It was a meet to remember for the Gilroy High and Christopher High track and field teams in last Friday’s Monterey Bay League Pacific Division Championships. The Mustangs—competing in the comfortable confines of their own facility—placed first in the boys team competition and second in the girls competition to Christopher.
Gilroy had a huge haul of individual winners, including multiple event champions in Searra Harding (100, 200-meter run), Logan Flores (pole vault, triple jump) and Anela Zamarron (discus and shot put). Other Mustangs who won individual events included Anthony Lealao (400) and Deyvin Mariscal (300 hurdles).
Christopher lacked no shortage of individual standouts, either, as freshman sensation Kennedy Bretz won the high jump and triple jump with personal-record (PR) marks of 4 feet, 10 inches and 31-11 ½, respectively. Christopher also received individual titles from Austin Hudson (800) and Domenic Fortino (discus).
The Cougars’ 4×100 relay team of Andrea Ortiz, Jessica Bright, Elise Engquist and Fatima Ahmad won a thrilling race over the Gilroy squad of Harding, Marcela Mantilla, Dariana Rodriguez, and Anajah Jeanpierre-Pryor. Gilroy led all the way until the final exchange between the third and fourth runners.
Christopher had a seamless final baton exchange, and finished in 51.64 seconds to Gilroy’s 52.06. The Christopher girls, who totaled 106 points, came out on top against tough competition. Gilroy (95 points), Watsonville (95) and Monterey (94) all were in contention to win the team title until the last couple of events.
Hudson won one of the three races that ended in a photo finish. The Christopher junior clocked a time of 2:07.29, which was 2/100ths of a second faster than second-place finisher Isaias Rodriguez of Seaside. Hudson had a body-length lead with 40 meters to go before Rodriguez got side to side, only to see Hudson hold on by the narrowest of margins.
“Honestly, when we crossed the line, I didn’t think I won that race,” he said. “I’m really glad I did because going into it I was a little disappointed after not doing so hot in the mile (where he finished in fifth).”
This is Hudson’s first year competing in the 800, as he took the advice of his mom, Evelyn, who encouraged him to run the event this season.
“Mom said the 800 was my best event, and she ended up being right,” he said. “Mom knows best. I was humbled I got the win, and I will try to push myself for an even better PR.”
For the second year in a row, Harding proved to be the fastest girl in the Pacific Division. She repeated as champion in the short sprint events, going 12.83 in the 100 and 26.65 in the 200.
“It felt good to win both races again,” she said. “I definitely like the 100 better. The 200 is a little harder for me, especially on the last straightaway. The key this year has been pushing really hard in practices, going all out and being in the right mental state before the race. I like to walk the track and think about every little detail beforehand so I can prepare and push myself to be my best in the race.”
Lealao was definitely at his best in the 400, which he was running for just the second time in his career. Lealao, who had competed mostly in the 100, 200 and the jumping events in his first three years of high school, won an individual event for the first time as a Mustang. His time of 53.93 seconds came three days after he posted a 54.36 to take second in the MBL Trials.
One of the more athletic and versatile athletes in the league, Lealao raised his arms in triumph and said, ‘What?’, upon seeing his time on the scoreboard.
“I was a little surprised I won since the MVC kid ran a faster time than me (in the trials),” he said. “So I had to step up my game, keep my pace and catch anyone who was in front of me. I tried to stay relaxed in the last 100 so I wouldn’t get caught in the end.”
No one was going to catch Lealao on this night, as he looked strong out of the blocks and on the curve and straightaway.
“I felt good coming into the last 100, and I just let my legs take me where I needed to go,” he said.
Lealao only ran the 400 starting last week because in a previous race he ran a fast split on Gilroy’s 4×400 relay team. That gave him a strong indication he could do well as an individual. Mariscal won the closest race of the night, clocking a 42.47 in the 300 hurdles to beat Fernando Cienfuegos of Monterey by 1/100ths of a second.
Mariscal, who finished second in the event a year ago, credited a tough off-season workout program and sage advice from his coaches for helping him get faster. He added that Cienfuegos pushed him all the way.
“He ran a great race, and I wouldn’t have pushed myself like that if he wasn’t there with me,” Mariscal said. “Basically if you want to do well in the hurdles you don’t think about it—you just do it. I’m hoping to make CCS this year after not making it last year.”
Bretz’s future seems bright, as she is in her first year of competing in the sport. A volleyball player for most of her life, Bretz decided to do track and field to have fun, compete and spend time with her friends, many of whom are on the team.
“I also looked at it as a sport to carry me over to volleyball,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d love track this much. I’m definitely going to be doing it all through high school.”
Bretz actually had the identical 4-10 mark in the high jump along with Pajaro Valley’s Rubi Genis; however, Bretz won on fewer attempts. She proved to be clutch in the triple jump as well, winning by ½ an inch. Nothing seemed to faze the freshman on this day.
“I think staying focused and calm during the whole meet helped me power through it and allowed me to complete all of my jumps well,” she said.