The perfect union of athlete, coach and venue – all surrounding Escalon High junior Yajaira Salinas – couldn’t be missed Thursday.
It unfolded when Salinas won the 800 meters at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV/V Championships. Not far from the finish line stood Escalon girls coach Carrie Nash, who knows something about running fast at Cal State Stanislaus.
Nash, a former Warrior, is a member of the NCAA Division II Track and Field Hall of Fame for a reason – four of them, to be exact. She swept to national titles in the 800 and 1,500 in 1993 and ’94, which is why she’s one of the most decorated athletes in Stanislaus history.
“She likes to tell me the stories,” Salinas said. “She has really helped me a lot.”
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Athletes from 13 leagues congregated at Al Brenda Track and Warrior Stadium, yet few benefited from such high-level expertise in their given event like Salinas. Though she prefers to rally from off the pace, she stayed calm while in front most of the way to win in 2 minutes, 21.72 seconds, nearly six seconds ahead of the runner-up. It was her second D-IV/D-V win in three years.
“I felt positive and was real excited about the race,” Salinas said. “I knew the girls would fight for it, so I had to make my move early.”
Stress levels increased at the divisional, where the top five in each event qualified for the Section Masters next week at Elk Grove. Feeling that anxiety for the first time was Modesto Christian senior Josthin Dawkins, a member of the Crusaders’ powerful basketball team but a rookie on the track.
13Leagues represented at Section D-IV/D-IV track meet
Dawkins demonstrated his skills Tuesday, the meet’s first day, by clearing a personal-best 6-6 on his second attempt to win the high jump. But in the 100 Thursday, he was slowed by a hamstring pull at the 70-meter mark and eventually finished fourth (10.86). Philip Brown of Football won at 10.68.
Dawkins, who scratched later from the 200, is uncertain whether he’ll be able to compete at Masters.
“First time I’ve ever had a hamstring,” he said. “It was hurting. I had to hold on for fourth.”
Also placing fourth in the 100 and the 200 was MC junior Nicole Warwick, who won the long jump on Tuesday (18-0). Advancing to Masters in three events is not easy, but Warwick’s bar is set high. She reached state last year in the long jump.
“I’m glad I qualified for Masters,” she said. “It will give me another chance to run fast.”
One of the meet’s best performances was turned in by Livingston junior Abhishek Singh, who powered past opponents in the final 50 meters to win the 400 (50.56). Later, he ran the anchor to lift teammates Salomon Ramos, Grayson Austin and Noah Guerra to victory in the 4x400 relay (3:24.19).
Sonora sophomore Cassi Land, third at Masters and 19th in the state as a freshman in the 3,200, was outkicked decisively by Vacaville senior Katarina Stashyn. They dueled almost shoulder to shoulder until the bell lap.
The Calaveras boys claimed a blue section-title banner by totaling 48 points, 11 more than runner-up Placer. The Redskins’ Devin Scheidt doubled in the 800 and 1,600.
Other winners: Mikayla Akers of Los Banos in the 400 (59.55), Abigayle Mitchell of Hughson in the 300 hurdles (45.59), Jalin Wiggins of El Capitan in the triple jump (45-3), Kane Rodgers of Sonora in the long jump (21-10 1/2) and Dominique Navarrette of El Capitan in the discus (156-7).