By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Maurice Williams learned how to triple jump only last season, when he took the event by storm -- despite his inexperience -- and leaped 46-1 1/2 to finish second at the Central Coast Section championships and earn a berth in the CIF State Meet.
Williams, now a senior at Palo Alto High, was going to use this track season as perhaps a launching pad for bigger and better things in college. It hasn't happened, at least not yet.
Williams was a late arrival to the Paly track and field team in 2011 and never got his feet under him in the triple jump. The event was always late in the dual-meet schedule and Williams needed that time to study.
The season, however, is far from over for Williams. The SCVAL De Anza Division Track and Field Championships will be held Thursday at Gunn -- field events start at 2 p.m. and running at 3 p.m. -- and that means only one thing.
"It's time to bring the big boys to the dance," said Paly coach Jason Fung, whose boys' squad is in the running for the league title, along with defending champ Mountain View. "We have all the firepower to do it. Now, it's the kids' turn to show how much they want it."
That means it's time to pull out all the stops. Williams, who hasn't competed in the triple jump this season, will test his talent in the event. He'll also go in the long jump with a season best of 22-1 and in the 100, where he ran a wind-legal 10.96 (No. 3 in CCS) on Tuesday during the league trials at Gunn. Williams also will run a leg on the Vikings' 400 relay, which ranks among the best in CCS at 44.05.
Fung doped out the boys' meet with his team edging out defending champ Mountain View, 111-100. The Spartans beat the Vikings in last year's league meet, 132-103.
"If we stay where we are with the places we have, we're fine," Fung said. "We're in the driver's seat but, anything can happen. We're going to lose points in the distance races and we'll probably need some help from other schools."
One thing that should help the Paly boys is Mountain View not being at full strength. DeVaughn Smith, who ranks No. 2 in the long jump in CCS at 22-8 1/2 and No. 5 in the 200 (22.16), reportedly is not completely healthy -- evident by the 28.14 time he "ran" in the 200 trials on Tuesday while finishing dead last.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, should score big in the sprints and most of the field events.
Paly senior Grant Sauer ran the No. 2 qualifying time (15.22) in the 110 high hurdles and will battle Markell Stine of Los Altos, who had the No. 1 time of 14.88.
Paly sophomore E.J. Floreal cruised to a 51.47 qualifying time in 400 to win his heat. Robbie McQuillin of Los Gatos had the No. 1 time of 51.44, but Floreal has the talent to run much faster. He also showed his potential in the 200 prelims with a 22.20, second-fastest on the day to Tyler Halsted of Mountain View (22.10). Floreal, however, eased up down the straightaway and could take the CCS lead on Thursday with a sub-22:00 time.
Tremaine Kirkman (23.40) and Miles Anderson (23.57) also qualified for the 200 finals, an event where Paly finished only seventh and eighth a year ago. Kirkman and Anderson also will be in the 100 field with Williams while Mountain View will have two runners. Williams is the defending league champ, running 10.99 last year.
Palo Alto has lost big points through graduation, most notably Philip MacQuitty. He won the 1,600 and 800 last year. The Vikings also failed to score in the 300 intermediate hurdles in 2010 and will need more than that on Thursday. Paly also will need some help in the 3,200, where it graduated its only point-scorer (Josh Newby).
The field events feature Williams in the long jump and triple jump (he's the defending champ in both), Victor Du in the high jump (6-2) and triple jump, plus Kevin Anderson and Tory Prati in the shot put.
The Gunn boys, who finished sixth last season with 27 points, will be led by junior Andrew Prior, who ranks fifth in the CCS in the 1,600 (4:19.13) and likely will double in the 3,200. Alex Barthelemy qualified for the finals in both the 110 high hurdles and 300 intermediates.
The Gunn girls stand a much better chance of finishing higher in the standings, but Mountain View is the overwhelming favorite while Los Altos is back to defend its title. The Titans finished third a year ago.
Gunn has three defending champions, including two who were double-winners a year ago. Junior Kieran Gallagher will defend her 400 and 800 titles while senior Kiana Choroski will do the same in both hurdle events. Senior Erin Robinson won the 3,200 in 2010 after taking second in the 1,600 and ranks among the CCS leaders in both events this season.
Gallagher comes into the 800 with a season-best 2:14.93, which ranks her fourth in the CCS. The section leader, however, is Mountain View's Allison Stuges (2:12.48). She lost to Gallagher in the two-lapper last season but won the 1,600, where she ranks No. 2 in the CCS.
Also in the distance mix for Gunn will be freshman Sarah Robinson, a likely 1600-3200 doubler. Sophomore Ebba Nord qualified Tuesday in both the 100 and 200 for Gunn. Junior Julia Maggioncalda and sophomore Kristen Baird offer a solid one-two punch in the high jump.
Maggioncalda is the two-time defending champ in the high jump and will also compete in the long jump, where she has a season best of 16-10 1/2 to rank among the top 10 in the CCS.
Paly junior Torie Nielsen qualified for both the 100 and 200 and will add the long jump and 400 relay on Thursday.
The field event finals for the junior varsity girls and frosh-soph boys were held Tuesday with Palo Alto leading both. The girls have 65 points (Gunn is second with 55) while the Paly boys have 61.