Christopher's Melia Middleton and Gilroy's Katherine Turk finish 1-2 in the 300-meter hurdles event in a April 29 track and field meet. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
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As Gabriela Baxter kept on clearing the bar in the girls high jump event, coaches and fellow competitors marveled in the ease in how she did it. This is basically Baxter’s first full season in the event, as her freshman year on Christopher High’s track and field team was basically a wash due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The sophomore eventually finished in second place with a mark of 4 feet, 10 inches, but it left others to wonder just how high she could go with more experience and technical refinement. Baxter, fellow sophomores Melia Middleton and Isabella Falvey and freshman Caitlynn Holt not only represent Christopher’s 4×100-meter relay team, they represent the present and future of the girls program.

In an April 29 home meet that included Gilroy, Oakwood, Pacific Point and San Benito, the quartet ran a personal-record (PR) time of 52.80 seconds to finish first and better their previous best by nearly four seconds. What led to the huge PR?

“We didn’t have anyone to race against last time, so having that competition (San Benito) helped us go faster,” said Middleton, who won the 300-meter hurdles event and owns the Central Coast Section’s top mark at 47.58 seconds. 

Smooth handoff exchanges also proved key in their time, which put them at No. 8 in the section. 

“Chemistry is a big thing when it comes to handoffs,” Falvey said. “Good ones take a few seconds off your time.”

Baxter said the team works on handoffs at least every other practice to get things right, and Holt said the girls feel confident they could possibly knock off another couple of seconds before the season ends. In terms of meet standouts, Gilroy’s Karina Rodriguez stood out with three individual victories, taking the 800, 1600 and 3200-meter runs. 

Even though the junior didn’t establish PRs in any of the races, she’s simply happy to be back on the track and competing. With temperatures in the mid 80s, Rodriguez had her work cut out for her running in the distance events. However, she proved to be the premier performer at those distances, taking each race with seconds to spare. 

“It’s been hard getting back to where I was before, but I’m happy with the results so far,” she said. “I’m looking forward to league (finals) and CCS, and shaving off some seconds from where I’m at right now.”

Rodriguez’s fellow Gilroy distance ace Nicholas Guzman, was the runaway winner in the boys 1600 and 3200 events. In the 1600, Guzman took out the first lap in 67 seconds, the second mile in 72 seconds, the third in 70 and the last lap in 68. Gilroy junior Katherine Turk is another top athlete to watch out for, as the junior won the 100-meter hurdles event and took second in the 300 hurdles. 

Relatively inexperienced because she did club gymnastics in her freshman year and her first year of high school track was washed out last season, Turk has made a meteoric ascent in the hurdles events, where she ranks fifth in the section in the 300 and ninth in the 100. Despite winning the 100-meter hurdles event in the five-team meet, Turk wasn’t all that happy with her performance. 

“It wasn’t the best race,” she said. “I felt OK, but obviously I could do better. Lots of flailing arms and my technique could be a lot better. I need to bring my trail leg over smoother and keep my arms tucked in because I tend to not have them in the right place.”

Turk said competing in gymnastics for 11 years has helped her transition to the hurdles events in terms of jumping and flexibility. Christopher had a couple of other top performers during the meet as well. Gabriel Enquist won the 400 meters in 1:04.52, Kingsley Okoronkwo captured the long jump with a mark of 20-2, and Alexis Bembry won the triple jump in 31-9 ½.

Gilroy’s Karina Rodriguez won the 800, 1600 and 3200 in the five-team meet at CHS. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
Christopher’s Gabriela Baxter went 4 feet, 10 inches in the high jump to take second place. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
The Cougars’ Kingsley Okoronkwo won the long jump and took second in the triple jump. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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