CLOVIS -- For a rookie at the CIF State Track & Field Championships, Centennial junior Isaac Trevino sure seems confident.
But then, after the way Friday's 800-meter preliminaries went, he should be. Trevino ran toward the front of a loaded heat for the entire race, briefly went ahead with 200 meters to go and then pushed past a couple of runners on the homestretch to run a personal-best 1:53.94 and finish second in his heat to qualify for Saturday's state finals.
"It was a really fast race, but it really went right according to plan," Trevino said. "I was the first one with 200 to go, and I know I have a good kick with my natural leg speed."
Trevino is used to being the underdog. He was a complete unknown on the state level when he went to the Arcadia Invitational in April, and he responded with a time more than two seconds faster than he had ever run.
"I just rose to the occasion," Trevino said. "Because of what I did there, I knew that a big race wouldn't faze me here."
In today's final, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., Trevino isn't done with high expectations -- even saying he could pull off the ultimate shocker and win a state title a year after Ridgeview's Ivan Gonzalez took home gold in the 800.
"I definitely want to medal (the top six earn a medal), but I had a couple of the state leaders in my heat that I beat today," Trevino said. "That makes me confident. Best-case scenario, I win state."
Blansett through to second straight final
Liberty's Rae Blansett, who finished eighth in last year's girls discus state finals, qualified in seventh place Friday for another chance at a state medal today.
Blansett's best mark was 136-2 on her first throw. That's nearly 15 feet off of her personal best, but her other two attempts were fouls. All preliminary marks are erased for today's finals, which begin at 4:30 p.m.
Liberty girls come up short
Liberty's 1,600-meter relay team came up short of qualifying for the finals, finishing in 14th place overall after a 3:55.43.
The Patriots, who switched normal anchor runner Morganne Hill to the third leg, finished third in their heat, behind only Long Beach Poly and Piedmont Hills. Poly ran 3:41.00, the second-fastest time in the nation this year.
It was slightly slower than Liberty's season-best time from the Central Section finals, 3:55.20.
Centennial's boys also ran a solid 1,600 relay, finishing fifth in their heat in 3:21.90. They were 18th overall.
First-timers get state-meet experience
Several local athletes who qualified for the state meet for the first time soaked in the experience even if they weren't successful.
Frontier's Gabriel Gaeta, the Central Section champion in the 300 hurdles, did not advance in either of his hurdles races. He ran a particularly frustrating 300 hurdles, clipping two hurdles with his feet and once nearly falling. His time of 40.39 was well off his personal best.
Still, Gaeta, a senior, tweeted, "Wow, great way to end the season."
Garces pole vaulter Julianne Finch couldn't clear the opening height of 11-foot-3, but she also sent a positive tweet: "I didn't PR ... but I'm really happy with how I did today. Just being at State was a great experience."
Other local competitors who bowed out in the preliminaries: Shafter sophomore Allysa Klinger, who finished 22nd in the shot put at 38-5.25; Ridgeview senior Herman Day, who didn't clear the opening height of 6-5 in the boys high jump; Independence's Isaac Clark, 19th in the boys 110 hurdles in 14.75; and Independence's Kaira Saunders, 23rd in the girls 200 in 25.06.
-- ZACH EWING, THE CALIFORNIAN