Section Track: Riverbank's Wallace dashes to win, heads to get diploma

Riverbank High's Donovan Wallace wasn't just running fast to try to win the 200-meter dash at Thursday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Meet.

The faster he ran, the faster he could get back to Riverbank -- and receive his diploma, celebrating his graduation with his classmates.

Wallace brought back a medal to show off, winning the 200 in 22.67 seconds. His margin of victory was razor-thin, just two-hundredths of a second.

"I've got long legs, so I can cover more ground in a stride," said Wallace, who finished second in the 100 by two-hundredths of a second. "But I also had to win the 200. I was the top seed in the 100, and not winning that race was a disappointment."

The upside is that Wallace was running at all.

His block slipped during Tuesday's trials, straining a back muscle that was already tender. He was in obvious pain as he left the Modesto Junior College Stadium, his cap and gown waiting for him.

"From the time I got in the blocks, I knew I'd get this 200," Wallace said. "It's not my best time, pretty average actually, but I've got next week to run."

The top six finishers in each event advance to the Masters Meet next Thursday and Friday at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento. After that, it's state.

Taryn Garza just missed the State Meet last year as a sophomore. She was fourth in the 400, but only the top three finishers advance.

Her hopes appeared to be dead after she had microscopic surgery on her knee to repair a small tear in her meniscus. She didn't start running until a few weeks ago, and this was her second time starting out of the blocks.

That didn't faze Garza, though, as she won the 400 in 1:00.19. It was slower than her 57.5 from a year ago, but the circumstances were different.

"When I crouch in that position, the knee begins to hurt," Garza said. "I got a good start and then started to tire at the end. I can really use this next week to get in better condition."

The Stanislaus District's lone double- winner also was its youngest winner -- Hughson freshman Becky Hobby, who finished 21st in the fall at the State Cross County Meet.

She won the 800 (2:24.7) and 1,600 (5:16.26), and hopes to duplicate the feat at the Masters.

In the 1,600, after taking the lead on the final turn, Hobby pulled away down the stretch for the win.

"My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw my time (on the scoreboard). It was my PR by seven seconds," Hobby noted.

Pretty good for a girl who wondered if she belonged at the meet during Tuesday's trials.

"I'm still getting used to this whole high school thing," she said. "These girls are older and experienced. But after I ran in Tuesday's trials and saw my times, I began to think 'Hey, maybe you can win one of these races.' "

It was good evening for all of Oakdale's relay teams: The boys finished second in the 1,600 and fourth in the 400, while the girls were third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 400.

Nicky Batteate and Isaiah Mendez-Borba, the Mustangs' top running backs during football season, ran on both teams. Jaci Powell -- who also won the triple jump -- and Kristen Hoy took part on both the girls' relay teams.

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