By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Palo Alto senior Maurice Williams slipped a little bit out of the blocks and still managed to use a burst of speed to finish second in the 100 at the Central Coast Section Track and Field Championships Friday night at Gilroy High to earn a trip to the state meet.
Williams, with teammates Tremaine Kirkman, Morris Gates-Mouton and Miles Anderson, also nabbed a spot for the June 3-4 state event at Buchanan High in Clovis and set a school record at the same time.
The Palo Alto 400 relay team, together for two years, raced 42.07 to establish the mark and they will be looking to better that next weekend.
"We have been looking to beat the school mark and we think we can do even better," Williams said. "It's something that keeps us working hard."
Anderson, who ran anchor, said the group wants to break into the 41s and gain some revenge on Gilroy and Bellarmine, which finished ahead of the Vikings in the relay.
"All three teams that placed broke school records," said Paly coach Jason Fung. Gilroy won in 41.77 with Bellarmine second in 41.99.
"I thought we could have beaten Bellarmine," Fung said. "We could have gone faster. The first handoff was botched. That's usually our best handoff."
Kirkman reinforced that notion, saying the team works particularly hard at the relay and could likely make the hand off in their sleep for as often as they practice the crucial exchange.
The state meet will mark the last time they will race the event together, as Williams and Anderson graduate.
The relay effort helped Palo Alto finish fifth in the team standings with 29 points. Gilroy won the team title with 53, edging St. Francis by a single point.
"We could have placed in the top three," Fung said. "If everyone moved up a spot . . . we left 12 points on the track. All those fourths could have been thirds."
Menlo-Atherton senior Stas Della Morte also advanced to the state meet after winning the long jump at 22-10 1/2.
Della Morte put a stressful week behind him to out jump the rest of the field, which also included Williams, who placed fourth in 22-3.
"Last week I had to worry about finals and finishing school," Della Morte said. "The last couple of days I've been able to relax. We've mostly been watching movies in class."
That still didn't keep him from getting anxious. He has some trouble getting sleep Thursday night as he went over the long jump in his mind time and again.
"I was over thinking everything," he said. "I just wanted to be ready."
Williams, who finished the 100 in 10.90, just off his personal best, was gaining on Gilroy's Jourdan Soares, who won the event in 10.66, as they crossed the finish line.
"That's a pretty fast group," Williams said. "It was all speed."
Menlo School senior Sam Parker also qualified for the state meet for the first time in his specialty with his second-place finish in the 800 in a time of 1:57.27.
Palo Alto sophomore Victor Du was fourth in the high jump at 6-3, the same mark as St. Francis' Joey Descalso, who nabbed the final spot by hitting the height in an earlier attempt. Du, however, later advanced to the state meet when the second-place finisher from Serra decided to drop out.
Gunn will be represented at the state meet by senior Erin Robinson, who finished second in the 3,200 with a time of 10:48.86, and by junior Kiernan Gallagher, who was fourth in the 800 in 2:16.02.
Gallagher brought the section's top mark into the finals and was in control of the race most of the way before she was caught in the final 40 yards.
"I think I was nervous because I started to worry about finishing in the top three," Gallagher said. "I started losing a little confidence."
Gallagher learned she would make the trip to Clovis when Aptos' Nikki Hiltz and Mountain View's Allison Sturges both dropped the event to concentrate on the 1,600.
"I didn't want to get my hopes up because I realized they both earned it," Gallagher said. "I've been having some trouble getting nervous before races and I was disappointed in this race."
She immediately burst into the lead at the start because "I don't like to mess around" and was running comfortably before getting caught down the stretch.
Robinson said she has been struggling most of the season, with only a couple of good races to show for her efforts. Fortunately one of her best races was in Friday night's final.
"I would have liked to PR but I'm happy with what I did," Robinson said. "Up until now I haven't had a good race. I ran well at the Stanford Invitational but then went to Arcadia and didn't do so well."
Robinson, an invited walk-on at USC in the fall, hopes to work the kinks out come next weekend.
"My training has been going well but it seems when it comes to the races I get locked up," she said. "I wish I could have gone faster but I do have state."
Menlo School freshman Maddie Price completed a solid year with a fifth-place finish in the 400 in 58.05. After reaching the state meet in cross country and having a good year playing basketball, Price happily accepted the way things turned out.
"I always played other sports at (Menlo) middle school," Price said. "It was Jorge Chen who got me into running and Donovan Fitzgerald who also helped me. It was such an honor to be in the CCS final and race against such great athletes."
Price was slowed by a sore quad muscle for most of the season and was just beginning to feel healthy for CCS.
"I didn't train as much as I would have liked," Price said. "But the experience of playing at a high level of high school and with great coaches, I have to say I finished the year on a great note."
Two others just missed qualifying for the state meet, including Palo Alto senior Grant Sauer, who finished fourth in the 110 hurdles in 14.74, a personal best. Los Altos' Markell Stine was third in 14.73. Sauer was leading until hitting the eighth hurdle.
"He could have won," said Fung. "He was leading after six (hurdles) and then, boom. That was it. I felt bad for him."
Others who raced in the finals included M-A junior Michael Hester (10th in the 1,600), Castilleja senior Rachel Skokowski (12th in the 1,600), Sacred Heart Prep's Maggie Wong (6th in the 100), M-A junior Catherine Carpenter (8th in the 400), Woodside Priory's Kat Gregory (6th in the 3,200), and Gunn sophomore Kirsten Baird (8th in the high jump).