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When it comes to girls hurdles, this Vacaville quintet may have been the fastest in the west.   By TREVOR HORN | Contributor  ...

When it comes to girls hurdles, this Vacaville quintet may have been the fastest in the west.

  By TREVOR HORN | Contributor

  Being a hurdler can be somewhat individualist.

  Step, step, step, jump. Repeat.

  For most hurdlers in high school, the chance to go against elite competition comes but a handful of times in a season.

  At Vacaville High School, the best girls hurdlers in the Sac-Joaquin Section and the state are working together everyday.

  Led by seniors Pattriana Perry and Daria Cook, along with junior Nia Vance, sophomore Hannah Davis and freshman Jurnee Woodward, the quintet have a chance to leave a mark in the state track and field community.

  They already did nationally.

  On April 11, during day one at the Arcadia Invitational, Perry, Cook, Vance and Woodward set a national record in the 4×100 shuttle hurdle relays with a time of 57.17.

  The event is set up with four relay teams across eight lanes along the straight-away. Each team utilizes two lanes on the track with the first and third leg running north-south and second and fourth legs running the opposite direction.

  As unique as the event sounds, it was as unparalleled for the athletes.

  “It was rare that we practiced all together,” Perry said. “That was the first time where we all were together, too. It was exciting to know we could go that fast. It’s crazy.”

  The relay is not a CIF sanctioned event, so seeing it and running in it are not the norm. But carving their name into the record book as the fastest ever gave the girls a chance to feel like superstars.

  “It was a shock,” Nance said. “It was a thought that we could break it. But the day of the event, we didn’t think about it. We warmed up and just ran. It just happened. We are still on cloud nine.”

  Perry, who is signed with UCLA, has been the leader this season for Vacaville. The senior owns the state’s fastest time in the 100 hurdles this season at 13.67, which she set the day after the relay at Arcadia. 

  Cook, headed to Kansas, has medalled at the section Masters championship each of her first three years. As a freshman, Cook finished second in the 300 hurdles. Last season, Cook won the Masters title in the 100 hurdles and placed second in the state meet a week later.

  “They are both very deserving (of the scholarships),” Vacaville coach Mike Papadopoulos said. “They are both very hard working kids.”

  Nia VanceThe group is as close as five teenagers can be. Papadopoulos says the road trips to track meets can seem short because the girls are always chatting it up — if they aren’t sleeping or eating, which Woodward says are two of the best things this group does.

  “But we are so close,” Vance said. “We are always together.”

  Perry, Cook and Woodward have the top three times in the 100 hurdles this season with Vance at seventh.

  Perry, Woodward and Cook finished one, two, three in the 100 hurdles at the SJS Division I finals on May 23 at Elk Grove High. 

  Perry also won the title in the 300 hurdles with Woodward in second, Davis in fourth and Cook rounding out the foursome that advanced to the Masters this week.

  Vance did not compete in the hurdles at Div. I, but did win the section title in the triple jump at 37 feet, 2 inches and also qualified for Masters in the long jump. 

  Woodward, who was racing and beating college-level hurdlers in junior high, is the top 300 hurdler in the section this season with Perry holding the second best time, with Cook (fourth) and Davis (fifth) rounding out one of the most incredible combinations of athletes at one school in section history.

  During the first weekend of May, Woodward took home the Sacramento Meet of Champions title at American River College. Following behind her, in order, were Perry, Cook and Davis.

  “People look around and go, ‘They are all from Vacaville?’” Vance said.

  And that’s the way the group hopes to be come the final day at Masters on May 30 at Elk Grove High, and the following week at the CIF State Championships meet in Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High in Clovis.

  “I really hope that we all make it,” Woodward said. “Because if we start to drop off one-by-one, it will feel like we’re getting smaller as a group. I feel like it would be a great experience going to state.”

  Last season, Perry and Cook finished second and third respectfully in the 100 hurdles. The two seniors are the only two from this group who have advanced to state previously.

  Papadopoulos is not taking this season for granted. The athletic director, football and track coach at Vacaville knows how special it is to have this many elite athletes — not only on one team, but in one specific speciality like hurdles.

  He also knows that they would not be here without having the talent, drive and maturity that is beyond their years.

  “The blessing is they are all super kids.” Papadopoulos said. “The opportunity that they have to train collectively together, that’s the neat part.”

  Perry and Cook are leaders on and off the track. Perry boasts a 4.0 GPA and plans to study law at UCLA. Cook has maintained a 3.8 GPA and was also a cheerleader throughout high school. The two seniors also are active members on campus and in the Black Student Union. 

  “If they weren’t as mature as they are, this would not work out the way it has. They get it,” Papadopoulos said. 

  Cook agrees that training together daily has made this group even better.

  “It keeps us all on our toes all the time,” Cook said. “We push each other to do better.”

  And being the best in the state is the obvious end goal for this group.

  Without a state title — yet — Perry said this group is anxious for the chance to all go down to state together.

  “It’s exciting. I’m glad it is all falling into place.”

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