Pinewood sprinter Gradiska ready for her finals - San Jose Mercury News

Sure, Angela Gradiska stepped out of a classroom at Pinewood-Los Altos Hills for the last time this school year after her math exam Wednesday.

"I'm officially on summer break now," the junior said.

But technically speaking, Gradiska isn't done with finals. Not as long as she makes it through Friday's preliminary heats in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the CIF State Track and Field Championships near Fresno.

"To make it to finals I'm going to have to run what I ran in CCS finals," Gradiska said.

Last Friday at Gilroy, Gradiska won both events at the Central Coast Section Championships. Her time of 11.76 in the 100 dash is the third-fastest qualifying time in the state, while her 24.05 mark in the 200 dash is fourth-fastest.

Everyone will be chasing another junior, though — Ashton Purvis of St. Elizabeth in Oakland.

"It's always fun to race against her," Gradiska said. "She's probably the fastest of the fastest girls in the nation now.

"This year I think I'm a lot closer time-wise to her. Hopefully she'll be able to pull me along if I see her and try to catch up with her."

After playing basketball and tennis throughout elementary and junior high, Gradiska became a competitive runner as a freshman at Pinewood.

She barely missed qualifying for state that year, but made it in both the 100 and 200 as a sophomore after racing against the top people in the nation at the likes of Arcadia and the Stanford



"I gained a lot of experience sophomore year," Gradiska said. "I got used to the atmosphere of big meets."

Every once in a while Gradiska races in West Bay Athletic League meets for Pinewood, but in reality she's more of a freelancer. An honorary member of the Gunn-Palo Alto track team, Gradiska trains with Joy Upshaw-Margerum, a member of the Titans' staff, and Miche Hoffer.

After playing varsity tennis as a freshman and sophomore, Gradiska gave up her racket for extra training, including longer distances like the 400.

"Although I miss playing and the whole team bonding experience, the winter and fall training helped bring my time down," said Gradiska, who exhibits more strength down the stretch.

Today will consist of light running and stretching at the Los Altos High track to keep her legs fresh before a drive Friday to Buchanan High School in Clovis with her dad. Gradiska will stay at the same hotel as the Gunn track team.

She will then wake up Saturday hoping she has two finals left before officially turning into a senior.

Pinewood sprinter Gradiska Trials - San Jose Mercury News

FRESNO — This time, Angela Gradiska says she's healthy for the state track and field meet.

This time, the Pinewood-Los Altos Hills sprinter believes she's peaking at the right time and her best only now is starting to show.

And perhaps most importantly, this time, Gradiska believes she can win it all, her coaches say.

That's the difference a year makes. A year ago, Gradiska couldnt make it out of the state preliminary round. But after Friday, Gradiska could possibly win two medals, maybe even become a double gold medalist, in today's finals of the 100 and 200-meter sprints.

Gradiska emerged as a title threat in both events after logging the sixth-fastest time in the nation in the 100 and the nation's fifth-best mark in the 200 on Friday in the states preliminary round at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis.

"Winning state didn't even cross my mind, but now after these times, it would be so awesome," said the junior Gradiska. "Now I'm ranked so high, I really hope I can get top three in both.

"It's definitely going to be hard. If I run the same, then I'm sure I'll be able to do well."

Gradiska ran the 100 in 11.67 seconds, winning her heat and logging the second-best time of the prelims.

Her chances of winning gold increased significantly after the state's favorite, Ashton Purvis of St. Elizabeth-Oakland, scratched out of the blocks and was disqualified. Jessica Davis of Highland-Palmdale topped all runners


at 11.62.

"Obviously, my chances of winning are better without (Purvis)," Gradiska said. "But I'm trying not to concentrate too much on what others are doing. My goal coming in here was to set personal bests. I've done that so far. We'll see where this goes."

A little less than two hours later, Gradiska won her heat in the 200 at 23.64 seconds and again logged the second-best time of the prelims.

Gradiska turned a one-foot deficit into a 15-foot lead while showing great balance and acceleration while running the curve.

The only runner to finish ahead of Gradiska in the prelims: Purvis, who won her heat at 23.51 to set up a showdown in the finals.

"You could tell (Purvis) was mad," Gradiska said. "Hopefully, I can feed off her energy, use the turn to accelerate and pull away at the end. It's going to be exciting."

Joy Upshaw Margerum, one of Gradiska's coaches, said Gradiska has matured greatly from last year's state meet. Gradiska also is said to be fully healthy and healed from a pulled hip flexor that hindered her performance at state last year.

"She's mentally more prepared," Upshaw Margerum said. "She has the experience. I'm not surprised at how well she's done. I wouldnt be surprised if she won it all."

