CLOVIS - All Liberty track and field coach Ryan Renz was asking for on Saturday in the 101st CIF State Track and Field Championships was for his six girls athletes competing to simply do their best.
It’s a simple request for a group that consists of four sophomores, a junior and just one senior.
“They came in here and all performed phenomenal,” Renz said. “This is as stressful as it gets. Most of them come out here and PR’d and you can’t ask more from them. That’s what you hope they do. It’s pretty awesome.”
In the finals at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis, Reese Renz and Faith Bender - both sophomores - both medaled in two events.
Bender’s season was on the ropes.
With two throws in the first flight of the girls discus finals, Bender was on the outside of the top-9 looking in.
Then like she did at the Arcadia Invitational last month, the Liberty sophomore let loose on a must-compete attempt.
And what did she do?
Oh, just set a personal-best with a mark of 168-10, good for 21st all-time in state history and finished second in the discus after finishing fifth at state as a freshman.
“My body was really anxious and technical-wise wasn’t doing very well,” Bender said about fouling and hitting just 139 feet on her first two attempts.
Then her dad, Paul, who won state in the discus for Shafter in 1980, gave her a little piece of advice that went a long way.
“My dad told me to act like it’s practice and just punch it,” Bender said. “It flew like the wind. I am just really glad because I was on the verge of not making it into the finals … I am really thankful for that mark.”
Bender then came back into the shot put finals and finished fifth with a mark of 43-8.75. It’s her first medal in the shot put finals at state and will go into her junior year as the top performer in both events in 2020.
Fellow sophomore Bella Rigby finished ninth in the discus finals with a mark of 141-6 after not qualifying out of the area championships as a freshman.
Renz came into her sophomore season hopeful but not expecting much.
Then the daughter of the head coach came out and medaled in both hurdles events, an accomplishment that was stunning, even for her.
“This is nothing that I could have expected coming into the season,” Renz said. “Of course everyone hopes to come to state, do there best and potentially get a medal, this is more than I could have asked for.”
Renz was on the cusp coming in to medal in the girls 100 hurdles, then set a personal-best time of 14.21 (2.9 wind-aided) to finish in sixth place.
Then Renz came back and finished third in the 300 hurdles in 42.62.
“If you are giving your best, and that was my best, obviously third is great for me and I am happy to take it home” Renz said.
Liberty girls 1,600 relay team of Renz, Rebecca Vanderpoel, Alexa Schacher and Ellen Palmgren finished ninth in the finals in 3:51.54 and Liberty finished with 21 team points, good for sixth in team scoring.
“A state title is what we wanted to get and seeing that all of our people are showing up today and competing and getting their job done to try and accomplish that,” Renz said.