Prep Track: 5 Gilroyans advance to CCS

Christopher's Haley Romero competes in the long jump event at the Central Coast Section Semifinals May 23 at San Jose City College.

GILROY—Just a few short weeks ago, the tracks at Christopher and Gilroy high schools were buzzing with athletes. On Tuesday, all that remained were four Cougars and one Mustang, as only five survived the Central Coast Section Semifinals on May 23.
And the survivors have no intention of making this their last week either.
Christopher High Sch-ool’s Cody Oberlander, Natalie Gutierrez, Isaac McCrimon and Haley Romero along with Gilroy High’s Tim Van Horn are the five left standing.
Van Horn was the lone first place finisher from the semis, finishing with a height of 6-4 in the high jump to notch his first trip to the CCS Finals.
As for the Cougars, they’ve been here before.
Of the four Christopher athletes left, Oberlander is the only one who has made the trip to the California Interscholastic Federation State Track and Field Championships, advancing last season in the high jump. Unfortunately for his teammates, last year’s finals got the best of them.
“For you guys, it’s all about redemption,” Christopher High track and field coach Jeff Myers said to the handful of remaining Cougar athletes. “You are all here for a reason.”
Romero is no stranger to the CCS finals, having qualified all three years of her high school career. Athletes need to place in the Top 3 to advance to state, but Romero found herself in last place in 2014, recording one of her lowest leaps of the season in the long jump.
This year the junior has all the momentum in her favor, having leapt a personal best 17-07.5 in the semifinals to take third. The key to success this week, she said, is staying confident and well rested.
“I need to be consistent through all six of my jumps,” the junior Romero said. “It’s been awhile since I PR’d, so that last jump really boosted my confidence. I’m a confident person, so I just have to go with the flow.”
McCrimon said last year’s finals haunt him, too. He hit his best distance of the season in the semifinals, but couldn’t muster the same result in the finals and finished eighth to miss the cut.
The junior jumper is working on his approach to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. He already hit 22 feet at the Monterey Bay League Championships a few weeks ago, so he’s keeping the faith that with the right approach he can do it again.
“If I get my approach down and keep my eyes up, I will land that 22,” McCrimon said.
“I’m reading a different scripture each day (too), so hopefully that helps.”
With Cougar Fest also happening today, Myers said avoiding distractions will be key for his athletes. Gutierrez knows all too well how detrimental distractions can be to state hopes as class work and volunteering at the festival wore her out prior to last year’s finals.
“I’m getting revenge for last year,” said Gutierrez, who finished fifth in the high jump at the semis with a 5-2 mark. “I just let it slip out of my hands; this time I am more prepared. I feel more confident than I was last year to take down those people.”
A height of 5-5 is the magic number for Gutierrez to advance. She has attempted it before, but said she didn’t throw her head back because she wasn’t confident she would clear that height. But Gutierrez has renewed faith in herself after seeing how close she came on film.
“I have to know that I’m going to make it, so that when I’m actually jumping 5-5 I believe it,” the senior Cougar said.
Being the lone remaining Cougar who advanced to state last year, Oberlander knows what he has to do to move on. Unfortunately for the senior, he’s not at full strength after injuring his knee at the MBL Championships. He still leapt a 6-2 to take seventh at the semifinals and said he’ll continue to fight through the pain for another shot at state.
“You just have to go in confident and have faith in yourself,” he said. “I always tell myself that win or lose I’m doing it for God; that always gets me through.”
The CCS finals kick off at 4 p.m. Friday at San Jose City College. The meet begins with the track events, followed by the running events at 6 p.m.