Published Saturday, June 2, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

Barrientos, Bei pace each other in 1,600 heat


Mercury News

SACRAMENTO -- San Lorenzo Valley's Alejandra Barrientos and Montgomery's Sara Bei have been competitors and friends since they placed first and second at the state track and field championships two years ago.

Now seniors, both were favorites in the girls 1,600 meters at the state championships this weekend. But when they found themselves running in the same qualifying heat Friday, they came to an agreement: just run fast enough to qualify for the final today.

So for nearly 3 1/2 laps, Barrientos and Bei ran with the pack in the second heat of the 1,600. The two pulled away in the final 100 meters and Barrientos edged Bei at the finish line in front of 6,731 fans in Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College. Both Barrientos and Bei advanced to the final.

``Their plan was to help each other and just get each other qualified,'' San Lorenzo Valley Coach Rob Collins said. ``That was the important thing, to get qualified and save as much as possible for tomorrow.''

Barrientos said she was a little nervous Friday -- she was injured during last year's qualifying round at the state meet and did not defend her state title -- and chose to run with the pack. Because the top three finishers in each of the two heats -- plus the three best non-winning times -- advance to the final, Barrientos didn't have to pull away. She won her heat in 4:59.04, compared to her season best of 4:47.88.

``Neither of us really wanted to get too competitive in the race,'' Barrientos said. ``We wanted to both relax and go as slow as possible so we can have a better race tomorrow.''

Amber Steen of Newport Harbor, the national leader in the 1,600, ran the fastest qualifying time with a 4:57.12. Barrientos, who won the 1,600 as a sophomore, is hungry to regain her title.

``She's got one goal and that's to win the state championship,'' Collins said. ``She knows tomorrow she's got to make it hurt. It's going to be tough. To win it, you'll have to learn how to dig within yourself.''

  •  Leigh's Antwon Guidry had trouble getting out of the blocks in his 100-meter heat, but recovered and finished second behind Morningside's Carlos Moore with a time of 10.53.

    Guidry also finished second in his 200 heat, nearly catching Fairfax's Phillip Francis with a time of 21.43. He qualified for the final in both events.

    ``I stood up at the beginning of the 100, but raced well after that,'' Guidry said. ``If I would have had five more yards I could have caught him.

    ``I'll work hard on my starts tomorrow and try to get a good jump on the gun and I should be right there with them.''

    Leigh's 4x100-meter relay team did not qualify for the final, so Guidry will be able to concentrate on the 100 and 200 today. Guidry has been pursuing the goal of a state medal since he failed to qualify for the finals in both events at last year's state meet.

  •  Los Gatos' Matt Bates ran a near-perfect race in his 800 heat, making his move with about 200 yards left to clock the best qualifying time of the day with a 1:52.61.

    ``This is my first fresh 800 of the year,'' said Bates, who is not competing in the 1,600 to concentrate on the 800. ``I didn't qualify last year, so I wanted to run my race. When the pace picked up, I held my ground and waited to make my move on the last turn.''

    Don Lugo's Raphael Asafo-Agyei won his 800 heat and will be tough competition for Bates in the final.

    ``I want to have a good lead at the end, because I don't want to take a chance that he'll outkick me in the last few yards.''

  •  Bellarmine junior Ethan Clarke hit his mark in stride on his first attempt and launched himself 23 feet, 2 inches to qualify in seventh place for the long jump finals today.

    ``I concentrated on all the hard work I've done this season and tried to put it into that jump,'' Clarke said. ``Tomorrow my goal is to earn a medal with a top-six finish.''

    Mills' Adam Tafralis qualified for the discus finals with a throw of 172-5 and Jefferson's Brian Laupua reached the shot put finals with a mark of 57-3 1/4.

  •  St. Ignatius' Jenna Grimaldi and Aoife Keane had the top two qualifying marks in the high jump. Grimaldi, the national leader, and Keane, fourth-best in the state, both cleared 5-6. Published Saturday, June 2, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

    Becker's choice pays dividends


    Mercury News

    SACRAMENTO -- After Undine Becker qualified in four events for the state track and field championships last Friday, the Mt. Pleasant senior figured she would have to drop one of the events.

    Her first inclination was to scratch from the 300-meter hurdles, even though she took home a sixth-place medal in the event at last year's state meet. But after talking with her coaches, Becker changed her mind and withdrew from the triple jump.

    The move paid off.

    Becker qualified in both the 100 and 300 hurdles Friday at the state track and field championships in Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College. Not only did Becker win her 300 hurdles heat in 42.68 seconds, she also had the fastest qualifying time and set a personal record.

    ``My coach said the triple jump will have a lot of pounding on your body and break you down more than any of the running events,'' Becker said. ``The triple jump was a little more difficult, with five girls above me.''

