CCS TRACK: Soares, Sandoval clinch state meet berths

Gilroy's Luis Magana is unable to clear the starting height in the pole vault and is unable to advance during the Central Coast Section finals Friday.

Ever since missing a spot on the podium at last year’s Central Coast Section Track and Field Championships, Gilroy High senior Sarina Sandoval – the program’s record holder in the shot put – has had the number 40 flashing through her head.

The numeral is motivation. It stood for what wasn’t in 2011. It held the potential of what could be in 2012.

She entered last season’s section finals as the favorite – the No. 1-seed. She didn’t meet her expectations, though. And that disappointment carried her through the offseason and as the regular season picked up steam toward her “shot put” at redemption.

“It made me strive for it,” Sandoval said. “I wanted to PR at least. I didn’t want to just constantly stay where I was.”

One year later, with plenty to prove to herself and one goal to reach, Sandoval powdered up and stepped into the 7-foot circle at Friday night’s chilly championships at Garcia-Elder Sports Complex.

Then came the third throw of competition. The crowd roared.

“Finally, a 40,” Sandoval said afterward.

To be exact, Sandoval’s heave measured 40-feet, 00.5 inches, a distance that padded her own school record.

“Once I hit that I didn’t really care what place I got,” she said. “I was just smiling.”

She placed third and earned an automatic berth to this weekend’s CIF State Championships in Clovis.

“She put her stamp (on the record),” throws coach Brian Lopez said, vouching for Sandoval’s hard work. “That was the mark we wanted. She did all the things she needed to do to get it.”

Drama unfolded in every nook and cranny of Garcia-Elder Sports Complex. And Friday uniquely challenged all five local athletes – Sandoval, Jourdan Soares, Luis Magana, Samantha Una Dia and Ally Foster – who had made it to the section’s center stage.

The night left two with one more meet in their careers. It gave two others ammunition for 2013. And it showed no mercy toward another.

Gilroy High senior sprinter Soares not only had to contend with Palo Alto’s EJ Floreal, the son of Stanford track coach Edrick Floreal, and who came in with the fastest seed times in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, but also the abnormally brisk and, at times blustery, conditions. A shortened week of practice due to a sore Achilles tendon didn’t help matters either.

Still, the CCS’s defending 100 champion closed his career on his home track with two state-meet worthy races. Soares clocked a 10.97 in the 100 for third and a 22.07 in the 200 for second.

Floreal swept the events, switching into an extra gear with 30 meters to go in each, posting 10.81 and 21.84, respectively.

“Am I happy that I’m going to state and get to keep racing? Yeah. But third in the 100 isn’t the way I wanted to go through,” said Soares, the GHS record holder in the 200. “Those are my last races in high school. I definitely want to go all out and PR.”

Una Dia made the podium in sixth in the 100 hurdles. Una Dia said she was happy to have made the podium after missing out by one place in 2011. Still the junior felt as though she had more in her.

“I felt really excited for this meet, but when I ran the race … I don’t know what happened,” she said. “When I know I’m doing well, it kind of feels like I’m flying through it. Today, I didn’t feel that.”

As for her thoughts toward next season: “I just need to work a lot harder than I did this year,” she concluded.

Christopher High freshman Foster, who began the season as coach Jeff Myers’ long jump protégé, made her biggest splash in the hurdles. She participated in the 300 hurdles and placed sixth in a time of 47.74.

When asked if her Lane 2 assignment or the wind made it more difficult, Foster’s response resembled a seasoned veteran’s.

“Those are all excuses,” she said. “I’m a freshman. CCS finals. Standing on a podium. That’s an honor. I made it this far and that’s big. I would have liked to have made state, but next year, hopefully I’ll have it.”

While Soares and Sandoval clinched state meet berths, and Una Dia and Foster took solace in their achievements, pole vaulter Magana sat a few feet away from the event’s landing pad, his head buried in his arms as they rested on his knees bent toward his chest.

Magana’s season had just ended in heartbreaking fashion. The senior, who four weeks prior had set a personal best height of 14 feet, did not clear the initial height of 12-feet-6 inches during competition Friday.

“It just was not the right day,” Magana reluctantly said as teammates walked by with friendly pats on the back.

In consolation, however, Magana said he plans to attend San Jose City College as an aspiring collegiate athlete.

With graduation Friday, Sandoval and Soares will trade in their caps and gowns for a track suit and shorts.

“I can’t wait,” Soares said.

NOTES: Palo Alto’s boys won the team title with 53 points. St. Francis was second (41.50) and Bellarmine third (39). Piedmont Hills won the girls crown, totaling 61 points. St.Francis took second (57) and Mountain View third (54).

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