Track and Field’s final two weeks delivered several highlights for the Sac-Joaquin Section.
By JIM McCUE | Senior Contributor
Track and field athletes can experience the highest of high and lowest of lows, with the difference determined by inches or hundredths of a second.
Ideally, the runners, jumpers, vaulters, and throwers reach their peak to record their best time or distance at the end of the season.
Ponderosa senior pole vaulter Kylee Trageser’s season exemplified the ups and downs felt by a number of student-athletes who experience the thrill of victory and agony of defeat on the sport’s biggest stages.
After a productive offseason in which she trained with Bella Vista-Fair Oaks pole vault coach and guru Clay Taft to prepare for her final track and field season, Trageser was ready to take on top competition in invitationals and work toward new heights by season’s end.
Unfortunately, she suffered a sprained ankle after her first meet, and then a thigh injury that kept her grounded until the Delta River League Championships. Finally recovered, Trageser easily won the league title with a 12-foot-3 vault and followed that up with a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title by clearing 12-8.
“Everything was coming together at the right time,” Trageser said.
With her jumps trending higher, BYU coaches told the Cameron Park senior that she could walk on to the Cougars’ team next year. They also told her that if she could hit the 13-foot mark in her final two meets, she would earn a scholarship.
Trageser’s progression and success continued at the SJS Masters Meet at Elk Grove High where she had the section title in hand before getting a shot at the 13-foot mark for a paid ride to Provo. On her final attempt at a personal record, Trageser cleared the bar and experienced a mix of emotions.
“I had been waiting and hoping for 13 feet all season and tried not to put pressure on myself,” she said. “You have to take it one bar at a time, but getting 13 was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders.
“I just realized that all of the hard work paid off and was pretty emotional.”
Trageser’s section win had already punched her ticket to the CIF Track and Field Championships in Clovis, but eclipsing 13 feet paved the way to BYU. At the state meet, she failed to clear 12 feet and finished 10th, but the experience outweighed any disappointment with her final height of 11-5.75.
“I had to miss my graduation and Sober Grad Night to compete at state, but the experience was awesome,” she said. “The stadium is absolutely insane with thousands of people watching. It was great to get there and have a chance to compete with the best of the best.”
Center’s Xavier Howell also peaked in the postseason, and made history in the process. The senior broke a 33-year-old Section Masters Meet high jump record with a leap of 7 feet the day before Trageser topped 13 feet.
“Seven feet was a goal of mine,” Howell said. “It was great to reach that goal, but then I saw it as more of a stepping stone for my confidence. Once I reached that goal, I knew that I could set a new goal to jump higher.”
Howell’s record jump was not a sure thing as he had already won the event and was starting to prepare for the 4×400 relay. He credits the adrenaline of preparing to race for lifting him over the 7-foot mark, as he decided to take one last jump before the relay.
The leap was the state’s top mark for the season, and may have placed higher expectations on Howell at the state meet. He could not match the height in Clovis, but still finished on the podium with a 5th-place jump of 6-7. Despite the lower height, Howell’s spirits were still lifted by the trip to his first state meet.
“It was like a vacation for me and nice to get out of Sacramento for a couple of days,” Howell said of the trip south. “The results were not what I expected, but to have the experience of competing at state was great.
“A lot of people looked to me to perform well, but I knew I would be OK with whatever place I got.”
For many, just reaching the state meet is a goal achieved. Benicia pole vaulter Adam Thomas was more worried about qualifying for the state meet to enjoy the Section Masters as much as he enjoyed the trip to Clovis.
“At the Masters, I was freaking out because I knew I had to do well to get to state,” he said. “Once I got 15-1 in the finals, the pressure was gone because I knew I qualified.”
Thomas had a personal best of 15-8 earlier in the season, and cleared 15-6 in the preliminary round at the Masters before feeling some of the pressure to return to Clovis for a third time. The third trip to the state meet was a charm for Thomas, who had not reached the finals in his previous two tries.
At this year’s CIF State Track and Field Championships, the Northeastern-bound vaulter finally qualified for the finals where he finished 11th with a 15-3.75 vault. At both the section and state meets, Thomas tied Golden Valley’s Ryan Pust, but fewer misses at the Masters gave Thomas the title. Pust took 9th at state.
“I remember my sophomore year being overwhelmed by the crowd,” Thomas said of the packed stadium at the state meet. “I couldn’t believe that many people cared about track and field.
“This time, it was not as daunting, and I enjoyed hanging out with the other vaulters and competing against the state’s best.”
On the track, personal bests and section firsts highlighted the section’s performances. Cordova senior Nia Dorner, who won her fourth Section Masters title in the 400 a week earlier, turned it up a notch at the state meet.
Dorner raced to a personal-best 53.0 in the 400 meter final to earn the first-ever sprint title for a SJS girl. The time was also the second-fastest mark recorded during the 2013 season. The Texas-bound sprinter earned a second podium finish with a 23.82 in the 200 meters, good for fourth place.
Jesuit senior Austin Mitsch recorded a double-podium effort at state after fierce head-to-head battles with Antelope’s Robert Ellis a week earlier at the section meet. In Elk Grove, Mitsch edged Ellis in the 100 meters, but Ellis got the best of Mitsch in the 200 with a personal-best time of 21.32.
In Clovis, Mitsch shined with a PR of 21.30 to take third place in the 200 and a 6th-place finish against some of the top sprinters in the nation in the 100.
Any anticipated battles between Mitsch and Ellis at state were quashed by a pulled hamstring suffered by Ellis in the 200 meter final. After clocking in a 21.32 at the section meet, Ellis valiantly hobbled down the track in Clovis for a 1:09.78 and a huge ovation for the display of courage and determination from the appreciative crowd.
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