CLOVIS — Leland's Katie Nelms is a state meet veteran who knows exactly how to handle preliminary races — conserving energy while putting herself in a good situation for a successful run in the finals.
Nelms attacked her 300-meter hurdles race with excellent strategy Friday, running a smooth circuit around the track to take her heat in 42.99 seconds, the third fastest time of the day.
"It's a brutal race, so you don't want to go 100 percent and come back with nothing in the final," the Stanford-bound Nelms said. "My goal was to win my heat and give myself a good lane position. I ran a controlled race and was able to do that."
Nelms wasn't as happy with her 100-meter hurdles race, but she still qualified eighth in 14.24.
The field is stacked with stars for the 100 hurdles, and Valley Christian's Hannah Goranson held her own in the second heat, finishing second behind Melia Cox of Long Beach Poly with a time of 13.84 to reach the finals.
The Duke-bound Goranson managed to survive when a hurdler directly to her left went down hard over the third hurdle. Caught in traffic, Goranson emerged halfway through the race and came on strong at the end.
"I'm getting more used to that, but it still surprised me," Goranson said. "I just tried to keep my focus and work through it."
Today's final is an elite field including Trinity Wilson of St. Mary's-Berkeley, ranked second in the nation, along with Kori Carter of Claremont, a three time state champion.
"It should be exciting," Goranson said. "I just want to run a personal best. I have a bet with my coach. If I get it, he has to buy me a lemon meringue pie."
Mountain View sophomore Allison Sturges ran an intelligent race in the 1,600, finishing second in her heat in 5:01.51.
Prospect's Mariah Rogers was third in the long jump at the Central Coast Section meet last week. But the senior jumped 18-10 to qualify fifth for the finals.
Wilcox sophomore Iesha Hardiman finished second in her 400-meter heat with a time of 55.36 to qualify for the finals with the sixth fastest time of the night.
Valley Christian's Jenna Davis qualified for the 800-meter final with a time of 2:12.30. Los Altos pole vaulter Diamara Planell vault of 11-3 earned a spot in the pole vault final.
The Mt. Pleasant girls 400-meter relay team reached the final with the seventh best time of 47.28, finishing third in its heat. It's a young team featuring sophomore Cydney Leath, senior Denise Murphy, junior Shanique Walker and sophomore Shayla McPherson.
It was a big day for Walker and Leath, who also qualified for the triple jump final. Leath's mark of 39-7 1/4 was fourth and Walker (38-10 1/2) was eighth.
Gilroy's Sarah Una Dia had a personal best and school record of 5-foot-6 in the long jump to reach the finals.
Homestead's Jillian Weir threw the discus 139-2 earned the ninth and final qualifying spot for the finals. She also got into the shot put final with a throw of 42-5.
Pinewood's Angela Gradiska failed to reach the finals in the 100 and 200 meters. She finished fourth and second respectively last year but was plagued by an injured arch that set back her training this year.
CLOVIS — The memory of last year's CIF State Track and Field meet has haunted Nathan Strum ever since.
Strum was making his move in the 800-meter preliminaries when he was bumped by another runner and then tripped over the rail that lines the inside lane.
The Pioneer senior put that race behind him Friday night by running his fastest time ever to win his heat in 1 minute, 51.62 seconds.
The UC Davis-bound Strum was in the back of the pack until he made his move on the back stretch, passing at least six runners. He came off the final turn in good shape, sprinting to an easy win and qualifying for today's final.
"I learned my lesson from last year. I didn't want to be to close to that rail in a crowd," said Strum, whose twin brother, Weston, will race in today's 3,200 final. "But I was never in the position that I wanted to be. I had to pass a lot of people from the outside. I didn't really have much of a plan. They went out fast, and I just tried to run my own race. I knew I had it in the last 100, but I kept pushing because I wanted a P.R. (personal record).
Strum's time was the second-fastest of the day. Valencia's Sean Krinik won his heat in 1:50.44.
In preparation for today's final, Strum was planning to take an ice bath. "My calf is really feeling tight, I have to work on that," he said with a smile.
Palo Alto's Philip MacQuitty is a state meet veteran, having raced in the 3,200 final twice in his high school career.
Friday, the UCLA-bound senior added another race to his finals résumé as he qualified for the 1,600 final by finishing second in his heat with a time of 4:17.94.
MacQuitty came through the home stretch with his trademark kick but was edged at the line by Loyola's Elias Gedyon (4:17.93).
"That's OK, this one is just to get to tomorrow. That's the race that matters," MacQuitty said. "It was a slow race. I made up some ground on the second lap to get into striking position."
Silver Creek's C.J. Nwuzi is one of the top all-around athletes in the Central Coast Section. He was MVP of the Santa Teresa Division in basketball and finished fifth in the triple jump at CCS and second in the discus with a throw of 152 feet, 6 inches. He improved on that dramatically Friday by unleashing a throw of 175-11 to qualify seventh for the finals.
Valley Christian's Byron Marshall, who edged Gilroy's Julius Travis in the closest of 100-meter races at CCS, met up with Travis again in a 100 heat Friday. Marshall finished in 10.73 and Travis in 10.80, both failing to qualify for the final.
Marshall failed to qualify in the long jump with a leap of 21-9.
Taylor Kientzel of Santa Cruz qualified eighth in the triple jump in 47-81/4. Mike Kennedy of St. Ignatius qualified eighth in the long jump at 22-83/4. Los Gatos pole vaulter Benjamin Berthet cleared 14-9 to advance.
