The idea, a step-like progression, is to continue improving each time you step on the track and register your all-time best at the section finals. That effort, which in an ideal world catapults you to the state meet, is the ultimate goal of every high school track and field athlete.
But that storybook ending doesn’t always happen. Heartbreak is often the more common occurrence.
That’s what made it all the more amazing how many local athletes came through with huge personal-bests Friday on the big stage of the Central Coast Section finals at Gilroy High.
Menlo School’s Robert Miranda and Palo Alto’s Kent Slaney, two of the top local distance runners, both decided to drop the 1,600 and focus on the 3,200. For the majority of the race the two followed pre-race favorite and pacesetter Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau of Bellarmine.
Late in the seventh lap, Slaney made his move, going from third place to take over the lead. That spurred Miranda, suddenly in third place, to take action.
The junior unleashed a powerful kick on the backstretch to move into first place, a position he maintained the remainder of the race to win in 9:10.26.
“You just have to go for it,’’ said Miranda, who came in with a personal-best of 9:12.12. “It’s what you work for all season. Give it all you have. I am so happy that my work all season carried me through.’’
Slaney, who made it to the state meet a year ago in the 1,600, held on to take second in a huge PR of 9:11.78. His previous best was 9:21.63.
“The mile was loaded, I knew it would be a kicker’s race,’’ Slaney said. “ I thought I could make it in the two mile if I could just hold on. It came out spectacular.’’
Palo Alto sophomore Henry Saul finished strong and came in fourth in 9:19.64, a nice ending to a season in which he brought his personal-best down by 15 seconds.
“He’s going to kill it next year,’’ Slaney said.
Vikings senior Michel-Ange Siaba has been knocking on the 45-foot door in the triple jump since last season, reaching the high 44s on numerous occasions. He not only eclipsed the 45-foot barrier Friday, but took first place in doing so after coming in with just the fourth-best qualifying mark from the CCS trials.
His second jump of the competition was measured at 45-2 ½, and that stood up for the win by a half-inch over Valley Christian’s Mathew Weeks.
“It feels great,’’ Siaba said. “Since the middle of the season I’d been having so many issues with my mark. My coach kept telling me I’d pull it out when it matters and I did exactly that.’’
Palo Alto’s Titilola Bolarinwa qualified for the state meet in two events. She placed third in the 400 in 56.83, a huge improvement on her previous best of 58.45.
Then she ran the second leg on Palo Alto’s 4x400 relay team which took second in 3:55.24. Paly had gotten under 4:00 for the first time this season at the CCS trials with a time of 3:58.71, so again this was not a case of shaving a couple of tenths of a second off a previous standard, but instead bringing it crashing down in a resounding and emphatic manner.
Can the team of Brianna Miller, Bolarinwa, Maya Reuven and Ella Ball run faster at state?
“I think so,’’ Bolarinwa said. “We’re peaking.’’
Castilleja’s Claire Traum ran on the shoulder of pre-race favorite Mari Friedman of Santa Cruz the entire race in the girls 800 and finished second in 2:12.97. Friedman’s winning time was 2:12.58. Traum’s previous best was 2:15.15, so she just skipped the 2:14s and the 2:13s.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a whole year.’’ said Traum, who placed fourth at last year’s CCS finals and missed out on a trip to the state finals as just the top three from the CCS move on. “It was nice to chase someone in front of me, It felt real comfortable, easy to run at the faster clip.’’
Menlo-Atherton sophomore Maggie Hall was a surprise second-place finisher in the girls 200 with a time of 24.95. Her previous best was 25.14.
“I’m really happy, “ Hall said. “I just really wanted it.’’
Menlo-Atherton’s Terrance Matthews-Murphy was sitting in fourth place when he got off a throw of 157-4 on his fifth out of six attempts to take second in the boys discus and earn a trip to the state meet.
“It will be a new experience for me,’’ he said. “I didn’t get to go last year. I fouled all my throws in the trials.’’
By moving into the top three, Matthews-Murphy pushed sophomore teammate Noa Ngalu down to fourth.
Ngalu, a raw but extremely talented newcomer to the event, threw 151-9 on his first throw -- without the spin that every other competitor employed. He simply heaved the discus as far as he could and nearly won a state-meet berth doing so.
Gunn’s Margaret Redfield came in fourth in the girls high jump with a personal-best mark of 5-5, earning a trip to the state meet by reaching the automatic qualifying standard.
And then there were the inevitable near misses. The Menlo-Atherton girls 4x100 team placed fourth in a season-best 48.55, but took it in a philosophical manner.
“We did what we came here to do,’’ said Charlotte Schroeder, the one senior on a team that included three sophomores. “Our coach told us we can only get better. I believe we’ll definitely improve, third next year then second and first, keep improving. I’ll be here to root them on.’’
Menlo School freshman Kyra Pretre took fourth in the girls 800 in 2:15.02. Her previous best was 2:18.06.
Palo Alto junior Reed Foster took fifth in the boys 800 in 1:55.05. His previous best was 1:57.14.