TRACK: Mustangs 4×100 relay places seventh at state

Go mustangs!

The Gilroy High boys 4×100-meter relay team wrapped up its
season in the finals of the 2011 CIF State Track and Field
Championships at Buchanan High School in Clovis on Saturday
Their first appearance on the state’s main stage left a bitter aftertaste – an unpleasant reminder and a motivational tool all in one.

Perhaps being a bit naive to what it took to compete among California’s top sprinters played a part in a second-to-last finish in 2010.

But for Julius Travis, Romeo Travis, David Guenther and Jourdan Soares, the Gilroy High boys 4×100-meter relay team, what they gained from that humbling experience one year ago remained a valuable accelerator during their quest to return.

It was an unconventional assent back to the top of the Central Coast Section, but they managed to defend their title – and they did it in personal-best fashion.

The weekend they couldn’t stop talking about since last June had finally arrived. One final hurrah as a group.

And now a chance for redemption.

Fresh off of their stirring CCS Championship run, which helped carve the path toward Gilroy’s first section title, the Mustangs, entered the 2011 CIF State Track and Field Championships on Friday wanting to leave its stamp – one that would stick much longer than the impression of a year ago.

Their goal was to post a 41.5-second race. They didn’t quite hit that, but what a run it has been.

Clocking a season-best 41.66 – also a school record – the Mustangs got off on the right foot, advancing through Friday’s preliminaries and onto Saturday’s finals with the meet’s seventh-fastest time.

“They were confident. They felt like they could jump over a few teams to get to the podium,” GHS sprint coach Ryan Johnston said about Friday’s race. “They were ready to run again.”

The good vibes were certainly flowing after the Mustangs again shaved their overall time, a trend that took form after a disappointing showing at Arcadia in April.

“After we hit that 41.66 we thought for sure we were going to PR again in the finals and make the podium,” Julius Travis said.

As the rain fell upon the track at Buchanan High School in Clovis on Saturday, the Mustangs, slotted in Lane 2, took their spots for their closing less-than-a-minute jaunt around the track as a team.

Crossing the finish line in 42.39, the Mustangs placed seventh, missing out on the podium by .21 seconds.

“They had run in that kind of weather before,” Johnston said. “They knew that their time wasn’t going to be as fast. I think they were a little disappointed they missed the podium by that little.”

Julius Travis said the Mustangs were indeed a bit discouraged in falling short of their ultimate goal, but didn’t downgrade all the team had accomplished.

“Not making the podium was kind of a blow to the gut,” he said.

“We kind of wish that we could have finished ranked a little high in state. But to know that our names will be next to that school record is amazing.”

Three of the four (the Travis brothers and Guenther) graduate on Friday, ending a two-year journey of GHS’s most successful relay team.

“It’s kind of sad knowing that we won’t be running together anymore,” Julius said. “We will stay friends.”

— Soares, who also participated in two individual events, just missed a top-eight finals spot in the 100-meter dash, crossing in 10.77, two-tenths of a second behind the event’s last qualifier, Marvin Hall, who ran a 10.75.

Soares also participated in the long jump, an event he placed second in at CCS finals, finishing 15th on Friday and missing the cut. His best jump was 21 feet, 10.5 inches.

Chima Ikeme clinched a berth to the state meet with his third-place showing last week with a career-best mark of 153-04 in the discus, but did not record a good throw, fouling on each of his four attempts.

Throws coach Brian Lopez said Ikeme went into competition with the basic mindset of go for broke, knowing that his advancement into the finals hinged on personal-record throws – and then some.

“He gave it his all and I’d much rather him foul out and fight like he did to try and make finals, then go in there and throw 145-150 (feet) and just chalk it up as an experience,” Lopez said.

“All of his throws were PR’s but he just couldn’t stay in the ring because he was going for it.”

The relay foursome (Eric Martinez filled in for Guenther) also ran the 4×400-relay, but finished nearly 20 seconds slower (3:41.95) than their second-place clinching time in the section finals.