State Track: Sanchez rises to the top

Nolan Sanchez, seen here in the 800-meter race of the CCS Finals, placed 26th in the CIF State Meet.

Few athletes in any sport have made a meteoric rise to the top as Nolan Sanchez just did in his recently completed junior season competing for the San Benito High track and field team. Before the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division Championships on May 6, Sanchez was running well but short of his own goal and expectations.
But in that meet, Sanchez produced times he had never hit before, finishing second in the 400-meter run in a personal-record (PR) 50.67 seconds and second in the 800 in 1:58.80, smashing his previous PR by 3 seconds.
All of a sudden, Sanchez saw the fruits of his labor paying off, and things haven’t been the same since. Last Friday Sanchez ran the 800-meter race in 1 minute, 57.33 seconds to take 26th place at the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High in Clovis.
“I’m still trying to take it all in,” Sanchez said. “It feels really good, and the competition was top notch of course. It was pretty intimidating at first walking into the stadium and seeing the best athletes in the state. But at the same time it was really exciting knowing you’re performing with all these people.”
The fact that Sanchez didn’t nail another PR was somewhat expected. The weather conditions—temperatures were in the mid-90s—wasn’t conducive for fast times, and Sanchez had been riding a wave of PRs that had lasted for a month. From the MBL Finals on, Sanchez nailed four consecutive personal-bests, establishing an incredible string in which he broke his own school record in the 800 in three successive weeks.
“It’s starting to hit me that I ran a 1:54 (in the Central Coast Section Finals) when at the beginning of the season I was going 2:06,” he said. “I’m still processing everything I accomplished. Sometimes I wonder how I did that. It was quite the season, but next year is going to be better.”
If Sanchez’s training goes well, he’ll likely be able to shave a couple of seconds off his time in the 400 and 800, which would make him a strong candidate to win both events in next year’s CCS Finals. Already the owner of the school record in the 800, Sanchez is gunning for school record in the 400.
“I think the school record is 48.6, and one of my goals for next year is to break that,” he said.
Sanchez was also the third best runner on the cross-country team last year, when he finished ninth in the Monterey Bay League Championships. Seven of the eight runners who finished ahead of Sanchez were seniors, meaning he’ll be a contender to win a league title.
Sanchez has a love-hate relationship with cross country—at 3.1 miles, it’s considerably longer than anything in track at the high school level—but he knows consistently running hill repeats will make him that much stronger for the track season.
“Cross country involves more distance running, and that’s kind of not my area of training,” he said. “I don’t like it nearly as much as track, but it keeps me in shape. I’ll probably take this week off and get my mind set for cross country.”
What Sanchez did in the last month of the season—nail four consecutive PRs—can’t be overstated. Runners can usually peak for three weeks tops—it’s just the nature of the sport. However, Sanchez’s peak period lasted for a month, which defies conventional wisdom.
“Something in me said, ‘OK, I’ve got this,’” Sanchez said. “Just knowing I could do better and then doing it gave me a ton of confidence. I really started believing in myself and didn’t put any limits on what I could do.”
As an example, Sanchez didn’t rule out possibly winning the 800 in the state meet next year. To even contend would be quite a feat, but Sanchez has no doubt that he can reach the elite level.
“It was a great experience to run at state, and I want to come back next year and maybe win it,” he said.

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