For the first time this season, the Stanislaus District's top track and field performers began a meet realizing elimination was a possibility.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division III track and field meet Tuesday at Modesto Junior College launched the sport's postseason calendar.
Section championships were awarded in six field events Tuesday, and the top six finishers in each earned their way to the Masters Meet next week in Sacramento.
Two Stanislaus District athletes earned championships: Oakdale's Tyler Murdoch won the pole vault by soaring 14 feet, while Escalon's Brandon Cavanaugh captured the discus with a toss of 156-11.
In other events, Modesto Christian's Valerie Moore was second in the high jump at 4-10, Sierra's Taylor Wilson was second in the long jump at 17-2.
Thursday's finals will begin at 3 p.m. with four field events, while action on the track begins with the girls' 4x100-meter relay event at 6.
The divisional meet is the second in what athletes are hoping will be a four-step postseason adventure.
The competition ramps up during next week's meet, when the small-school athletes contend with rivals from larger schools. The Division I Meet is Thursday and Friday at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, and D-II schools also run this week.
The ultimate reward will be a ticket to the CIF State Meet, June 5-6 at Buchanan High in Clovis. Perhaps the top meet in the country, it gives kids from even the smallest schools in California an opportunity to compete against the best of the big city.