NORWALK - Los Gatos' Nik Kay lay on his back with his eyes closed Friday afternoon, contemplating what could have been the last discus throw of his high school career.
Kay, whose mark of 204 feet, 10 inches at the Central Coast Section finals last weekend was the second best in the nation this year, felt the pressure as the favorite in the California Interscholastic Federation state track and field championships. His first two throws in the preliminaries failed to clear 160 feet, and Kay faced the possibility of elimination.
Spinning twice before his release, Kay delivered the best throw of the day at Cerritos College -- 191-3 -- and let out a huge sigh of relief as he left the throwing area.
``I just didn't have good flights on those first two throws,'' the 6-foot-7, 260-pound senior said. ``As soon as I let that last throw go, I knew I was in, and that made my heart jump. I was definitely scared there for a few minutes. But I told myself the meet was over, and I tried to treat it like a practice throw so there would be no pressure.''
There may have been no pressure in Kay's mind, but his mother, father and twin sister, Marcail, were tense as they watched on a slightly windy, overcast day along with Wildcats throwing coach Ron McKee.
``I'm only good for one angioplasty per year,'' McKee joked as he congratulated Kay. ``It was a nerves issue; coming in ranked No. 1, Nik felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. What he needed was a pretty throw like that last one to calm him down.''
Kay rebounded and threw more consistently in the shot put, improving with each attempt and recording a mark of 60-11 on his third try. It was good enough to qualify him second behind Jared Bray of Mission Bay, who had a throw of 61-9.
``I wanted to qualify early in the shot so I could conserve energy,'' Kay said. ```Then I ended up getting in a duel with Jared. I'm pretty excited about tomorrow. Who knows what could happen?''
Kay was one of nine CCS boys who advanced to the finals today.
Aptos junior Jacob Evans ran the second heat of the 1,600 meters and stayed near the lead, qualifying with a time of 4 minutes, 12.81 seconds. San Lorenzo Valley junior Alex Dunn finished 10th, one spot shy of a spot in the finals, at 4:16.84.
``It was an extremely fast heat, and I wasn't mentally prepared for the pace,'' Evans said. ``I was thinking of the pain in the last 100 meters -- it hurt bad.''
Bellarmine College Prep's Matt Bordoni, who received a spot in the 800 field when Evans scratched the event after the CCS finals, capitalized and placed second in his heat. He qualified with a time of 1:54.74, sixth-best overall, and Los Gatos junior Chad Blanchard squeezed in with a ninth-best 1:54.86.
Ronnie Drummer wasn't thrilled with his performance in the sprints, but the junior from North Salinas will get a chance to improve today after posting qualifying times in the 100 and 200.
``Everything went well except for my start and my finish,'' Drummer said with a laugh, referring to his effort in the 100. But his time of 10.75 was the fifth-best of the day. He ran a 21.64 in the 200, finishing third in his heat and eighth overall.
NORWALK - Whether it was youthful innocence or nerves of steel, Los Gatos freshman Christine Jones wasn't the least bit intimidated during her preliminary heat in the 800 meters Friday at Cerritos College.
Maybe others in the field at the California Interscholastic Federation state meet should feel nervous when they step into the blocks for the final today and see her in Lane 4. Jones earned the inside lane with a second-fastest time of 2:13.35.
``I just wanted to try my best and have fun,'' Jones said. ``That's what I'm here for. It's just another race.''
So, will the final, expected to draw 15,000 spectators, also be just another race?
``It's only two laps; it never changes,'' Jones said. ``I have to have confidence in myself.''
Jones qualified for state by placing second at the Central Coast Section finals last weekend in 2:12.18. She might need to eclipse 2:12 to win here.
``I've seen her develop over the year, and when you add her maturity and mental focus, she's incredibly tenacious,'' Los Gatos Coach Monica Townsend said.
• Prospect senior Fermen Smith continued the dramatic improvement he has been showing all year by clearing a personal best of 6 feet, 8 inches and finishing second in qualifying for the high jump.
