Melia Middleton got in the blocks for her 100-meter hurdles race, focused as always. Competing for the first time in over a year, Middleton heard the gun go off and got out of the blocks solidly. By the 70-meter mark, she was all alone—literally and figuratively.
Not only was the Christopher High sophomore faster than the competition, but there were only two other competitors in her race during the March 31 dual meet against Branham. For now, local track and field meets are being limited to as few schools as possible per health guidelines. With fewer competitors and fans in the stands, the normal hustle and bustle of a track and field meet was absent.
That didn’t take away from the Christopher girls who came away with an impressive 58-24 victory. Middleton won three events, including the 200-meter dash and both hurdles events. Fellow sophomore standout Sarah Arcelo won the 400 and 800-meter events, junior Ella Rodriguez won the long jump and senior Liliana Jimenez had a pair of second-place finishes in the discus and shot put.
Gabriel Enquist paced the CHS boys with wins in the 100-meter dash and 300 meter hurdles. The Cougars last competed in the Willow Glen Invitational in March 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic shut down all sporting events. In that meet, Middleton ran a 49.78 in the 300 hurdles, good for the seventh best mark in the Central Coast Section a week into the season.
Arcelo ran 11:51.42 in the 3200 meters, good for eighth best in the section. She didn’t get to run the 1600 and 3200—her best events—against Branham because of a lack of competitors. However, Arcelo knows how important speed work is to the mile and two mile, so she embraced the shorter distance races.
“It was definitely different pacing for the shorter events, but a really fun experience,” said Arcelo, who also finished third in the 200 meter race. “My goals are trying to get back to where I was last year because I was beating school records and it was the best I’d ever ran. This year I definitely have a lot of work to catch up to get back to where I was before.”
Due to the modified high school sports calendar, basketball and track and field are both Season 2 sports. Arcelo was a standout on last year’s hoops team and ultimately chose track “because I love running so much.” Like Arcelo, Middleton has goals to break school records in her signature events. Against Branham, Middleton set a PR in the 100 hurdles, finishing in 17.39 seconds.
Her time of 49.78 in the 300 hurdles was also a solid mark given it was only the first meet of the season. Middleton knows what she has to improve on to further lower her times.
“I definitely want to work on getting my foot down faster when I’m over the hurdles,” she said.
Middleton comes from an athletic family, as her dad competed in track and field’s throwing events in college. Jimenez has followed in her sister’s footsteps competing in the discus and shot put. Former Cougars standout Isabella Jimenez advanced to the 2018 CCS Finals in the discus and inspired Liliana to take up the throwing events.
“I looked up to her and the events she did mostly resonated with me,” Liliana said. “This year I’m hoping to break her record in the discus.”
In the off-season, Jimenez watches videos of pro throwers and tries to pick up technical aspects from them to incorporate into her throws. She tries to stay calm, take deep breaths and “Zen myself” before she unleashes a throw, knowing being in a relaxed state will likely lead to superior results.
Other CHS highlights include sophomore Gabriela Baxter posting a solid mark of 4-6 in the girls high jump, and brothers Nicholas and Deon Hsu placing in the top three in both the 100 and 200 meter events, with Nicholas taking second in the 100 and Deon taking second in the 200.