After two years of disappointment at the National Junior Olympics Championships, Nicole Warwick was determined to be a winner.
The 11-year-old Modesto runner claimed two gold medals in very different ways at the annual youth track and field championships last week. Warwick helped her 4x800-meter relay team blow away the competition on July 28, then won the 800 by the slimmest of margins on July 31.
She also finished second in the 1,500 on Sunday at Sacramento's Hughes Stadium to bring her medal haul to three.
Central Valley Roadrunners coach Carl Bryant believes Warwick and company are the first Modesto-based athletes to win a Junior Olympic title since three-time discus champion Suzy Powell-Roos (1993-95). Powell-Roos went on to become a three-time Olympian.
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"It's like winning a million dollars," Warwick said. "You won it, but you don't know if you're going to get it. You just forget about all the pain. You're so filled with joy you just forget about everything."
Warwick teamed with twin sister Meagan, Sara Stevens and Turlock's Kiana Clay to win the midget girls 4x800 relay in 9 minutes, 52.73 seconds — beating the competition by almost 20 seconds. It was a big deal for the girls to win together as Stevens had suffered a broken ankle that left her in doubt for the regionals in Modesto on July 15-17.
Bryant said the most exciting race of the meet came three days later when Nicole Warwick outstepped Sydney Gandy of Team Houston by two-hundredths of a second. Warwick won in 2:19.17.
"They battled," Bryant said. "The other girl came back on her in the last 25 meters and was ahead by half a step. Nicole had just enough left in the last five meters to make it to the finish line. The excitement in the stadium was off the chart at that point. They had kind of gotten the twins mixed up during the week, but I think she won the heart of the crowd there."
Warwick said the runners' pace at the start of the 800 was faster than she was used to. She blamed nerves for hindering her efforts in the last two national meets, but was determined not to let them get the better of her this year.
"I really wanted to win," Warwick said. "I decided she wasn't going to beat me. I wanted to run well and prove to people I can run."
Warwick capped the meet with a time of 4:51.32 in the 1,500 on Sunday, a personal best. Sydney Tullai of Chino Hills won in 4:49.75.
Warwick said she has yet to meet Powell-Ross, but would like to get her autograph one day. Warwick said they go to the same physical therapist, so a meeting seems inevitable.
The daughters of John and Wendy Warwick are most looking forward to running with Clay, 12, and Stevens, 11, at next year's nationals. They move up an age division together.
Among the Central Valley Roadrunners highlights was Xavier Lewis, 10, finishing fourth in the bantam boys shot put with a mark of 29 feet, 10 inches. The midget boys 4x800 relay team of Andrew Guardado, Andrew Raspo, Trevor Crippen, Caleb Wolderstorff did not medal, but ran a personal best 10:57.
Danielle Drew finished 11th in the 100 meters. Bryant said she slipped coming out of the blocks in her heat and missed the finals by four-hundredths of a second.