CLOVIS -- Turns out, even section-record holders get nervous at the section championships.
Turns out, that's a good thing.
Stockdale junior Blake Haney shook off jitters to win two titles at the Central Section Track and Field Masters Championships on Saturday at Buchanan High School, including a meet-record 4:07.16 in the 1,600 meters.
"I didn't feel great before the mile, honestly," Haney said. "I was really nervous for some reason. I guess it didn't show."
No, Blake, it didn't. Haney sat with Madera South's Jose Herrera for two laps, then blazed past him and came in less than a second shy of the section record, a 4:06.4 converted from a full-mile race run by Reedley’s Peter Romero in 1967.
Later, Haney, who already owns a section record (8:48.58) in the 3,200, won the longer race in 9:09.96, beating the field by 10 full seconds. He'll enter the CIF State Championships here May 31-June 1 as the favorite in both events, after he runs the adidas Dream Mile in New York on Saturday.
“I’m feeling great,” Haney said. “I’ll go hard next week and then I’ll race to win at state. The times will come; they’re good fields.”
Stockdale’s boys took third in the boys team standings with 42 points, behind five-time champion Buchanan (70) and Fresno-Edison (47.5). That performance came with just four athletes — Haney, Conner Fisher (second in the 1,600), Alec Benavides (second in the 110 hurdles, third in the 300 hurdles) and Tristan Watson — scoring any points. Watson, the section leader, hit a hurdle in the 110-meter hurdles race, or Stockdale might have snuck into second place.
“We always use the Winston Churchill quote, ‘Stay calm and carry on,’ in this sport,” Mustangs coach Dave Lonsinger said. “A lot of things can happen, but if you keep doing what you need to be doing, good things will happen.”
Haney isn’t the only one taking two gold medals home to Kern County. Liberty sophomore Morganne Hill, a big favorite in both girls hurdles races, lived up to her billing, and Golden Valley senior Luis Matos won both boys sprints.
Matos’ double victory was especially sweet after a loss by one-hundredth of a second to Highland’s Elijah Baier at the area meet last week. He clocked a personal-record 10.66 in the 100 and another in the 200 at 21.59, though that one was wind-aided.
“It motivates me to know there’s competition. I don’t go out there to lose, you know?” said Matos, who will run for Cal State Fullerton. “It feels good. It’s something you can be proud of later in life.”
Hill, meanwhile, was pushed for the first time in more than a month in the 100 hurdles. Clovis North freshman Rhesa Foster went by her early in the race, and Hill needed a final push to hold her off by three-hundredths in 14.38. The time is the section’s best ever by a sophomore and sixth-best all-time.
“I won, and my coach got really excited, my parents got really excited; I guess I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was,” Hill said. “It’s pretty neat.”
Hill also took the 300 hurdles in 43.33, not a personal best but still enough to beat the field by more than a second. She’ll enter her second state meet as a favorite to reach the finals, and there could be much more on the horizon for the 10th grader.
“In first or second grade, my brother told me, ‘See those things? You jump over them,’” Hill said. “And you can’t until sixth grade, so I was just like, ‘OK, I'm coming for you, hurdles.’”
Ridgeview senior Ivan Gonzalez has no such history with track and field; he was a junior playing soccer before Wolf Pack coach Adam Setser convinced him to try track. Now he’s a two-time section champion and threatening the section record after a PR and school-record 1:50.59 in the 800 meters.
“I’ve fallen in love with the sport,” said Gonzalez, who has a scholarship offer from USC. “The competition is just so fun. I love going out there and racing these guys.”
His time is four-tenths of a second away from the section record.
“Honestly, I still felt like I had more in me,” Gonzalez said. “I felt relaxed. There’s still more in the tank.”
Other section champions from Kern County included Stockdale’s Asia Chesley (she won a jump-off at 5 feet, 7 inches in the girls high jump) and Frontier’s Colton Foster (he recorded 56-7.5 in the boys shot put to edge Shafter’s Joseph Munoz, 55-6.5; Foster also finished third in the discus).
Both Chesley and Foster have surpassed those marks before, but section titles are nothing to take lightly. Just ask Scotty Newton of Bakersfield, who led the section in both the triple jump and long jump but settled for third and fourth, respectively, on Saturday. He did register automatic qualifying marks for state in both events.
“At least I get another chance,” Newton said. “I’ll be ready.”
Or ask Independence senior Brena Andrews, who outleaned Edison’s Njeri Omawahleh to win the girls 200 in 24.30, the sixth-fastest time in section history. A year ago, Andrews was an easy double champion in the sprints on her way to a state medal in the 200. But injuries to both legs and what she said was a lack of nutrition awareness held her back this year.
“It’s been a really tough journey, this whole season,” Andrews said. “Last year, I was Valley champ in the 100 and the 200, and everything was going great. But this year just made me appreciate these moments more. It's great to come back and win one more.”
Andrews nearly repeated both titles, but her 11.83 was three-hundredths slower than Edison’s Jazmen Bunch in the 100. She also helped the Falcons’ 400 relay team, sixth in state a year ago, return to state with a school-record 47.15, though Independence finished second to Edison, which won with a section record 46.04.
Liberty’s girls 1,600 relay, anchored by Hill, also clocked a season best in 3:54.78 to finish third and qualify, though Edison again took gold with another section record, 3:46.04.
The top three in each event automatically qualified for state. Besides Haney, Matos, Hill, Foster, Andrews and Benavides, Liberty thrower Rae Blansett qualified for state in two events, finishing second in the girls shot put and third in the discus.
Other second-place finishes included: Fransisco Sillas, Centennial, boys 400; Matt Smith, Bakersfield Christian, boys discus; and defending champion Kiare Tanner, Stockdale, girls triple jump. Third-place finishes included: Jacob Barger, Frontier, boys 800; and Centennial’s boys 1,600 relay team.