Balers sending six to CIF State Meet

San Benito High's 4x400 relay team of Nolan Sanchez, Adam Mendoza, William Castellanos and Robert Mendoza took third in the CCS Finals. Photo by Nick Lovejoy.

The San Benito High track and field team will be sending six athletes to this weekend’s California Interscholastic Federation State Track and Field Championships, one of its biggest hauls in program history.

The Haybalers boys 4×400 meter relay team of Adam Mendoza, William Castellanos, Robert Mendoza and Nolan Sanchez delivered a tour de force, finishing in third place in a personal-record (PR) of 3 minutes, 21.52 seconds, shattering their previous best by 5 seconds in last Friday’s Central Coast Section Championships at Gilroy High School.

Anthony Delgado took third in the 300-meter hurdles in 15 seconds flat and Camille Finley took second in the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 5 inches to earn berths to the state meet, which runs Friday and Saturday at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Only a sophomore, Delgado was out of breath and speechless once he saw his name come across the timing ticker scoreboard.

“It’s hard to explain how this feels—just a lot of emotion right now,” said Delgado, who edged Quinn Lydon of San Lorenzo Valley by 1/100ths of a second to nab the final state berth. “I almost want to cry right now.”

After running a PR of 14.94 in the Monterey Bay League Masters Meet on May 12, Delgado felt confident he could make it to state. However, in the week leading up the CCS Finals he was anything but confident.

“The whole week of practice I was so down on myself,” he said. “I had been getting bad starts out of the blocks, and I couldn’t even get over the first hurdle (with proper form). I was getting over on the opposite leg, and didn’t know what was going to happen in the race.”

Delgado cleared the first hurdle correctly, gained speed in the middle of the race before hanging on for dear life at the end. He clipped the final two hurdles, taking him out of contention for the win. At 85 meters, Delgado was out in front along with eventual winner Blake Rose of Mitty.

“I managed to stay up and get my chest out farther (than Lydon),” said Delgado, who jumped into teammate Isaac Regalado’s arms. “I started getting speed in the middle hurdles and was feeling fast until I hit the final two hurdles. I’m just so excited and grateful to be here and going to state. It’s a dream come true.”

For the 4×400 relay team, no one but Sanchez was thinking about making state. That’s because the squad entered the race with only the sixth fastest time out of the eight teams. However, Sanchez, Castellanos and the Mendoza brothers all ran some of their fastest split times of the season and had great baton exchanges.

Sanchez, who finished fourth in the 800-meter run in a PR and school-record 1:54.16, beamed with pride about the team’s accomplishments.

“It’s one of the most memorable races I’ve ever been a part of,” said Sanchez, who qualified for the State Championships last year in the 800. “Robert, Willie and Adam, they all ran their hearts out. It was a true team effort, and we came together at the perfect time. I can’t wait to see what we do at state.”

Sanchez expressed confidence the quartet could shave another 3 seconds off their new PR and break the school record of 3:19.

“After watching these guys run, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Sanchez said.

Robert Mendoza, who ran the first leg before Castellanos ran the second and Adam Mendoza the third, wasn’t thinking about a top-three finish before the race started. However, as the race progressed Mendoza started to sense something special could be brewing.

“I was super nervous watching them after I ran,” he said. “But once Nolan had 100 meters to go, that’s when I started shouting and got super excited. I thought we’d run 3:25 or something, but I should’ve known we could’ve gone faster. I started jumping and had the biggest smile on my face.”

When Finley cleared 5-5 to earn a state berth, she jumped into Annie Breger’s arms in jubilation. The two friends have supported each other all season long—first on the volleyball team last fall and then this spring—and it all came together for Finley, who nailed 5-5 in the second meet of the season.

Finley later produced a PR of 5-6 in back-to-back meets in late March.

“It felt like a good jump all the way (on clearing 5-5),” she said. “I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t get 5-7 to break the school record, but I’m really excited to go to state. I was in tune with what I had to do, and it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come.”

Indeed, Finley has only been high jumping since her sophomore year, but her athleticism and passion to improve has made her one of the best in the CCS. Even though Finley looked relaxed on the outside, she had plenty of butterflies as she waited for her turn to come up each time.

“I was very nervous coming into this,” Finley said, “but once I got past the first two heights, I started to settle down.”

Finley had three attempts at 5-7 and got close on two of the three attempts in which she skimmed the bar. Jack Breger took fifth in the long jump with a PR of 21 4 ¼. Breger is confident he’ll be able to hit 22 feet next season, which would put him in contention to win the section championship.

Richard Justo took seventh in the shot put with a throw of 49-1, an impressive accomplishment considering he’s only been competing in the sport for two years.

Marisa Villegas, who will be featured in a column in next week’s edition, saw her prep career come to an end with a seventh-place showing in the 1600 in 5:08.87. Annie Breger took ninth in the long jump with a mark of 16-1 3/4.

Anthony Delgado took third in the 110 meter hurdles in the CCS Finals to qualify for state. Photo by Robert Eliason.

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