Here stood the coach and his star runner, both with grandiose goals in mind over the next month, desperately cheering on a relay team that consisted of half injured runners and half newcomers.
Such was the way Stockdale boys track and field team won the Southwest Yosemite League championship Wednesday at Liberty, with a team that had a little star power and a lot of grit.
"This is my favorite conference championship of my whole career, boys or girls, just because of how much we asked out of the guys," longtime Mustangs coach Dave Lonsinger said. "We were so spread out with guys because of injuries. I mean, a week and a half ago, I didn't think we had a chance. But these guys weren't going to quit."
Stockdale came into the meet tied with Frontier after three previous league meets but secured victory Wednesday with 140 points. Centennial finished second with 101 and Frontier had 94, settling for second place overall in the league.
Stockdale's star, of course, was Blake Haney, a favorite to win both distance events at the CIF State Championships on May 31-June 1 but eager enough to help his team that he took on an extra event Wednesday, winning the 800 in a scintillating comeback over Frontier's Jacob Barger, plus the 1,600 and 3,200.
"I was ready to jump in on the (1,600-meter relay), too, but it didn't come down to that," Haney said. "We had so many injuries. There were like 15 guys out at practice last week. I knew I had to triple to have any chance."
Centennial's girls had no need for such drama. The Golden Hawks held off Liberty 138-127 to sweep the four SWYL meets in Garrett Spotts' first year as head coach.
"I was very fortunate to come in with such talented athletes and coaches," Spotts said. "They were all willing to take on extra events, and the girls really pushed hard for this."
Bryn Williamson, who set a personal record by clearing 11-6 in the pole vault last weekend, won that event Wednesday plus the long jump in a personal-best 16-1.
Another star, as usual, was Chloe Carlson, who won the 200 and 400 and helped the Golden Hawks finish third in the 1,600 relay to clinch the league sweep. Carlson, a Cal Poly-bound senior with her own state-meet hopes, echoed Haney's thoughts about the importance of the team competition.
"This the first year I really knew how much the league meet meant," Carlson said. "I get it now when they put me in four events. I still complain, but I get it. It's kicking in that there are only a few meets left in my high school career, so I'm really happy with this."
The top times in Kern County throughout the season move on to next Wednesday's Central Section South Area meet back at Liberty. From there, the top four are guaranteed spots at the Central Section Championships on May 18 in Clovis.
And while the team races took the spotlight one more time, the final SWYL meet also featured some individual highlights. The most prominent belonged to Frontier senior Colton Foster, who improved his personal best in the boys shot put by more than two feet with a 60-7.5, becoming the first section thrower this year -- and just the third in the state -- to surpass 60 feet.
"He was sitting at 54 for a while," Frontier coach David Gaeta said, "and then it was like he was at 56, 58 and now 60. So he's really coming on strong."
Foster also won the boys discus at 160-4.
Stockdale's Tristan Watson ran 14.93 in the boys 110 hurdles, the best time in the section this year, and Liberty sophomore Morganne Hill lowered her best time to 14.53 in the girls 100 hurdles, though that race was considered wind-aided. Hill also ran 43.24 to win the 300 hurdles, an event in which she ranks top five in the state.
Bakersfield's Scotty Newton, who ranks in the state top five in both the boys long jump and triple jump, won both, recording a 48-5.75 in the triple before scratching his final four events because of a sore knee.
Stars like Haney, Newton, Hill and Foster will take over the spotlight next week, but this celebration belonged to Centennial's girls and Stockdale's boys.
"It's fun when you've got elite athletes who want to win and other guys who will step in and do whatever you ask them to do," Lonsinger said. "A lot goes into winning a league this good."