After finishing second to Los Gatos at the SCVAL De Anza Division finals and the SCVAL Championship Meet, the Gunn girls pretty much figured they'd see the same outcome at the Central Coast Section Track and Field Championships.
Well, they were wrong. Three certainly was a charm for the Titans as they scored just enough points and defeated the defending champion Wildcats, 73-70, on Friday at San Jose City College.
"It is absolutely the best day I ever had as a coach," Gunn coach PattiSue Plumer said. "I can't imagine being any happier than I am at this moment."
Plumer figured it would be a three-team race between Piedmont Hills, Los Gatos and Gunn. Moreover, it would take something pretty special to finish on top.
Special just begins to tell the story as the Titans pulled together as a team to win the first CCS track and field title in school history. Gunn's previous best finish was second in 2009.
"We were thinking about it (the title), but we also knew that Los Gatos was really good," said . We've lost to them three times this season. We had the title in our minds, but we weren't focusing on it."
Gunn had seven girls qualify in seven events for next weekend's CIF State Meet in Clovis. All seven scored. Only two are seniors.
"We don't know if we even have enough hotel rooms," Plumer said. "What a great problem to have. It's going to be so fun. Usually you have a person or two that you're taking and it's a very solitary experience. We have a chance to score points certainly. Anything can happen, but we're not going for the team title there for sure."
While the team race was slowly building, a side story was in the works, as well. Gunn senior Sarah Robinson wound up running a rare triple -- 800, 1,600 and 3,200 -- and qualifying in all three for the state meet.
The key event was the 800 meters. Despite coming in ranked No. 3 in the state, Robinson faded to fifth in 2:12.97, well off the school record of 2:09.72 she ran last weekend at the CCS trials. Nonetheless, she surpassed the automatic qualifying time for the state meet.
Robinson's effort to finish fifth -- after she had contemplated dropping the 800 after running the 1,600 -- gave the Titans four points. That turned out to be enough to win the team title.
"We realized we were in the hunt," Plumer said on having Robinson run the 800. "She was awesome. She was dead after the mile (1,600) and really wasn't excited about running the 800. Without her doing that, we would have been second. We needed those points."
With the team title at stake, Robinson was fine with a third race.
"The team title was really close, and (coach Plumer) said I didn't have to try and win it, but if I was able to get a few points in the 800 it would help out," Robinson said. "She encouraged me to do it and I said 'Yeah, might as well do it for the team'."
On running three races for a fourth straight week?
"It was OK," Robinson said. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. The previous races were like my warm-ups so I didn't have to do much in between the race except try to recover from each race. It was definitely hard, but it was manageable . . . Doing multiple events in a day really helps you prepare for state."
Robinson, who will drop the 800 this week, will duplicate her double of a year ago, going in the 1,600 and 3,200. She earned her first berth with a second-place finish of 4:44.07 in the 1,600 as state leader Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley won in 4:43.82. Robinson's time was a school record by nearly three seconds from her converted mile time. It also ranks her No. 4 all-time in the CCS plus No. 3 in the state and No. 4 nationally this season, according to Athletic.net.
"I think I just let (Maxwell) get away from me a bit too much," Robinson said. "So I had to chase her instead of just staying with her . . . If the track had been a little longer I might have been able to catch her. I'm happy I got a PR. It was a good race."
Gunn sophomore Gillian Meeks was fourth in a personal best of 4:56.98 as the Titans scored 13 points.
In the 3,200, Robinson defended her CCS title with a 10:42.02 while Meeks raced home third in a personal best of 10:47.64 (ranking No. 4 in school history) to earn a state meet berth. That finish gave Gunn 16 points -- enough to wrap up the team title as neither the Titans nor the Wildcats had a 1,600 relay team.
"It's amazing; I didn't know I had it in me," Meeks said of her finish in the 3,200. "I'm just really happy."
Gunn's 400 relay got the running portion of the meet under way by racing to second place in 48.64, the second-fastest in school history. The team featured sophomores Robin Peter, Jenae Pennywell and Maya Miklos plus junior Amy Chen.
"It was amazing," Miklos said. "I'm so proud of our team. Our girls worked so hard, and our relay coaches put so much into making this a really awesome team."
Pennywell returned to the track for her first individual event and earned another state meet berth by taking third in the 100 in a wind-aided 12.09. Had the wind been at the allowable 2-meters per second, Pennywell would have broken her own school record. Peter added two points to her team's total with a seventh-place finish of 12.48.
Miklos added eight points to Gunn's total by taking second in the 300 hurdles in 42.87. While she didn't defend her section title, Miklos earned a second event for the state meet while tying her school record.
"I'm a really competitive person so I wanted to go out there and give it my all," Miklos said. "I really wanted to go for winning. I have a lot of respect for (Reonna) Collier, but I did want to go out and win today. It was a good race, but there are definitely some things I'm going to work on for next week. This is not the end for me."
Gunn senior Adriana Noronha gave the Titans some early points as she finished third in the discus with a personal-best throw of 127-7, earning her first trip to the state meet. Her previous best was 125-8 this season. She remains No. 3 all-time in school history.
Noronha fouled on her first two throws before finally getting in a fair attempt.
"I was just thinking to slow down and get one up there so I could have my three more throws," Noronha said. "To be honest, I really just wanted to get 125 again because that was my old PR. "
"Adriana got us off to a great start by finishing third in the discus when she had been ranked fourth or fifth," Plumer said.
