CLOVIS — Dallas Hoofard stepped into the blocks on Lane 9, a lonely outpost in the world of track and field.
Would he stress about running not far from the spectators at the 95th CIF State Championships, or would he turn it into an asset? Hoofard chose the latter, and it's why the Atwater High senior took home a sixth-place medal in the 300-meter hurdles Saturday night.
"I didn't want to get passed by anyone. I didn't want to see anyone until the turn," Hoofard said. "It worked out."
Hoofard's sharp improvement, from 16th at State last year to a medal before his graduation, brought a smile to his face.
His race mirrored his winning performance at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters last week. Hoofard was first to the first two hurdles and, sure enough, saw no one to his left until midway into the turn.
Though he tired late, the Falcon star held on for sixth only the top six earn medals at State with a time of 37.95. That it wasn't a personal best was a moot point. He capped his career in front of nearly 9,000 fans at Buchanan High's Veterans Memorial Stadium in the season's most important event.
"My coach (Atwater hurdles coach Seneca Ybarra) told me he wanted to get me on the podium. He did it," Hoofard said. "This (medal) is mine forever. I had so much support from my family and the school. I had people texting me who I didn't know."
Golden Valley juniors Ryan Pust and Afolabi Olabode would be wise to copy Hoofard's career curve.
Pust, who tried to equal or top the fourth here by older brother Steven in the pole vault last year, finished ninth. He didn't clear the opening height until his final try then, after topping 15-3¾, he bowed out at his personal-best of 15-10. Had he equaled his PR on his first try, he may have medaled.
"My first try (at 15-10) was good, but I let my arms dangle over the bar too long," Pust said. "I expected to be on the podium. I knew I could do that because I was over the bar at 15-10."
Olabode, third at Masters, managed a 56-2¾ in the shot put off his best and did not qualify for the final three throws.
For Hoofard, the career wrapup was sweet. Miserable after he thought he let his 4x400 relay teammates down at Masters last week, he departed to congratulations.
Even before the race, his chances improved when Victor Bolden of Los Osos, one of the favorites, was disqualified for a false start.
"Somebody up there wanted me to do good tonight," Hoofard said.
Results from Saturday's CIF State Championships. Page B-2