Track and Field: Sanchez, Villegas are state bound

Nolan Sanchez took third in the 800-meter run in last week's CCS Championships. In the process, Sanchez set a PR and school record for the third straight race.

Pain evident after their races, Nolan Sanchez and Marisa Villegas knew all the training and suffering was worth it. The San Benito High juniors earned berths to the CIF State Track and Field Championships after their performances last Friday in the Central Coast Section Finals at Gilroy High.
Sanchez took third in the 800-meter run in a personal-record 1 minute, 54.33 seconds, and Villegas finished second in the 1600 in a PR of 4:56.47. The section finals capped off a spectacular month for Sanchez, who not only set a PR but a school record in the 800 for the third consecutive race.
The CIF State Championships take place Friday and Saturday at Buchanan High in Clovis.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Sanchez, who had never gone sub 2 minutes until the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division Finals on May 6. “It’s unbelievable. This is the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but also the greatest feeling knowing I’m going to state.”
Villegas expressed a similar sentiment in qualifying for state for the second straight year.
“Going to state again, it just gets better and better,” said Villegas, who also finished 10th in the 800 in 2:23.02. “All the pain is really worth it. My body was hurting so bad, and it started hitting me in the last 600 (meters). But I wanted it really bad, and I heard everyone yelling at me that I had to go. I knew I couldn’t stop and had to push all the way to the end.”
And that’s exactly what Villegas did. Villegas ran her first lap in an ultra fast 67 seconds, a byproduct of keeping up with eventual race winner Gillian Meeks of Gunn High-Palo Alto. That meant Villegas wasn’t going to be running a negative split—where the last half of the race is faster than the first half—on this night.
Villegas’ approximate lap times were 1:07 1:14, 1:17 and 1:18. By the time Villegas crossed the line, she was gassed. Either way, the Balers standout delivered another magnificent effort.
“I knew she (Meeks) was going to start out strong and try to get away from the pack,” Villegas said. “I knew I had to stay with her to get a good time and place. I tried my best to stay with her, and I think it helped a lot.”
Sanchez also ran a blistering first lap—he did it in 54 seconds—and had to hold on for dear life at the finish.
“My goodness, that was the probably the fastest first lap ever,” he said. “This is unbelievable—I still can’t fathom what happened. It’s shocking and I haven’t wrapped my head around it.”
Sanchez started losing steam at the final turn, and he could feel the pack of runners catching up to him. For a moment, it looked as if three or four runners were going to run him down and deny him a state berth. However, Sanchez maintained his form just enough to take the third and final state berth.
Sanchez has been on an incredible peak, establishing himself as one of the best mid-distance sprinters in the section since the beginning of May.
“It’s been about believing and trusting in myself that I could do it,” he said.
First-year Balers sprint coach Courtney Allen—a former San Benito standout and 2009 CCS champion in the 1600—has done an excellent job coaching Sanchez, Balers sprints coach Ryan Shorey said.
“Coach Allen has done an incredible job,” Shorey said. “And what can you say about Nolan? Coming down to the end of the season, you didn’t know what was going to happen. But once Nolan started the league finals, he knew what he was capable of and the roller coaster started.”
Sanchez and Villegas both said they had never felt better entering a race. Two days before the event, Villegas took a day off, utilizing an ice bath and stretching. The day before the finals, she did a light run. It all paid off in the end, with a time that bested her previous best of 4:56.85, which she accomplished a year ago.
“I’ll take that,” she said. “Any PR is a good day.”
Other Balers to compete in the section finals included Isaac Regalado (15.02) and Anthony Delgado (15.03), who finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 110 hurdles; Annie Breger, who took ninth in the long jump in 16-4.75 and 10th in the triple jump in 34-10; and Elijah Changco, who placed 12th in the 3200 in 10:03.57.

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