The prudent thing for Kern County's top athletes at the high school area track and field championships is to be careful, take it easy, and get through to next week's Central Section championships without incident.
The top athletes, apparently, didn't get that memo.
Four meet records fell and all of the area's top stars dominated Wednesday, putting on a show in the last local meet of the season at Liberty High.
"You kind of want to make a statement entering Valley," said Bakersfield junior Scotty Newton, who will enter the section finals May 18 in Clovis as the favorite in the boys long jump and triple jump. "I didn't want to slip. I wanted to have the top mark and good placement at Valley."
Newton did just that, soaring to wind-legal personal records in the long jump (24-2.75) and triple jump (49-0) and also running 11.04 in the 100 meters to finish fourth. The top three in each event automatically qualify for the section championships; six wild cards from the three area meets plus the Sierra-Sequoia Championships also get in.
But none of that will be a concern for Liberty sophomore Morganne Hill or Stockdale junior Blake Haney, who both cruised to double wins and will come back next year to see their names listed in the "MEET RECORDS" portion of the area program next year.
For Hill, that meant knocking out an old friend -- Kaulyn Lee-McNeill, who set the 300-meter hurdles record at 43.00 as a senior last year. Hill burned a 42.97 despite, she said, a couple of missteps during the race.
"I was so frustrated with my steps into that second hurdle, and then I was struggling with the wind a little bit," Hill said. "I was panicking -- I thought I didn't have it.
Hill thought she missed out on the record until the official time was announced a few minutes later.
"Beforehand, I was like, 'Honestly, who am I racing today? Morganne Hill. And Kaulyn Lee-McNeill,'" Hill said. "And I love that girl. We're good friends, and I talked to her this week, and she said, 'Go get that record. You deserve it.'"
Hill also won the 100 hurdles in 14.73, improving on her season-best time there. She enters the section meet as the heavy favorite in both events, and she also runs on Liberty's area champion 1,600-meter relay team, which lowered its time to 3:58.94.
Haney, meanwhile, set meet records in the 1,600 (4:14.30) and 3,200 (9:17.41) despite running without competition for most of both races. He holds the section lead in the shorter race and the section record in the longer (8:48.58, set at the Arcadia Invitational in March).
"The plan was definitely to go hard today," Haney said. "I haven't felt that good since Arcadia. This is as close as I've felt to my peak in a while."
Last year, Haney won the section 3,200 meter title and finished third in the state 1,600 final, but he struggled in his other race on each of those days.
"I was a little tired, a little heavy, a little bit exhausted," said Haney, who leads the state in both events this year. "I feel way better now. I'm pretty happy with my progression. I'm really excited, and I feel like I can only go faster."
The same holds true for Ridgeview senior Ivan Gonzalez, who set the meet record in the boys 800 (1:53.26), shaking off an episode of cramps at the South Yosemite League meet last week that forced him to drop out of his signature race.
"I was a little scared it would happen again, but I just relaxed and ran my race," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was pushed for most of the race by Frontier's Jacob Barger, who finished second in a personal-record 1:54.97, but Gonzalez said that can only be a good thing as he prepares for what he hopes can be a big postseason.
"I want to break 1:50 and definitely win state," he said. "I'm going to get into some faster workouts."
In other events, Highland's Elijah Baier beat Golden Valley's Luis Matos in two close sprint races, first by one-hundredth of a second in the 100 (10.69 to 10.70) and then again in the 200 (21.69 to 21.87).
Independence senior Brena Andrews, the defending section champ in both sprints, took her third area title in both, running a wind-aided 12.06 in the 100 and 24.64 in the 200.
Other top performances:
* Stockdale senior Asia Chesley, a state medalist in the high jump last year, cleared 5-8 for the first time this season to win the event. Independence's Jon Moore also posted a season best on the boys side, clearing 6-9.
* Frontier's Colton Foster continued to dominate the boys throws, hitting 55-8 in the shot put and a season-best 169-9 in the discus. Liberty's Rae Blansett won both girls throwing events.
* Another Titan, Gabriel Gaeta, out-leaned Stockdale's Tristan Watson at the line to win the 110 hurdles (14.98) and then added a 300 hurdles title (39.73).
* Centennial's Kyle Wiggins became the first local to clear 13 feet in winning the pole vault, and his Golden Hawks teammate Bryn Williamson won the girls competition at 11-3, just three inches shy of the meet record.
Newton's big day didn't land him any meet records -- he has Ridgeview graduate Johnny Carter, a former protege of current BHS coach Kim Jenkins, to thank for that -- but he did come closer to something more important.
"Coach (Jenkins) and I have a couple of bets," he said. "If I can hit 25 (feet) in the long jump before state, he has to wear pink shoes; otherwise, I do. And in the triple, it's (shaving) our eyebrows. I have to hit 50 (feet), or my eyebrows go. If I hit 50, then his eyebrows go."
See? The area meet really is about more than advancing to state. You've got to make statements and save eyebrows.
"I'm happy, happy, happy," Hill said. "It's time to go get it at Valley now."