Julia Hicks, seen here at the PCAL CCS Qualifier, became the first San Benito girl to win an individual title at the CCS Finals since 2009 when she placed first in the discus throw on Saturday. File photo.

As Julia Hicks heard the final results in the discus throw confirming she was a Central Coast Section champion, she received a hug from her event coach, Bob Rawles, who told the recent San Benito HIgh graduate he was beaming with pride in her accomplishment. 

“I definitely teared up when coach gave me a big hug and told me how proud he was of me,” said Hicks, whose winning mark was 126 feet, 2 inches. She also took second in the shot put in 38 feet even in the CCS Finals at Soquel High in Aptos on June 19. “It was a nice, emotional moment. It makes me happy because I like to make people proud. One of my biggest goals is to make my parents, grandparents and coaches proud. I think it’s really important.”

Hicks, who qualified for the unofficial state meet in Arcadia starting Friday, will be competing and bringing along her coaches—Rawles, Ryan Shorey and Robert Macias—as well. In winning the discus, Hicks became the first girl from San Benito to win an individual event since Courtney Allen did it when she won the 1600-meter run in 2009.

“It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder and things have come full circle,” she said. “It feels awesome. I had a great time competing this year in both events.”

Hicks wasn’t the only San Benito athlete who experienced success at the Track and Field Championships. Ellie Miller cleared 5-4 in the high jump to nail a long awaited PR and qualify for the unofficial state meet. Miller set her previous PR of 5-2 at a April 22 meet and had been looking to clear 5-4 since then. Talk about coming up big when it counted the most. 

Jocelyn Alexander will take the torch from Hicks onto next season for the field events. The incoming junior took 10th in the shot put in 30 feet and 11th in the discus in 89-8. Lillian Thrasher finished 11th in the high jump with a mark of 5 feet. The girls 4×400 relay team of Miller, Gabriela Romero, Mia Villegas and Giavanna Felice took eighth in 4:17.

On the boys side, Zach Sims finished third in the triple jump in a PR of 42-11 and fifth in the long jump in 20-2 ⅓. He also ran a leg of the 4×100-relay team that finished seventh in 44.42. Sims was stoked for his triple jump result because he had been working on his form for the last couple of months. 

“I felt really at home in the triple jump, and I’m soaking it all in now,” he said. “Me and coach have been working all year so to finally be able to take this event to my fullest potential has been great.” 

When he was a freshman, Sims thought he would end up playing four years of baseball. Instead, he discovered a love for track and field and became a standout in the process. 

“I’m glad I’ve been able to consistently hit 42s in my triple jump, which is something I hadn’t seen in a while from some of our athletes,” he said. “It’s really satisfying to put so much work into it and see the result.”

Sims had been focused on perfecting the first phase of the triple jump and put together his best jump of the season. As for the 4×100 relay, the Balers entered the competition as the third seed but finished seventh. 

“It’s a little frustrating, but as a team I think we did pretty good overall,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of everyone for busting their butts out there and getting the baton around without any mistakes.”

The Balers’ Ramon Duran capped off an incredible senior season by taking sixth in the 300 hurdles in a PR of 40.80, and he also was a part of the 4×100 relay team along with the aforementioned Sims, Malachi Zabala and Anthony Mercurio. Frank Hernandez wrapped up his high school career with a fifth-place finish in the shot put in 47-8, while Nathaniel Marquez went 37-8 ½ in the triple jump to finish in 12th place. 

Back to Hicks: she will leave San Benito not only with a CCS title, but the school record in the discus as well. She set the record with a throw of 140-3 on May 13. Even though Hicks didn’t come close to matching that mark in the CCS Finals, she thoroughly enjoyed her final section competition and thought about all the hard work it took to get there. 

“For the most part, I was surprised with how relaxed I was,” she said. “This was everything I worked for. All those practices in the heat, doing film, going to the gym, staying late at practice, and working nonstop since 2019. Even when Covid started, I just kept on going and doing stuff at home to keep in shape. It’s been a great experience.” 

Hicks still has one goal left to accomplish: to set the school record in the shot put and perhaps extend her record in the discus. She couldn’t have picked a better setting to do it in at Arcadia, one of the meccas of high school track and field. 

“I’m looking forward to state and seeing what I can do one last time,” she said. 

Zach Sims, seen here running in the PCAL CCS Qualifier, had a strong showing in the CCS Finals. He took third in the triple jump, fifth in the long jump and was part of the Balers 4×100 relay team that finished seventh.
Julia Hicks, seen here in earlier action this season, won the discus throw in the CCS Track and Field Finals.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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