Noronha followed that up by finishing third in the shot put with a mark of 38-10 1/2 to make her state meet experience doubly worth it.
"This is my first time," she said. "There's going to be some jitters at state. Hopefully, I'll just go in with the mindset that I don't have anything more to lose. Just have fun with it."
In the girls' 100 hurdles finale, Gunn's Peter took advantage of the strong aiding wind at her back to clock a personal best of 15.07 while taking fifth for important points.
Menlo School senior Maddy Price battled a stiff wind on the backstretch but still cruised to an easy victory while defending her 400 title in 54.67. She won comfortably by more than a full second while earning her second straight trip to the state meet in her specialty.
"I definitely would have liked to have broken the (1982 meet) record today," Price said. "I just didn't have a great close coming off the back stretch. After 300, if I had closed in my normal time I probably would have gotten 53 low. I just didn't close as well as normal. I don't know if that's because it's nice to have somebody running next to you, or maybe my legs were a bit done.
"I think I'm just going to come back at state next week, run even faster and get low 53s again."
Price came back later in the meet and successfully defended her title in the 200 with a wind-legal 24.33. Price had hoped to take down the school record of 23.93 from 1997, but it wasn't to be.
"It feels really good to get the double again," Price said. "Definitely pleased to be a back-to-back CCS champ. That was one of my goals."
The Palo Alto boys, who finished fourth in the team scoring with 39 points, got off on the wrong foot early as their 400 relay team finished fourth in a season-best 42.64 with the team of sophomore Austin Cox, sophomore Eli Givens, junior Alec Sullivan and senior Nick Sullivan. Santa Cruz won in 42.19 while the third automatic berth went to Palma (42.53).
"It was a little disappointing, but at the end we weren't disappointed; we were happy," Givens said. "We PR'd, we got the baton through the whole way. That was our best time the whole season. We could have gotten third but we are not bummed out about it. We all thought we did a really good job. I give my teammates props."
"I think we did really well," added Nick Sullivan. "There's only so much you can expect with some of the teams coming in with guys running 10.9s. We did pretty well as a team, with what we have."
Sullivan came back strong in the 400 finale as he finished third in 48.82 and earned is second trip to the state meet.
"I wanted to try and break my school record today, which is 48.2," said Sullivan. "I just kind of had a bad race for me, locked up for the last 100 meters. Pretty lucky to get to state."
Sullivan actually stumbled as he crossed the finish line.
"The idea going in was that I was going to lean, and I ended up just falling over," Sullivan explained. "It got me to state, so I guess it was worth it . . . It's always going to be in the back of my mind that I want the Paly record. So, I have at least one more meet to do it."
Givens also bounced back from the relay finish and won the 100 in a wind-aided 10.83. He leads the CCS with a 10.77 this season.
"He looked solid in the race," Sullivan said. "He's done a great job; he's improved a lot this year. He's taken great strides and become a competitor in CCS. I think he'll definitely be a contributor for a while for us."
Said Givens: "I felt like I got a good start which got me the lead, and I was able to keep it throughout the whole race. So that helped out."
In the 200, where Sullivan has been edging Givens all season, it was Givens earning a second state berth by taking third in 22.10. Sullivan finished fifth in 22.39.
Givens and Sullivan joined forces one final time, in the 1,600 relay, as they led the Vikings to second place in a season best of 3:22.30. Givens led off, followed by Charlie Badger, Dami Bolarinwa and Sullivan. Only Sullivan has graduated.
Menlo School junior Paul Touma continued his highly successful season by taking second in the triple jump with a legal jump of 45-9 1/2 to earn his first trip to the state meet. Touma wasn't as successful in the long jump, reaching only 19-11 and finishing well back.
While Menlo-Atherton sophomore Kathryn Mohr finished sixth with a clearance of 11-7 in the girls' pole vault, Mohr matched the 'at-large' qualifying mark for the state meet with her personal-best effort.
The Bears also will send their girls' 1,600 relay team of junior Annie Harrier, Miranda Simes, Jordan Olesen and Annalisa Crowe. That foursome finished third with a 3:57.47, third-fastest in school history.
In other events where local athletes did not advance to the state meet:
In the boys' 400, Menlo-Atherton senior Zach Plante broke his own school record with a 48.88 clocking, but he got him only fifth in his final shot an an individual state meet berth. Plante also ran the third leg on the Bears' 1,600 relay team that finished seventh in 3:28.00. Other relay member were Steven McColloch, Kevin Conrad and Adam Scandlyn on the anchor.
In the boys' 110 high hurdles, Sacred Heart Prep senior Ricky Grau closed his prep career by finishing fourth in 14.90 -- missing a state meet berth by one spot.
"It was sad," Grau said of his final race. "It kind of just hit me that I'm done. I'm happy with the way it ended."
In the boys' 800, Priory junior Ross Corey just missed a state berth by taking fourth in 1:57.29.
In the girls' 800, Menlo-Atherton sophomore Annalisa Crowe was sixth in 2:12.97.
In the boys' 3,200, Sacred Heart Prep junior Daniel Hill was eighth in 9:37.94.
In the boys' 1,600, Palo Alto's Kent Slaney made his section debut with a 10th-place finish of 4:25.54. He was the only freshman in the field.
The Palo Alto girls' 1,600 relay team of Jacey Pederson, Laoula Aminoni, Megan Tall and Julia Asin was seventh in a season best of 4:01.50.
In the girls' 400 relay, Palo Alto was disqualified.