by Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The remainder of the high school track and field season will be very interesting indeed for at least three local athletes who left their marks on the SCVAL De Anza Division Track and Field Championships on Thursday at Palo Alto High.
Palo Alto junior Maurice Williams won three individual events and helped the Vikings' 400 relay team finish second. Moreover, he provided a glimpse at unlimited potential he may have in an event he just started competing in this season.
Gunn sophomore Kieran Gallagher also offered a glimpse to the near future as she raced to a breakthrough victory while setting a meet and school record.
And Palo Alto senior Philip MacQuitty showed he's ready to move away from the grueling 3200 and take on the challenges of the 800 or 1600 -- or both.
All three were outstanding on a warm but windy day where the Mountain View boys pulled away from Palo Alto to successfully defend its team title, and the Los Altos girls won the league finals but lost the overall crown to Mountain View, which won the dual-meet title with a 6-0 mark while Los Altos was third.
The three-win performance by Williams included a 10.99 victory in the 100, a 20-9 leap in the long jump and a 44-5 1/2 effort in the triple jump. What makes that impressive was the fact he wasn't supposed to win any of those events.
"When I doped out the meet last night," said Paly coach Jason Fung, "Maurice wasn't in first place in any of those categories."
One of the reasons why Fung didn't have high expectations was that Williams didn't even compete in track as a sophomore. And, when this season started, he hadn't begun to learn the long or triple jump yet.
A standout running back/wide receiver on the Paly football team, Williams was just a sprinter when the track season began.
"I started jumping in the middle of the season," Williams said. "This is my first year jumping."
Williams said he got interested in the triple jump because assistant coach Tolu Wusu holds the school record at 47-2.
"He has the record for the triple jump, so I thought I might as well go for it," Williams said.
That, of course, sounds kind of crazy for a neophyte in the event. His first triple jump of the season was around 34 feet against Milpitas.
"That was my first time jumping ever," Williams said.
Since then, Williams has improved by leaps and bounds. His season best in the long jump is 21-5 1/2. That ranked him 10th in the Central Coast Section entering this week. He eclipsed his personal best in the triple jump numerous times on Thursday, finishing with a PR of 44-5 1/2. That ranks him third in CCS. If he makes it to the CCS finals and finishes third, he'll earn his first trip to the CIF State Championships.
"He's a freak of nature," said Fung, who discovered Williams during his freshman year.
"What got my attention was one day I saw him in the gym, wearing sandals and with a backpack on," Fung related. "He's holding a basketball and takes like one or two steps . . . boom (dunk)."
Fung said that throughout the years, special athletes come through Paly and Williams is one of them. He compared Williams to Paly grad Mike Scott, a football/basketball/track standout who also excelled in the triple jump. Scott made the state meet his junior year with a third-place finish of 45-4 at CCS.
Fung believes Williams may have more potential in track than Scott.
"I always knew his speed was there," Fung said of Williams. "I was just waiting for his shining moment to arrive in the 100, which is did today."
And for the triple jump?
"He really likes it, so he wants to do it," Fung said. "He has the stats in football, but he needs this. I've told him that this is his steppingstone to football."
Williams agrees, as if a light turned on in his head. He's now thinking about jumping in college after, of course, getting to the state meet and breaking Wusu's school record. His goal?
"I'd like to go 48 feet," he said.
Told of that goal, Wusu smiled and then chuckled. He knows the record is for the taking.
Gunn's Gallagher knew her own school record of 2:14.49 in the girls' 800 was for the taking, just not necessarily this season and certainly not on Thursday. But, all that changed when Gallagher raced out to a 62-second first lap and raced home unchallenged to win in 2:12.43. The time broke the meet record of 2:15.81 by Paly's Mia Lattanzi in 2008 and made Gallagher the fastest in the CCS this season.
"I was running this pace in practice and I was hoping for a PR (2:14), "Gallagher said. "But, this is surprising. 2:12 was my magic number. I've been waiting to run this time for a long time."
"I knew she was in shape," said Gunn coach Ernie Lee. "I thought she would run 214 to 2:15 at best. So, 2:12 is good. She ran faster than I thought she would."
Gallagher said the 2:12 goal was just something she through out there, even though her eventual goal is even faster.
"My goal for high school is 2:10," she said, "but, not necessarily this year."
Now that she's gotten down to 2:12, however, Gallagher seems ahead of schedule and ready to take on new challenges.
"I'll keep trying to PR," she said. "I'll just take the next step to 2:10."
Paly's MacQuitty also has made strides in the 800, where he earlier clocked a 1:52.37 that ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time. On Thursday, he took on the 800 (1:57.94) and 1600 (4:19.60) and won both easily without season-best times.
"I just wanted the points," he said.
The 3200 has been MacQuitty's race of choice in recent years, one in which he set the meet record of 9:27.67 in 2007. His success in the 1600 (a CCS-leading 4:12.45) and 800, however, now has him in a quandry.
"I don't know what I'm going to pick," he said. "It's either the 800 or 1600. I feel a lot stronger in the shorter distances. In the 3200, I can't hang on that long and win. And the goal is always to win."
Thus, with only the SCVAL Qualifier on May 14, the CCS semifinals on May 22 and the section finals on May 28 remaining before the state meet, MacQuitty likely will have to choose one over the other.
"I'm leaning toward the 1600," he said. "In the 800, it's all about strategy and I'm not ready for that yet."
The 3200, then, is out of the picture for MacQuitty now. That means Mountain View's Garrett Rowe and Gunn's Paul Summers will continue their rivalry in the two-miler. The two faced off Thursday with Rowe pulling away in the late stages to win and pretty much wrap up the team title for the Spartans.
The Paly boys (103 points) actually led Mountain View by 14 points with five events remaining before the Spartans pulled away and finished with 132 points. The Spartans used a one-two finish in the 200 to finish off the Vikings.
In other boys' events, Paly's Bennie Williams won the high jump at 6-4.
It was a satisfying day for the Gunn girls despite a third-place finish. The Titans had two sophomores defend their titles -- Gallagher in the 800 and Julia Maggioncalda in the high jump -- while other performances prevented Mountain View from defending its league-meet title while helping Los Altos claim the win on Thursday. The Eagles won with 129 points while the Spartans were a close second with 112. Gunn finished third with 83 while host Palo Alto was fifth with 47.
Maggioncalda also had a hand in helping Los Altos win. She took the high jump at 5-2, holding off Kylie McKown of Mountain View. Gunn junior Kiana Choroski also helped Los Altos by winning the 100 hurdles in a personal best of 15.76 (albeit wind-aided) and defeating Mountain View's Martina De Geus to win the 300 hurdles in season best of 48.13. The Titans also got a victory in the 3200 from junior Erin Robinson (11:04.62), who also picked up big points with a second in the 1600 (5:13.55).
Palo Alto senior Erika Hoglund was among the busier athletes on Thursday. She ran a leg on the Vikings' 400 relay that clocked a season best of 49.88; took second in the triple jump at 34-2 3/4, finished third in the long jump at 16-2 and ran in the 100.