Ali Barrientos

Published Sunday, June 3, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

Barrientos brilliant in final


Mercury News

SACRAMENTO -- Alejandra Barrientos' bid for her second state championship was fading fast. The San Lorenzo Valley senior trailed Montgomery's Sara Bei by 20 meters in the 1,600-meter final Saturday with less than a lap to go.

But with a burst of power, Barrientos stormed past Bei on the final turn, pulled away from the pack down the final stretch and won in 4:42.24, the nation's second-fastest time this season.

``I felt that I had it in me to get closer to her,'' Barrientos said. ``So I said `Get on your toes, take a deep breath, relax and power in as hard as you can.'

``The next thing I know I was in front of her down the home stretch. The crowd was screaming, and I thought, `This is what I've been waiting for the whole year and it's happening.' ''

Barrientos ran the race of her life in one of the most anticipated events at the girls state track and field championships in Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College. She emerged from a field that included three of the top five milers in the nation, one of whom ran a national-best time last weekend.

Bei, who later won the 3,200 meters, led after the first lap and began to pull away from Barrientos and Amber Steen of Newport Beach -- the state leader -- as the race progressed. She increased her lead at the start of the final lap and looked poised to pull away. But once Barrientos made her kick, Bei couldn't hold her off.

``When she made that move, I already knew it was in the bag,'' San Lorenzo Valley Coach Rob Collins said. ``I was jumping up and ready to head down to the finish line. You could see the leg lift and arm drive and she just started rolling. When she gets that feeling, nobody can stop her.''

It has been a long road back for Barrientos, who won her first state title in the 1,600 as a sophomore. She was the heavy favorite at last year's state meet in Norwalk, but she suffered a stress fracture in her right tibia during qualifying and was unable to defend her title.

``I'm just real proud of her, because it's been real tough for her this whole year,'' Collins said. ``Now she's so much more ready for the future, knowing you can have setbacks but also make comebacks.

``And it was a big comeback.''

The race ended a stellar career for Barrientos that included two state titles, a spot on San Lorenzo Valley's distance medley-relay team that set a national record and holding three national-best times as a junior.

``Everything that I wanted has been accomplished,'' Barrientos said. ``I can hardly believe it. I'm still trying to remind myself. I'm on such a high right now.''

Contact Mark Gomez at [email protected] or (408) 920-5869.

Matt Bates

Published Sunday, June 3, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News


Los Gatos' Bates is third in 800; Leigh's Guidry comes up short

Mercury News

SACRAMENTO -- As the pack reached the final lap in the 800-meter race Saturday night, Los Gatos' Matt Bates took the lead and seemed to be in control at the state track and field championships.

But it wasn't where Bates wanted to be.

Nobody wanted to take the lead on the backstretch of the final lap because of a strong head wind. But a slow first-lap pace forced Bates to make his move earlier than he wanted to. Bates poured every ounce of energy he had into the final 400 meters, but he surrendered his lead with about 50 meters to go to Raphael Asafo-Agyei of Don Lugo and had to settle for a bronze medal at Sacramento City College's Hughes Stadium.

As Asafo-Agyei sprinted to the tape, he prematurely raised his hands in victory, only to be passed by San Gorgonio's Tykie Harris, who won in 1:53:80.

``We came by way too slow in the first lap, we had about a 57-second split and I knew I had to take the lead then -- and I really didn't want to,'' said Bates, who finished in 1:54.25. ``The main problem was nobody wanted to take the lead going into the back stretch because the wind was really a killer.''

Bates, who will run at Long Beach State next year, had the fastest qualifying time Friday night, but the early move sapped his energy.

``I was just dead -- I had nothing left to finish the race,'' Bates said. ``I'm happy with a third-place finish, but I came in hoping to win it.''

Leigh's Antwon Guidry barely missed in his quest to medal in the 100- and 200-meter races. At the start of the 100, the crowd let out a cheer for a field event just as the gun was about to go off. The runner next to him flinched and Guidry bolted out of the blocks, appearing to false start. But officials ruled the crowd noise interfered and called for a restart.