CLOVIS — Pioneer's Weston Strum had watched his brother Nathan turn in another fine performance with a third-place finish in the 800 meters at the CIF State Track and Field finals.
The twins had a chance to talk after the race, and Nathan encouraged his brother by simply saying, "Now it's your turn."
Weston took the advice to heart, running the race of his life to finish second in the 3,200 meters in the 92nd annual meet at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Staying in the middle of the pack for the first half of the race, Weston began to pass runners in the second half and made his final surge with 400 meters left. His time of 8 minutes, 56.42 seconds, was a personal best. South Pasadena's Sam Pons won in 8:55.40.
"I'm more of a miler, so I knew I shouldn't go out fast," said Weston, who is headed for Loyola Marymount. "I tried to pick off runners one by one. I was aiming for a top-five finish, so I'm really happy with the outcome."
With his trademark black socks and a strong kick that reels in runners down the stretch in the 800 meters, Nathan Strum pushed the pace from the start in the fastest race he has been a part of.
Valencia's Sean Krinik and Burbank's Greg Dotson broke away from the pack on the back stretch, and for a split-second a tinge of doubt crossed Strum's mind. But as he kicked it into another gear, Strum flew by the rest of the pack and finished with his usual flourish, running a personal best of 1:50.43 to finish third. Krinik won in 1:48.20, the fastest time in the nation this year.
"My strength is usually the last 300 yards, but they went out so fast and I tried to stay with them," said Strum, who is bound for UC Davis. "I think my first lap was in the low 54s, and that's the fastest it's ever been. I was tired, but when I started to make my move, I realized everyone else was tired, too.
"I was so nervous before the race, but the crowd was great."
Palo Alto's Philip MacQuitty had a goal of setting a personal best by breaking 4:10 in the 1,600 meters.
But when his race went out at a snail's pace, the senior had to adapt quickly.
MacQuitty made a valiant move on the final lap, surging to the lead with Novato's Erik Olson coming into the final turn, just ahead of a tightly bound group. Loyola's Elias Gedyon burst into the lead heading into the home stretch and held on for the win in 4:21.12. MacQuitty was right there, finishing third in 4:21.53.
"I knew there was not going to be a P.R. after that first lap, then the second lap was even slower," MacQuitty said. "The final lap was just total chaos with a group of 12 runners bunched together. I've never been in a final like that, but a race is a race; you've go to do what you can to win."
CLOVIS — The girls 100-meter hurdles was one of the most highly anticipated races of the night at the 92nd annual CIF State Track and Field Finals, with six of the nation's top-ranked hurdlers in the field.
Valley Christian's Hannah Goranson proved she belonged with the group of stars — finishing fourth with a personal best time of 13.68 seconds, in a wind-aided effort at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Leland's Katie Nelms also medaled, finishing sixth in 13.93. Claremont's Kori Carter won in 13.33.
Goranson left the track with a visible hand print on her right thigh, having been inadvertently slapped by a competitor coming over a hurdle.
"I never realized the hurdles was such a physical race until the last few weeks," the Duke-bound senior said. "But I'm getting used to it and am very happy to have run my best."
Nelms said she was content with her finish in the 100 hurdles but slightly disappointed with her performance in her signature race — the 300 hurdles. Nelms reached the podium again with a time of 42.90 to finish fifth. Carter (40.44) was the winner once again with the fastest time in the nation this year.
"I just didn't put the race together like I wanted to," Nelms said. "I'm my own worst critic. A season like this is really going to push me to be even more dedicated next year. I'm satisfied with this meet, but not ecstatic."
Nelms will get a chance to train closely with Carter as both will compete at Stanford.
A pair of Mt. Pleasant athletes had a big day in the triple jump with sophomore Cydney Leath finishing third and junior Shanique Walker taking fourth.
The duo were also members of the Cardinals' 400-meter relay team that finished eighth in 47.64.
Leath, who finished ninth in the triple jump as a freshman, had a personal best jump of 40 feet, 3 inches, and Walker also had her best effort with a mark of 39-81/2.
"We've got great coaching at Mt. Pleasant," Leath said. "And we're looking forward to coming back and doing even better next year."
Homestead's Jillian Weir barely qualified for the discus final, tying for ninth in the preliminary round. But the Long Beach State-bound senior earned a medal in the finals with a toss of 148-3 to finish fourth. She was also seventh in the shot put (42-10).
"She got in (to the finals) by the skin of her teeth, and it would have been heartbreaking if she hadn't made it because that was her worst series of throws all year," Homestead throws coach Andy Arness said. "Thankfully she got to the final and made the most of it."
Prospect senior Mariah Rogers was in sixth place in the long jump when she hit a personal best with a leap of 19-13/4 in to move up a spot into fifth place.
Rogers's training had been limited by a hamstring injury.
"We're really happy how she responded to the pressure of the state meet coming through with her best effort," coach Darrin Garcia said.
Mountain View's Allison Sturges ran a personal best of 4 minutes, 57.48 seconds to earn a sixth-place medal in the 1,600 meters. Sturges steadily moved up from the back of the pack and nearly caught the runner ahead of her at the finish line.
"I'm happy to get a medal. This is my second year, and I had a better mindset," Sturges said. "With this experience, next year I should be even more relaxed and comfortable."
Wilcox sophomore Iesha Hardiman just missed a medal in the 400 meters, finishing seventh in 55.33.