Hollister’s Golda Demby competes in shot put at a 2023 meet. File photo

As the rain departed and the clouds passed by, it was the Hollister track and field team that shined most brightly at the 51st Avis Kelley Invitational in Gilroy. 

The big early-season meet on March 23 involved athletes from 39 schools all over the Central Coast Section and other areas of California.

The Balers totaled 163.25 points for the team title—far ahead of second-place Aptos who had 135.25 points. Christopher finished third with 91 points. The Hollister girls won their side of the competition, tallying 110 points to Aptos’ 73. On the boys side, Aptos had the highest score with 62.25 points and the Balers were second with 53.25.

The event honors longtime Gilroy coach Avis Kelley, who died in December 2022 at the age of 88. Kelley was head football coach at Gilroy High from 1965-1969 and head track coach from 1965-1992. During his coaching tenure, Avis coached five state finalists, won more than 100 regional team championships, and was twice voted “Coach of the Year” for the Central Coast Section.

Stars of the day for Hollister on the boys side were Logan Freitas and Christian Lujano. On the girls side, Golda Demby, Jasayla Mariscal, Hannah Vincent, Caitlynn Holt and Emma Franks excelled.

Demby—who finished in a tie for fifth in girls 190s at the recent CIF State Wrestling championships and won last year’s CCS shot put final—smashed the competition in the discus and shot put. In the former, she tossed the plate 130 feet, 7 inches, ahead of runner-up Jayden Osborne, also of Hollister, who threw 92 feet, 3 inches. Baler Natalie Tonascia finished fourth at 91 feet, 4 inches.

In the shot, Demby tossed the solid round ball 44 feet, 4 inches, exceeding her CCS winning throw last year of 43 feet, 4.5 inches. Angela Ayozie of Everett Alvarez was second with a mark of 36 feet, 1.5 inches. Tonascia came in third with a throw of 34 feet, 3 inches.

Vincent was also a double winner. The Baler junior—a CCS titleist last year in the triple jump—won that event with a mark of 36 feet, 8 inches, close to her CCS winning leap of 37 feet, 5.5 inches. Jenny Hunyh of Andrew Hill finished second at 33 feet, 6.5 inches and Franks, second in last year’s CCS finals, was third at 32 feet, 10 inches.

In the long jump, Vincent soared the furthest, registering a mark of 17 feet, 1.25 inches. Savannah Garcia of Rancho San Juan was the runner-up at 16 feet, 10.75 inches. Franks was fourth at 16 feet, 1.25 inches.

Holt, fifth in the 300 hurdles at the CCS finals in 45.58, won that race in Gilroy in 46.01, ahead of Aptos’ Ella Shoemaker in 47.13. Hollister’s Madison Minkel finished fourth. Holt also notched a third-place finish in the 100 hurdles in 15.98.

Mariscal, seventh in the girls 800 in the CCS finals last year, ran the shorter races of the 200 and 400 in Gilroy. A guard on the Balers’ league co-champion basketball team, Mariscal came in third in the 200 with a time of 27.16 seconds. 

The event was won by Chioma Okeke of Christopher in 26.67 with Bridget Moore of Los Gatos next at 27.11. Mariscal finished third in the 400 meters in 1:02.61, behind Okeke at 1:01.80 and Ava Churchill of Aptos in 1:02.40. Baler soccer star Zamaya Rivera was fourth in 1:05.71.

The Hollister girls teamed up for an impressive performance in the 4×400 relay. The Baler crew of Rivera, Daniela Orsetti, Prienna Chavez and Ava Kaplansky won the race in 4:24.84, far ahead of runner-up San Lorenzo Valley in 4:37.18.

Other standout performances for the Hollister girls included Minkel in fifth place in the 100 meters, Kaplansky in sixth in the 400 and eighth in the 800, Orsetti in fifth in the 1600 and Chavez in sixth in that race. In field events, Lennay Duncan was third in the pole vault at 8 feet and Brenna McElroy seventh in the high jump at 4 feet, 4 inches.

On the boys side, Freitas ran 11.46 for second place in the 100, slightly behind Sobrato’s Jalen Deloatch in 11.42. In the 200, Freitas ran 23.10 for runner-up behind Mitty’s Prince Najeeb Babaloa-Buchango in 22.35. Lujano won the discus with a throw of 146 feet, 2 inches and finished seventh in the shot put with a toss of 40 feet, 5 1/ 2 inches.

Other top performances included Tomas Salvador, with a throw of 119 feet, 9 inches in the discus for sixth place, and a toss of 45 feet, 9 inches for third in the shot. Marcos Gomez also had a great day in the weights, coming in fourth in both events. He threw 130 feet, 5 inches in the discus and 44 feet, 6 inches in the shot. Zahir Gomez took seventh in the discus with a throw of 117 feet, 3 inches. 

Jacob Valdivia was second in the triple jump at 39 feet, 11 1/2 inches, In the high jump, Xen Niverson was sixth at 5 foot, 4 inches. 

On the track, Isaias Morin finished fourth in the 100 hurdles in 17.37 and eighth in the 300 hurdles in 44.95. Luis Hernandez finished seventh in the 800 in 2:08.35 and Nahom Asfaw was next in 2:08.73. The Baler boys teamed up in the relay for a sixth place result in the 4×100. The runners were Jacob Sandoval, Matthew Stoner, Savion Loza and Carlos Galvez.

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