Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 6, 2014

It's their final laps

Menlo's Price, Gunn's Robinson head into CIF State Track and Field Championships looking to close out their memorable prep careers

by Keith Peters

Two memorable high school track careers are coming down to their final hours as seniors Maddy Price of Menlo School and Sarah Robinson of Gunn prepare for their final races at the CIF State Track and Field Championships.

They are among 18 local athletes who will be competing at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High in Clovis this weekend. The weather will be hot, with temperatures expected to reach 101 for Friday trials and 104 for Saturday's finals.

Getting loose for events will not be an issue.

Both Price and Robinson have rewritten their school's record books during their standout careers. Both have left their marks on the Central Coast Section all-time list with Price No. 2 in the 400 (53.43) and Robinson No. 4 in the 1,600 (4:44.07) and No. 5 in the 3,200 (10:16.98).

Currently, Price is No. 4 in the nation in the 400 while Robinson is No. 4 in the 1,600. Price is No. 2 in the state while Robinson is No. 3 in addition to ranking seventh in the 3,200.

The two, however, have brought more to their sport than just numbers.

"Not only is Maddy a 400/200 runner, as you can see, she's a shot putter, hurdler, cross country runner, along with a basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball player along with motorbike rider, swimmer, and the list goes on," said Menlo coach Jorge Chen. "Maddy is what I call a pure athlete, and if I dare say it a 'phenom' who not only is athletic but fiercely competitive.

"But, at the same time, what people don't notice about Maddy is that she has a huge heart and is an awesome teammate since the past seasons she's been doing multiple events in order to score points for Menlo School for the TEAM (since I always tell parents/kids that at Menlo, Track is a TEAM sport). Maddy is the best athlete at Menlo in the past decade and I'm lucky and honored to be her coach."

Gunn coach PattiSue Plumer says she, too, is fortunate to have been able to coach an athlete like Robinson.

"I will likely never work with an athlete like her again," said Plumer, who was a nine-time All-American at Stanford and a two-time Olympian and obviously knows a great athlete when she sees one. "(She's) light years ahead of me at this stage.

"Just look at the Gunn record board. It is populated by girls who have gone on to run D1 in college. Now, Sarah has the school records in three events, plus cross country, plus several meet records, and is on the board in 400 and would likely make the board in the 200 and 300 hurdles if she had been given the chance. And she did this while playing soccer and going to a highly competitive, stressful public high school."

Price and Robinson can add to their legacies this weekend as both seek their first state title. Price's best opportunity will be in the 400, where she finished sixth last year. Since then, she made it a goal to win the state crown. She'll need to beat freshman Kaelin Roberts of Long Beach Poly to achieve that goal.

Robinson was third in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200 last year. She could improve upon both finishes, with the 1,600 perhaps being her best shot at a gold. Robinson's school record and personal best of 4:44.07 from finishing second to state leader Anna Maxwell at the CCS Championships last Friday gives her the No. 2 seed behind Maxwell's 4:43.82.

In the 3,200, the four runners who finished ahead of Robinson last year are gone. Defending champ Sarah Baxter is injured and Maxwell (third in 2013) dropped the event before CCS. Two others graduated. Freshman Bethan Knights of Northwood in Irvine is the odds-on-favorite with her top qualifying time of 9:54.89.

Joining Robinson and Price from the local area will be Palo Alto's 1,600 relay team of Nick Sullivan (also in 400), Eli Givens (also in 100 and 200), Charlie Badger and Dami Bolarinwa; Menlo-Atherton's 1,600 relay team of Annalisa Crowe, Annie Harrier, Miranda Simes and Jordan Olesen plus pole vaulter Kathryn Mohr; Menlo School's Paul Touma (triple jump); plus Gunn's 400 relay team of Amy Chen, Robin Peter, Maya Miklos (also in 300 hurdles) and Jenae Pennywell (also in 100); plus teammates Gillian Meeks (3,200) and Adriana Noronha (shot put, discus).

The trials begin with field events at 3 p.m., followed by running at 5 p.m. Saturday, field events open at 4:30 p.m. with running at 6 p.m.

For the Gunn girls, the state meet is icing on the cake after they won their first-ever CCS team title last week at San Jose City College.

Despite losing to Los Gatos in a dual meet and finishing second to the Wildcats at the SCVAL De Anza Division finals and the SCVAL Championship Meet, Gunn made up for that in a big way at the section finals by defeating the defending champs, 73-70.

"It is absolutely the best day I ever had as a coach," Plumer said. "Fantastic, wonderful and surreal night."

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 Plumer. "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 all of its seven girls score and had all seven qualify in seven events for the state meet.

"It's going to be so fun," Plumer said of the state meet. "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."

Robinson was a major factor in the CCS title as she ran a rare triple — 800, 1,600 and 3,200 — and scored 22 points.

The key event was the 800 meters. Despite coming in ranked No. 3 in the state, Robinson finished fifth in 2:12.97, well off the school record of 2:09.72 she ran at the CCS trials. Nonetheless, she surpassed the automatic qualifying time for the state meet.

Robinson's effort to run for points gave the Titans 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'."

Robinson also took second in the 1,600 with Meeks fourth in a personal best of 4:56.98. That gave the Titans 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). 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.

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, despite nearly dropping the baton on one exchange.

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.

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.

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.

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.

For Menlo, Price defended her section titles in the 400 and 200 with times of 54.67 and 24.33, respectively.

"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."

Touma, a junior, 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. He fouled on his first two jumps before reaching 44-5 to qualify for the finals.

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, Givens, junior Alec Sullivan and Nick Sullivan.

Nick Sullivan came back strong in the 400 finale as he finished third in 48.82 and earned is second trip to the state meet. 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.

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.

While Menlo-Atherton sophomore Mohr finished sixth with a clearance of 11-7 in the girls' pole vault, she matched the 'at-large' qualifying mark for the state meet with her personal-best effort.

The Bears' 1,600 relay team finished third with a 3:57.47, third-fastest in school history.

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