Eastside Christian's TJ Fakehinde also cleared the height but had no misses. Smith cleared it on his first attempt; his only miss came on his first attempt at 6-6.
``Fermen looks relaxed and is jumping very smoothly,'' Prospect Coach Kirk Mansfield said. ``I think he has a 6-10 jump in him. He's really calm and business-like right now, and I think he's got a great shot at medaling tomorrow.''
• Valley Christian middle-distance standout Amanda Thornberry, the state leader in the 1,600, was forced to watch from the stands Friday. The senior wore a protective boot on her foot, rehabilitating from a stress fracture that forced her to scratch from the meet.
``It's been developing for a while,'' said Thornberry, who will run for Cal next season. ``It's disappointing.''
• CCS boys fared well in the triple jump, with Greenfield's Joel Tuosto qualifying in third at 48-1 1/4. Palo Alto senior Tolu Wusu also qualified for the finals with an eighth-place leap of 46-9 1/2.
Carmel long jumper Chris Brown cleared 23-1 1/4 on his second attempt of the day, good enough to advance.
• Los Angeles Baptist senior Allyson Felix, the sprint phenom who broke Marion Jones' national high school record in the 200 this season, recorded the best times of the day in the 100 and 200. Felix is the defending state champion in both events and could challenge Jones' meet record in both.
NORWALK - This was not how Alicia Follmar envisioned her first experience at the California Interscholastic Federation state track and field championships. The Saratoga sophomore, owner of the state's second-best time in the 1,600 meters, was stuck near the back in her preliminary heat Friday.
After several failed attempts at better position, Follmar finally found some open space. She joined three runners who separated from the pack, made her move on the final turn and recorded the day's best time at Cerritos College: 4 minutes, 59.33 seconds.
``I was really fresh, but I got cut off a lot,'' Follmar said. ``But it was a good experience. Now I know what to do. I have to be more aggressive and not let people push me around.''
Follmar was one of 11 girls from the Central Coast Section who advanced to today's finals. Los Gatos freshman Christine Jones and Aptos senior Kirsten Loftin each qualified with the second-best mark in their event. Jones ran the 800 in 2:13.35, and Loftin cleared 11 feet, 8 inches in the pole vault.
Mt. Pleasant sophomore Galina Becker was the only athlete to qualify in multiple events, advancing in the long jump and triple jump.
Follmar, who won the 1,600 at the CCS finals last weekend with a strong burst down the home stretch, said she felt intimidated by the strong state field. She was glad to get through her first experience here and advance to the final.
``I had never ran with a lot of these people, so I was really nervous,'' Follmar said. ``I think I got rid of a lot of nerves, but I'm sure I'll be nervous tomorrow.''
There will be two familiar faces lining up with Follmar. St. Ignatius' Cira Viewhweg placed third in her heat with a time of 5:00.86, and San Lorenzo Valley senior Raquel Barrientos was fourth in hers at 4:59.72.
Two Mt. Pleasant jumpers advanced to the finals; senior Jade Myles will join Becker in the long jump. Both athletes competed here last year but failed to reach the finals.
``Last year's experience helped immensely,'' Mt. Pleasant jumps coach Jamal Elmidge said. ``The year of maturity, especially for Galina coming in as a freshman -- there was a lot of pressure.
``I wish we could have got them both in for both jumps, but it's great.''
Becker posted the fifth-best mark in each of her events, and Elmidge believes she's in good position for the triple jump final. Becker jumped 39-1 3/4 and hopes to go beyond 40 feet today, which would be a personal best.
``If she jumps what I know she's capable of, we're in the hunt,'' Elmidge said.
Myles placed 12th in the triple jump, but her mark of 18-6 1/4 in the long jump was the seventh best all day. Myles was second to Becker in the event at the CCS finals.
``What really helped her out was technique stuff,'' Elmidge said. ``She's really starting to pick that up.''