    Becker, who won her third Central Coast Section title in the 300 hurdles last weekend, is competing in her third consecutive state meet. She finished ninth in the 100 hurdles last year.

    Now she's a favorite to win first-place medals in both.

    ``That's what I'm going to go for,'' Becker said.

    Becker's day began with the long jump, where she made two of her three attempts before running her heat in the 100 hurdles -- which she won in 13.93 seconds, the second-fastest qualifying time.

    But when Becker returned to the long jump, she was unaware of what marks were ahead of her. Becker's best jump -- 18 feet, 7 3/4 inches -- placed her in 10th, 3/4-inch behind the last qualifier.

    Considering she jumped over 20 feet last weekend, second best in the state, her performance Friday was understandably disappointing.

    ``This past week I've been working on my height instead of my distance,'' Becker said. ``I just couldn't get far enough. It really made me mad, but everyone was trying to encourage me and get ready for the hurdle race.''

    Becker certainly was ready, running the state's third-best time in the 300 hurdles this year. Lashinda Demus of Wilson-Long Beach, the top qualifier in the 100 hurdles and the state leader and national-record holder in the 300 hurdles, did not qualify for the state meet in the 300. She struggled out of the blocks and did not finish the race at the Southern Section finals last weekend.

    ``When I came into today, I felt stronger in the 100 hurdles,'' Becker said. ``Now I'm feeling good in both events, like I can compete in both events.''

    It was thought that Becker and Hollister's Elzunia Wojcicka-Lamb might challenge for a 1-2 finish in the long jump. The two entered the meet with the top marks in the state.

    Wojcicka-Lamb, the state leader, advanced to the final for the second consecutive year with a jump of 19-8 1/4.

    Sacred Heart Cathedral's Shannon Rowbury, the CCS's other state leader, won her 800 qualifying heat and qualified for the final today.

    ``I was just hoping to qualify,'' Rowbury said. ``That's the hardest part. Trying to get the balance between running fast enough to qualify but running slow enough so you don't use up everything.''

    Rowbury ran second to Drake's Morgan Banks for most of her heat. Then, with about 10 meters to go, Rowbury surged ahead and won in a time of 2:13.28.

    ``When I was on the finishing stretch I thought some people might be surging at the end,'' Rowbury said. ``So I wanted to make sure I kept in the top two.''

    Contact Mark Gomez at [email protected] or (408) 920-5814.

    Published Saturday, June 2, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News


    Sevastopoulos jumps into finals

    Mercury News

    SACRAMENTO -- Saratoga high jumper Alex Sevastopoulos' father, Nello, jumped for Greece in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but the 6-foot-5 senior did not take up his dad's sport until four months ago, choosing instead to concentrate on basketball and tennis.

    Alex showed that high jumping talent runs through his veins by soaring over the bar at 6 feet, 8 inches on his first attempt Friday at Sacramento City College's Hughes Stadium to set a personal record and qualify for today's finals in the state track and field championships.

    ``I knew I could clear 6-8 because I just barely missed it at CCS because of a mechanical error,'' said Sevastopoulos, whose previous best jump was 6-6. ``My coach has me on a diet with no carbohydrates or sugars and the last three to four weeks I've been feeling great. I think if I come in with the right attitude tomorrow I can place in the top six and earn a medal.''

    Nello Sevastopoulos cleared a personal best of 6-9 in 1963 using the old straddle method of jumping. He never pushed high jumping on his son, who jumps in the contemporary method known as the Fosbury flop.

    ``He was always into other sports, but to watch him clear 6-8 today, I was just breathless,'' Nello Sevastopoulos said. ``We had a different style of jumping, so my main advice to him is about the mental side of jumping. We talk about focus and not worrying about counting the number of steps on your approach -- that way his mind is keyed on clearing the height of the bar.''

    Alex Sevastopoulos closed in on his father's family record with his qualifying jump, which tied him for second place.

    ``I always wanted to try jumping and since I can dunk a basketball so easily I knew I could do well,'' said Sevastopoulos, who will jump for Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo next year. ``I thought jumping would give me the best chance to compete on the college level.''

    Saratoga jump coach T.J Bartel said he thinks the sky is the limit in today's final.

    ``He is such a natural out there, I just tell him not to think too much,'' Bartel said. ``I wouldn't be surprised if he hit 6-foot-10 in the finals.''

    Sevastopoulos said he would spend the night before the biggest competition of his life focusing on the mental aspect of his sport.

    ``I'll just try to visualize my jumps, try to think of things I need to correct,'' Sevastopoulos said. ``I'd like to get a shot at 6-10 and see how I can do.''