Stockdale sophomore Marcus Mota woke up Monday morning a little sore and with blisters on his right foot, but otherwise feeling fine.
Those aches, pains and physical signs of wear and tear would be normal for any runner two days after the 3,200-meter finals at the CIF State Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Clovis.
However, Mota’s recovery is a little different: It comes after running a mile-plus with — get this — one shoe and a bare right foot.
Let me set the stage.
Mota was seeded 17th of 27 runners in the race. Even he said, “I didn’t have a game plan going in. I really thought I would have been in the back half of the race.”
The race began at 9:25 p.m. At that time, I was getting video of the final throws for Liberty senior Alicia Viveros at the shot put ring at Veterans Memorial Stadium, which is in the infield of the stadium next to the turn heading into the straightaway.
Once Viveros, who finished fifth in the state, was finished, I got down to the finish line to concentrate on Mota for the final couple of laps of the 3,200.
I got video coverage while photographer Henry Barrios was taking photos.
In the moment, it was already a solid story of a sophomore from Stockdale, a school with a strong history in the 3,200, coming up clutch and nearly earning a state medal. Even Mota said it “surprised me and my coaches that I took seventh.”
But the story didn’t end there. Not only did he finish seventh with a personal-record time of 9:09.93, but oh yeah, he also did it with just one shoe on for more than a mile.
That’s where the amazement of the moment made me gasp.
At the state championships, there is a roped-off pathway that runs diagonally through the infield of the stadium, starting at the main entrance to the track — near where the 200-meter race begins — and ending at the finish line.
The CIF doesn’t permit media members to speak with athletes in the infield; instead, an area near the track entrance is designated for interviews.
But as Mota was walking from the finish line back toward the entrance, he began to move left instead of staying in within the pathway.
So, I broke the rules — oh no! — and mentioned to Mota, “Hey, Marcus, you’re going the wrong way.”
Tired as I assume he was in the moment, he looks at me and said, “I have to go get my shoe.”
His shoe. He had one shoe on.
Mota walked down toward the shot put ring and picked up his right shoe.
Here is how it happened. Mota quickly realized early in the race that he was going to have a shot at staying with the lead pack. In doing so, he said he was getting spiked by other runners “more than I ever had before.”
The one that made this story was coming around the turn into the straightaway during the fourth lap.
“We turned the turn and I got stepped on the back of my leg, basically I got flat-tired,” Mota said. “I was like, ‘Oh no.’ I was basically stepping on the back of my shoe. My shoe was basically off.”
Mota said his shoe was flopping around for “about three steps” with only his toes hanging on, when he decided that the best move was to ditch it and go barefoot.
“I was just thinking about unpredictable things and how I needed to keep going,” Mota said. “I just kicked it off and kept going. I think I finished pretty well. Nobody even noticed until after the race, which is pretty funny.”
People took notice afterward.
Video of Mota posted on our @BVarsityLive Twitter account had 24 retweets and 99 likes as of Monday afternoon, and a photo I took of Mota looking down at his bloodied right leg and bare foot had 52 retweets and 235 likes.
PrepCalTrack.com editor Rich Gonzalez took to Twitter to comment on the video saying, “Just amazing, @marcus_mota. Just amazing.”
In the moment, Mota wasn’t thinking about this becoming a big story; he just wanted to do the one thing he knows best, run.
“I just did what I had to do,” Mota said. “It didn’t matter what I had or what anyone else had. I just had to run, and I did better than I expected.”
Trevor Horn can be reached at 661-395-7374 and follow him on Twitter at @trevhorn.