By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Jason Fung was sitting in the Palo Alto High gym last Friday with Athletic Director Earl Hansen, staring up into the rafters and noticing the obvious -- the lack of a Central Coast Section track and field championship banner.
"You have to get one up there," Hansen said to Fung, the Vikings' track and field coach.
"I told Earl, 'once I get it, you need to make room for me.' "
Later that day, as spectators headed for their cars at Gilroy High, Fung was busy on his phone.
"As soon as we finished, I texted him (Hansen) it's banner time," Fung recalled.
Palo Alto will have its long-awaited CCS championship banner hanging in the gym some day soon, thanks to a talented group of eight athletes who combined for 53 points and ran off with the 2012 CCS title. St. Francis was second with 41.5 and early favorite Bellarmine was third with 39.
"What a night," said Fung. "Start to finish it was a good track meet. It was our night. All the things that needed to happen, happened."
While the dominoes were falling in Paly's favor during the meet, the Vikings didn't wrap up their first-ever section crown until the final event -- the 1,600-meter relay.
Paly's 4x400 relay squad that wrapped up the title featured Morris Gates-Mouton, Nikolai Solgaard (both seniors), junior Jonathan Alee and sophomore Nick Sullivan. They set a CCS-leading and school record of 3:21.16, breaking the old mark of 3:22.6 (3:22.74 converted) from 1980.
Palo Alto won both relays, the 100 and 200, got a third in the 800 and two sixths in the field events for its championship points. That performance capped arguably the team's best season since 1914, when Paly won the league meet title, a North Coast Section crown and state championship.
The 2012 Vikings have two of those titles, but a third will be extremely difficult as two relay teams and junior E.J. Floreal head into the CIF State Meet this weekend at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High in Clovis.
Field events for Friday's prelims begin at 3 p.m., with running starting at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the field event finals start at 4:30 p.m., with running going off at 6 p.m.
Palo Alto's best chances to score well will be in the 400 relay and 200 meters. In the relay, Paly has the No. 5 qualifying time -- a 41.56 that ranks No. 1 among NorCal schools. The top qualifier is Rio Mesa in 40.95.
Floreal anchors the Vikings' foursome that includes senior Tremaine Kirkman, junior Jayshawn Gates-Mouton and senior Morris Gates-Mouton.
In the 200, Floreal has the No. 12 qualifying time of 21.84 but has a season best of 21.16. The top qualifier is Khalfani Muhammad of Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) in 21.10. Floreal also ranks No. 10 in the 100 at 10.81 with Dylan McCloskey of El Camino (San Diego) No. 1 in 10.49. Floreal's best is 10.52.
Fung said getting to the state meet was not the team's goal this season.
"The goal," Fung said, "is getting to the state finals."
Should Floreal advance from Friday's prelims in both his events and help the 400 relay reach Saturday's finals, the Vikings could have a chance to challenge for team honors.
Palo Alto also will have Solgaard in the 800, where he ranks No. 14 with his personal best of 1:54.51, plus the 1,600 relay team the No. 19 seed at 3:21.16. Chaminade (West Hills) is No. 1 in the relay at 3:15.28 while Brett Moulton of Santiago is the top 800 qualifier in 1:52.58.
No matter what happens at the state meet, Fung is very satisfied with how his 12th season as head coach as turned out.
"They've exceeded expectations," he said of his athletes. "I had high hopes for them. We did what we had to do when we had to do it. The kids know how good it feels to win and set records."
Palo Alto did just that to open and close the CCS meet.