What was surprising was the no-show of Carlmont-Belmont senior Justine Fedronic in the 800 meters. The Central Coast Section champion did not compete Friday. Fedronic has dealt with various injuries the past three years, including nagging leg injuries the past five weeks, a stress fracture last year and a torn calf muscle two years ago.

The Palo Alto area had four individuals and one relay team advance to today's finals: the St. Francis 400 relay team of Anthony Andrighetto, Glyn Borel, Marty Manoukian and Phillip Depond, who ran a 41.63; Harrison Steed of Serra-San Mateo in the boys high jump after clearing 6 feet, 8 inches; Serra senior Chris Bet in the pole vault after clearing 14-9; and St. Francis senior Jeffrey Butler in the discus after throwing 163-9, the ninth and lowest mark to make the cut.

Also advancing but not having to compete in a preliminary round were 3,200-meter runners Jessie Petersen of Carlmont, Allegra Mayer of Gunn-Palo Alto, Garrett Rowe of Mountain View and Philip Macquitty of Palo Alto.

Other local results from Friday's preliminaries:

  • Gunn junior Sunny Margerum placed 23rd in the long jump (17 feet).

  • Mountain View freshman Allison Sturges placed 15th at 1,600 meters (4:59.75).

  • Gunn sophomore Erin Robinson was 23rd at 1,600 meters (5:03.60).

  • Castilleja-Palo Alto senior Libby Cooper finished 13th in the 300 hurdles (44.84).

  • St. Francis senior Shanie Landen had the 21st-best time in the 400 meters (57.43).

  • The St. Francis girls 400 relay team (Kathleen Garrity, Shanie Landen, Monica Harnoto and Lauren Tarantino) placed 23rd (49.21).

  • The St. Francis girls 1,600 relay team (Lauren Madigan, Kathleen Garrity, Lauren Tarantino and Shanie Landen) was 20th (3:58.89).

  • St. Francis' Butler finished 13th in the shot put (50-8.75)

  • St. Francis senior Lasjohn Johnson was 11th in the triple jump (45-9 1/4).

  • Serra's boys 400 relay team (Adonis Smith, Don Andre Clark, Rick Rosario and Nate Harvey) placed 14th (42.11).

    Pinewood sprinter Gradiska Finals - San Jose Mercury News

    CLOVIS — Angela Gradiska's long, powerful stride is ideal for running the turn on her favorite race — the 200-meter dash. But Friday, the Pinewood junior showed she can also sprint with California's best in the 100 meters.

    The junior burst out of the blocks in the 100 and blew away the field in her heat with a personal-best time of 11.67 in the preliminaries of the 91st annual CIF State Track and Field Meet at Buchanan High. It was the seventh-best time in the nation this year (the top mark is 11.09, ran by Octavious Freeman of Lake Wales, Fla.).

    "I was definitely surprised," Gradiska said. "My coaches kept telling me that the fast track and great competition would help me P.R. (run a personal record) here. Last year the atmosphere was a little overwhelming, but now I've got the experience and feel so much stronger. I got a great start in the 100 and got up to speed real fast."

    Gradiska's chances to win the 100 today got a boost in the next heat when Ashton Purvis of St. Elizabeth-Oakland, who entered the meet ranked No. 1 in the 100, was disqualified for a false start. Highland's Jessica Davis won that heat with the best time of the day 11.62.

    Gradiska ran another personal best (23.64), winning her heat and qualifying second in the 200 meters to Purvis (23.51). Gradiska's previous best was 24.05

    "Winning the state meet hadn't really crossed my mind; I was just hoping to run my best," Gradiska said. "But after


    running these times, it would be awesome."

  • Leland's Katie Nelms also ran well in a race that isn't her specialty — with a personal best of 13.70 to qualify sixth for the finals in the 100-meter hurdles. Valley Christian's Hannah Goranson reached the final finishing with the ninth-best time (14.33).

    Nelms came back to finish second in her heat of her favorite race, the 300 hurdles, qualifying sixth (43.43).

  • Gilroy's Peter Guenther was all smiles after running personal bests in the 300 hurdles (37.71) and the 110 hurdles (14.04). Guenther was in the same heat with La Sierra's Reggie Wyatt, who set a national record with a time of 35.02 in the 300 hurdles.

    "I pushed him to a national record," Guenther said with a smile. But the pace did push Guenther to a spot in the finals qualifying fifth.

  • The St. Francis boys 400-meter relay team of Anthony Andrighetto, Glyn Borel, Marty Manoukian and Phillip Depond had the fastest time of any team not winning one of the four heats. The Lancers qualified fifth for the finals with a time of 41.63, their best this season..

