Sports

Palo Alto's Givens hopes to be a triple threat at state track

 

Palo Alto High junior Eli Givens wants to make one thing clear, track and field is not his No. 1 sport. His first love is football.

"I do track to stay in shape for football," he said.

Then again, Givens confided about his spring fling: "(But) It is more than just another sport."

Track and field is a social outlet, a football training aid, and a chance for Givens to be competitive in a non-combative sort of way until two-a-days begin in August and the spikes are exchanged for cleats.

"He has a great appreciation for the sport," said Paly head track coach Kelsey Feeley.

That appreciation should continue to grow this weekend as Givens heads into the 97th annual CIF State Track & Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High in Clovis.

This will be Givens' third straight trip to the state meet. As a freshman, he was a member of the 1,600 relay team that was disqualified in the prelims due to a lane violation.

Last year, he didn't make it out of qualifying again after taking 18th in the 100 (10.85), 22nd in the 1,600 relay and 23rd in the 200 (22.24).

Now, perhaps, three will be a charm for Givens.

He's qualified in the 100 (10.91), 200 (21.54, wind-aided) and long jump (22-5 1/2, wind-aided). Givens won all three events at last week's Central Coast Section Championships at San Jose City College, where he became the first Paly athlete to win three individual events at the meet.

His sprint double was only the second in program history and the first since E.J. Floreal won the 100 and 200 in 2012.

Givens scored 30 points by himself while helping the Vikings tally 41 and finish third in the team standings behind Bellarmine (65) and Mt. Pleasant (51).

Givens, however, is the only Paly athlete competing this weekend.

"There's a little bit of pressure, being that I'm the only one going," Givens said. "I need to set a PR or something to make the trip worthwhile. Of course, I'm there for a reason."

And that is?

"To prove what a phenomenal athlete he is," Feeley said.

And, perhaps, to erase some of the demons from last year.

"Last year, my sophomore year, I'm at the state meet in three events," Givens said. "It was a big mind thing. In the 100, I let it get into my head, as I was racing against the nation's fastest guy."

Curtis Godin of Mater Dei won the heat that included Givens in 10.41. Givens was eighth. Godin went on to win the state title in 10.31.

"Having the experience of last year helped him so much," Feeley said of how Givens approached this season and competed. "The 100 (last year) psyched him so much."

Givens is seeded 21st in the 100 field for Friday's prelims. He's No. 11 in the 200 and No. 17 in the long jump. He's ready to make the finals in at least one event this weekend.

"I get to do this only so many times in my life," he said. "This is my second-to-last time. I'm definitely going to be a little nervous, but I'm not going to let it get to me."

Givens said the plan at CCS was to qualify in the 100 and 200. The long jump finish, as it turned out, was a surprise.

"I spent all week on block starts and relay handoffs," Givens explained. "I didn't do any run throughs (for the long jump)."

Givens took two jumps in the prelims at CCS, reaching 21-3 1/2 for a personal record on his second attempt. He scratched his third, figuring he would advance to the finals.

"I wasn't really paying attention," he said. "The only reason I do it is because Kelsey needed someone last year."

Givens did qualify for the finals in the long jump, where he hit his wind-aided 22-5 1/2 on his fourth overall attempt. He stopped jumping at that point and his mark held up.

He moved on to the 100, where he was stuck in Lane 2. He was cramping from the long jump and then withstood a false start on the field. When Givens finally got away, he trailed the field and had to run it down.

"The 200 was Eli's race," explained Feeley.

Givens, however, was waiting for an awards ceremony when he was supposed to check in for the 200. When he arrived to do so, he was told he was scratched for arriving a minute late. After a mild protest and explanation, Givens was allowed back into the race. He won comfortably in a career best (albeit wind-aided).

And now he's headed back to the state meet in three events and ready to improve upon last year's effort.

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