Like a walk in the park | June 11, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 11, 2010

Like a walk in the park

Paly's MacQuitty gets his diploma, long-awaited medal at state meet

by Mitch Stephens

Philip MacQuitty walked during graduation ceremonies at Palo Alto High on Wednesday. It probably felt like his race last weekend in the 1,600-meter finals at the CIF State Track and Field Championships.

While both events were agonizingly slow, they provided him with his season-long goals — getting a diploma and a state meet medal.

MacQuitty wanted a little more from his experience on the track, until he heard the unfathomable 800-meter split of 2 minutes, 20 seconds. That threw one plan out the window but still gave him the opportunity to achieve something special at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the campus of Buchanan High in Clovis on Saturday.

The pace was supposed to be fast and furious in the 1,600 finale and the 12 elite runners surely were going to lay it all out while seizing the moment and going for glory.

Instead, the tentative dozen "ran" carefully, timidly, packed into a tight little ball for two laps. It was a tactical race to be sure and apparently, everyone had the same plan.

"I thought (crap), (crap), (crap) and (crap)," MacQuitty said about hearing the 800 split. "And a lot more bad words."

MacQuitty, always candid, always tenacious, was stuck in the middle of the ball and when all the runners finally decided to break free during the last lap — "It was chaos," MacQuitty said — the UCLA-bound standout showed the nearly 10,000 fans in attendance what he had with a strong finishing kick.

He reached his goal by taking third in the state, but it was far slower than his planned sub-4:10 pace.

MacQuitty went 4:21.53 — a time he might consider during a sleepy league meet — but get this: he was barely edged at the line by winner Elias Gedyon (Loyola-Los Angeles) and runnerup Ryan Urie (Patrick Henry-San Diego) who went 4:21.12 and 4:21.44, respectively.

It was the slowest winning time at a CIF state final since 1958.

Indeed this curious race set back distance running some 52 years. It certainly confused MacQuitty, making his third state-finals appearance. The previous two were in the 3,200 meters. He dropped the metric two-miler this season in favor of shorter races.

MacQuitty was hoping to improve his qualifying time of 4:12.97 when he took second at the Central Coast Section finals the previous weekend in Gilroy. He also was hoping to lower his season (converted) best of 4:12.45 that he set at the Stanford Invitational.

But a 4:21.53?

"I've never run a final like that," MacQuitty said. "Certainly I wouldn't have expected that in the state finals. Usually there's someone there to take it out. But races are races. You got to do whatever it takes to win.

"Gedyon ran a smart race. He's a great runner. He was the favorite going in and he deserves it. Same for (Urie)."

Gedyon, a junior who already has committed to Cal, broke loose on the final straightaway. It was just about that time MacQuitty found an opening.

"It was really annoying to run in a big group like that," MacQuitty said. "I kept thinking, I got to get out of this. When I finally did it was like 'yeah, I'm free.' I saw Gedyon make his move and I was going to go after him. But then it was like 'uhhhh.' He was too far out in front."

MacQuitty and Urie actually did gain ground and it looked like the Palo Alto standout would at least get second.

"I tried to get past (Urie) but I got nipped in the end," MacQuitty said.

"You know, I got the top three which is what I wanted. It's my last high school race. Yeah, it's not a PR. It's not under 4:10 like I wanted. But how was I going to run 4:10 with a 2:20 half? What is that?"

MacQuitty's performance clearly led the pack among nine local performers.

The only other finalists were Gunn 3,200 runners (there are no trials in the 3,200) Paul Summers (9:06.29) and Erin Robinson (10:53.14), who finished 12th and 13th respectively.

Robinson, a junior, didn't beat her CCS qualifying mark (and PR) of 10:48.79, but Summers scored a big PR, killing his qualifying time by almost 14 seconds and his previous best of 9:13.09 (set in 2009) by a lot.

The two-day competition, under windy and warm (94 degrees on Saturday) conditions, was always fierce.

Six national season-best marks were set, including St. Elizabath-Oakland senior sprinter Ashton Purvis who came close to breaking Marion Jones' national 100 mark of 11.14.

The University of Miami-bound Purvis won in 11.17 and came back to take the 200 in a national-best 22.90. She finished with four first-place medals and three second-place state medals in her illustrious career.

In the prelims on Friday, only MacQuitty survived.

MacQuitty, a veteran of two previous state meets in the 3,200 meters, made his debut in the 1,600 and qualified easily in 4:17.94. The UCLA-bound MacQuitty finished second in the first of two heats, which was won by Gedyon in 4:17.93.

MacQuitty, who showed off a strong finishing kick which has become a trademark for him this season, has a career best of 4:12.45 in the event. He came into the state meet with the No. 4 qualifying time.

Gunn had two state meet entrants on Friday, Kieran Gallagher and Alison Ang, but neither advanced. Gallagher, who was listed among the favorites in the girls' 800, had her worst race of the season and finished 30th out of 32 runners in 2:21.09. She claimed to be very nervous before the race and never got rid of the feeling. The last qualifying spot was 2:12.54, which is slower than Gallagher's season best.

Ang competed in the girls' pole vault, but couldn't make the opening height. She had to clear 11-3 to advance. Her personal best is 11-0.

Palo Alto also lost two entrants in the prelims. Junior Maurice Williams had trouble with the wind and his steps in the boys' triple jump and failed to qualify. He fouled his first attempt that was aided by a 4 mph wind and so it again on his second attempt, also wind-aided. That left him with just one final jump, which he safely landed. His mark of 42-0 1/2 was well off his qualifying mark of 46-1 1/2 that got him second at the CCS finals last weekend. He needed to reach 47-4 to make the finals.

Palo Alto senior Tyler Nigro failed to advance in the boys' high jump, where he no-heighted. He needed to clear 6-5 1/2 to have a chance to advance. His personal best this season was 6-4.

Pinewood senior Angela Gradiska saw her prep career end after she failed to reach the finals in the girls' 100 and 200. She finished fourth and second, respectively, last year in those events but missed two months of running this season due to an injured arch in her left foot.

The combination of her lack of endurance and some of the fastest times ever run at the state meet was too much to overcome. In the 100, Gradiska was 25th overall in 12.26. In the 200, she was 19th in 25.38.

In the 2009 state finals, her marks were 11.74 and 23.85.

In the boys' 800 prelims, Menlo-Atherton junior Jason McGhee also missed out as he ran 1:54.06 to finish eighth in the third heat. He needed to run 1:52.77 to make the finals, faster than his personal best.


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