``It was in my head when we restarted and I didn't get out the way I wanted to,'' said Guidry, who finished tied for seventh with a time of 10.73. ``I got seventh, but that's seventh out of all the runners in California so I have to be happy with that.''

In the 200, Guidry finished strong but just out of reach of a top-six finish and a medal with a time of 21.85 for another seventh place.

``I felt I ran pretty well in the 200, but it wasn't good enough,'' Guidry said. ``I got to run in front of this big crowd against the best runners in the state. It was exciting and I had a great time.''

Leigh Coach Lee McLeroy has had some outstanding athletes in his 35 years of coaching, but he said Guidry is the best he's ever seen.

``You would never know he was such a successful three-sport athlete by the way he carries himself. He is always so concerned with other people,'' McLeroy said. ``He knows there is no sure thing in sports and accepts his performance here as an experience. He did his best against the best. He has taught me more than I ever taught him.''

CCS Medal Winners

Published Sunday, June 3, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News


CCS girls win most events since 1985

They earn 7 medals; Sevastopoulos short in high jump

Mercury News

SACRAMENTO -- Hollister's Elzunia Wojcicka-Lamb got it started, taking home a first-place medal in the long jump. San Lorenzo Valley's Alejandra Barrientos followed with a win in the 1,600 meters. And once Sacred Heart Cathedral's Shannon Rowbury won the 800 on Saturday at the state track and field championships at Hughes Stadium, the Central Coast Section girls had won three first-place medals, the most since 1985.

The CCS girls won seven medals in all, including two from Mt. Pleasant's Undine Becker in the 100 hurdles (second place) and 300 hurdles (fourth place) and a fourth-place finish by St. Ignatius' Aoife Keane. Ruth Graham of Gunn took sixth in the 3,200 in 10:44.62.

Wojcicka-Lamb won the long jump with a mark of 20-feet, 5 1/2 inches. She recorded that mark on her second in a string of six solid jumps.

``It feels great finishing my high school career like this,'' Wojcicka-Lamb said, referring to her first state title. ``It feels awesome.''

There was a moment of uncertainty. On the final round of jumps, Michelle Sanford of Woodbridge had a jump that measured 20-5 on the field scoreboard. Because the scoreboard didn't measure fraction of inches, Wojcicka-Lamb was uncertain whether she had won or lost.

Sanford's jump was 20-feet even.

``I thought she tied or beat me,'' Wojcicka-Lamb said.

Rowbury won a tight race in the 800, holding off a late surge by Oakwood's Treani Swain. Rowbury, who led for most of the race, finished in 2:10.31; Swain's time was 2:10.54.

  •  After qualifying in the high jump with a personal best of 6-8 Friday night, Saratoga's Alexi Sevastopoulos failed to clear his second height of 6-4 Saturday and missed out on his goal of a top-six finish and a medal.

    When all the other jumpers cleared 6-4 and Sevastopoulos missed, he was forced to make his next two jumps in quick succession. ``I was still getting up there, but my timing in the air was completely off,'' said Sevastopoulos, who started jumping four months ago. ``There was more pressure today in the finals. When I missed at 6-4, I panicked a little. I guess it's part of being a novice jumper.''

  •  In the boys discus, Mills' Adam Tafralis unleashed a season-best throw of 176 feet to earn a fifth-place medal.

  •  Bellarmine's Neil Davis ran well in the 3,200, finishing seventh with a time of 9:15.53. Aptos' Scott McConville was eighth in 9:17.08. Brett Gotcher of Aptos finished 18th despite losing a shoe at the beginning of the race.

  •  Morro Bay's Shayla Balentine energized the crowd with an amazing performance in the pole vault, setting a national high school record with a jump of 13-8, shattering the mark of 13 feet set by Shannon Agee of Helena, Mont., in 1998.

  •  Big Bear's Ryan Hall blew away the field in the 1,600, setting a meet record of 4:02.62.