every meet looking for a PR, even though I know it’s not very realistic. My competitive mentality comes out. But as long as I’m having fun, it’s all good.”
Balers freshman Emily Quinby showed she has a bright future, as she finished second to Villegas in the 800 in 2:27.44. Winners from the boys team included freshman sensation Anthony Delgado, who won the 110 hurdles (15.39) to go along with a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles (40.45); and Elijah Changco, who won the 3200 in 9:44.07. Delgado managed a PR in the 300 despite hitting three of the hurdles.
That gave Delgado even more motivation to improve, knowing he could lower his times again before the season is over. Delgado entered the meet not expecting to win the 110, as teammate Isaac Regalado had the best seed time. The two quickly separated themselves from the field 30 meters in, with Delgado taking a slight lead at the 70-meter mark.
Delgado then held off Regalado to win by 6/100ths of a second.
“I wasn’t expecting to win, but it’s a great feeling,” said Delgado, who turned 16 last Friday. “I wasn’t expecting to go this far when the season started, but I’ve got confidence now. I hit a PR (in the 300) even though I hit a couple of hurdles, and that’s a good sign.”
Nolan Sanchez and Regalado also had strong performances. In addition to his runner-up finish in the 110, Regalado took second in the long jump in 20-05.25, fourth in the triple jump in 40-4 and fourth in the high jump in 5-8. There aren’t many athletes who can do a hurdles event along with three jumping events, and Regalado’s versatility has helped the team all season.
Sanchez nailed two huge PRs in the 400 and 800. The emerging junior covered the 400 in 50.67 and the 800 in 1:58.80. His previous best in those events was a 51.82 and a 2:00.22. In fact, Sanchez hadn’t ever gone under 2 minutes in the 800 until Friday.
Sanchez has posted the fastest times of his career in the last couple of weeks, and he’s hoping to ride that through the MBL Masters and the CCS Championships.
Sanchez was routinely running in the 53-second range in the 400 a year ago, but he’s combined hard work with a never-say-die attitude to make a big improvement.
“The key has been focusing on myself and not others in the race,” he said. “Last year I always had the anticipation of trying to beat the guy in front of me. But this year I’ve learned that if you run your own race and believe in yourself, you will come out on top. The 400 is a tough race, and it’s about who has the most guts at the end. The 800 is a strategized race, but you need to be really gutsy as well.”
Sanchez met both of his goals time-wise, and he can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next couple of weeks and next season. Sanchez fell down as he crossed the finish line in both events, but he was hardly in danger. It was simply a result of an athlete who pushed himself to the limit and had the conditioning to reach such a high standard.
Changco’s win in the 3200 turned out to be an emotional one for plenty of reasons. Not only was it the senior’s first individual league title in track, but it came in dramatic fashion. Changco had run the 1600 about an hour earlier. It didn’t go as planned, as Changco finished in fourth place in 4:32.02.
After the 1600, Changco didn’t feel comfortable with his stride. He entered the 3200 knowing he had to get to the inside lane and set the pace. And that’s exactly what he and teammate Juan Gutierrez did, as they took control early. However, once Palma’s Sam Lavorato—who ended up taking second—passed Changco, he knew he had to make his move.
“I saw him pass me and was just thinking how horrible I had run so far,” Changco said. “I had already hit rock bottom this season, so I told myself I might as well go all out and die. If I die, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before. I started going all-out, and it didn’t matter if I passed out. I had to step up this one time for my team and hopefully pull it out at the end.”
Changco ran a huge negative split, meaning he ran his second mile faster than his first. He gave credit to Gutierrez, who took second in the 1600, third in the 3200 and third in the 800.
“Last year I tripled up, and you know you can’t go all-out in one event or your body is going to get fatigued and crumble,” Changco said. “Juan is amazing to run three races and get quality times. I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Moments after Changco won the 3200, he learned his childhood friend, Jimmy Will, died earlier in the day. The two grew up playing baseball together and hung out all the way through middle school at Spring Grove, before Will moved out of the area. Changco said perhaps it was no coincidence his final kick in the 3200 was the best finish he’s ever had.
“I had never kicked like that before,” Changco said. “It felt like I was being chased by fire. I guess I was chasing (the win) for him.”

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