  • It's the first state meet for Mt. Pleasant's Cydney Leath, but the freshman performed like a veteran in the triple jump with a final leap 39-61/4 to qualify for the finals with a seventh-place finish. "I was a little nervous at first," Leath said. "But I settled down after a couple jumps. I want to try to break 40 feet tomorrow and win a medal."

  • Other qualifiers included Leigh junior Jordan Diaz, who will run in the girls' 800 final after qualifying eighth with a time of 2:12.34. San Mateo's Kendall Spencer qualified sixth in the 100 meters (10.61). Saratoga's Kiersten Dolbec high jumped 5-foot-5 to make the finals. Branham's Kevin Jani, who finished third at CCS, qualified sixth for the 800 meter final (1:53.63).

    St. Francis discus thrower Jeffrey Butler improved on his third-place finish at CCS with a toss of 163 feet, 9 inches to earn the ninth and final spot in the final. Kendall Spencer of San Mateo qualified for the finals in the 100 meters (6th, with a 10.61), the 200 meters (8th, 21.55) and the long jump (9th, 22-06.25). Carlmont's Justine Fedronic, one of the favorites in the 800 meters, scratched from the meet because of a stress fracture.

    Katie Nelms 2nd- San Jose Mercury News

    Leland's Katie Nelms was a picture of focus as she prepared for the finals of the 100-meter hurdles at the 91st CIF State Track and Field Meet at Buchanan High in Clovis on Saturday.

    That mindset could have easily been shattered when she was spiked in the lower left leg by a runner to her left coming over the third hurdle, but the Chargers junior kept her composure and made a big move in front of the 9,517 fans in attendance.

    Nelms leaned at the finish line and took second with a time of 13.95, edging the third- and fourth-place finishers by one and three hundredths of a second. Kori Carter of Claremont won in 13.59. The race featured the top four hurdlers in the country, with Nelms ranked No. 4.

    "You hear about things like that happening, but never think it can happen to you," said Nelms of the spike to her leg. "After that I realized I had to push real hard between hurdles to have a chance. That's something I've been working on in training to finish strong in the last half."

    Nelms also won a medal in the 300 hurdles, finishing fourth in 42.94. Nelms said to run in the 41-second range she needs to switch her lead leg on every hurdle in the 300, but she went with the right leg first on the opening two hurdles.

    "I lost a bit of focus there and it came back to bite me," Nelms said. "But I'm really happy with the meet I had."

  • Pinewood's Angela Gradiska established herself as one of the top junior sprinters in the nation


    with a second-place finish in the 200 meters with a time of 23.85. Gradiska came out of the turn like a bolt of lightning, and, with a surge at the end, managed to out-lean Jessica Davis of Highland by three hundredths of a second. Ashton Purvis of St. Elizabeth-Oakland won in 23.46.

    "I knew I would have a good time going against runners like Ashley and Jessica, luckily I had enough to pull ahead of Jessica at the end," Gradiska said. "I'm going to train hard in the off-season and hopefully be back here next year with two first-place medals."

    Gradiska came on strong in the second half of the 100 meters to finish fourth in 11.74. Rio Mesa sophomore Valexsia Droughn won in 11.54.

  • Mountain View junior Garrett Rowe finished fourth in the 3,200 meters with a personal-best time of 8:55.71, shattering his previous record by 13 seconds. Chris Schwartz of Foothill won in 8:51.60. Eight runners broke nine minutes.

    "I didn't really make a move at the end, it was more of a continuous move throughout the whole race," Rowe said. "There were a ton of real fast guys out there. I usually pass on the straightaways, but I had to move up anywhere I got a chance with this field."

  • Leigh junior Jordan Diaz was running in her third 800-meter final, but she had never won a medal until placing sixth with a time of 2:11.37. Jordan was in seventh place (the top six win medals) coming down the stretch when she caught her cousin, Lia Rivers Birt of Bishop O'Dowd, edging her by nine hundredths of a second.

    "I was just thinking that I have to get a spot on the medal stand," Diaz said.

  • St. Francis Jeffery Butler decided to try throwing the discus for the first time this season. Saturday, the senior walked off the field with a sixth-place medal after a throw of 170 feet, 11 inches. An accomplished pole vaulter and hurdler, Butler might become a college decathlete. He was third at CCS in the discus and shot and had no expectations entering state.

    "I thought I was going to get swept, but I went from a career-best of 158 feet to 170 feet in two days, it was a crazy meet," Butler said.

  • Saratoga's Kiersten Dolbec finished sixth in the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 6 inches, two inches off the winning jump.

  • Gilroy's Peter Guenther (39.01) finished seventh in the 300 hurdles.