Kelsee Derr stands 4 feet, 11 inches, not much taller than a hurdle, but she runs like a stick of TNT.
"Everyone receives gifts," she says. "God gave me the gift of hurdling."
Derr, a 15-year-old freshman from Pitman, is starting to make her impact in local track and field. Judging by her dynamic performance Friday night at the Stanislaus County Meet, she'll be hard to ignore the next four years.
Personal bests were compiled by the bushel as the county's best took full advantage of the synthetic surface and the rest of the facilities at Modesto Junior College Stadium. It was the low-slung Derr, however, who claimed four medals and a pair of dynamic victories.
For starters, she clung to a narrow lead and barely held off Oakdale's lanky Jaci Powell to win the 100-meter hurdles in 15.89. Later, Derr received the baton from teammate Hailey Stroud and sped home with force for Pitman's win in the 4x100 relay (51.13).
Derr, the daughter of former Hilmar High football coach Jon Derr, performs with personality bursting from all pores. She clapped her hands seconds after she crossed the finish line in the hurdles, celebrating her win and PR ("by far.").
County-meet pressure was a non-factor for her. Derr has lifted and trained the last two years and performed at the national level for Turlock's Team Olympians. She's twice advanced to the USA Youth Track & Field Nationals in the pentathlon (five events), placing seventh in the 13s two years ago and ninth last year in the 14s.
She and Stroud, the latter a junior and slightly shorter than Derr at 4-10½, sparkled under MJC's new stadium lights. Stroud, seeded third in the 100, edged Derr for the win (13.12) and, earlier, set up Pitman's 4x100 victory with that torrid turn before she passed to Derr.
"We're friends. My goal was to beat her (in the 100)," said Stroud, competing in her first season. "Kelsee's been .2 ahead of me all year."
The track season winds down toward conference championships in a few weeks, so it's not surprising that the top tier is beginning to separate from the field. One of those emerging athletes is Enochs sophomore Erica Goynes, an Olympic Development Program club soccer star who "runs track to stay in shape for soccer."
If track is her No. sport, she apparently must shine like minted coins in soccer. Goynes won by wide margins in both the 200 (25.83) and the 400 and capped the meet with an equally impressive final leg for the Eagles' victorious 4x400 team.
Goynes' unpushed 57.93 in the 400 wasn't far off the pace set this season by Modesto Christian star Taryn Garza, who took the night off from the 400 but easily won the 800 in a quick 2:16.67.
"I was hoping I could run in the same heat with her and that she would push me," said Goynes, the girls running events MVP. "I'd love to run the times she runs someday."
Other meet highlights:
Daniel Washington of Pitman edged Modesto's Kyle Sharp to win the 100 in 11.24. In the 200, Sharp again was runner-up, this time to Grace Davis' Traejon Edwards-Hunter (22.92).
Modesto sophomore Jaron Ingram was named the running events MVP by winning both hurdles -- the 110s in 15.68 and the 300 in 42.01. The field events MVP was Pitman's Markus Sanders, who tossed the discus 173-9.
Oakdale sisters Jaci and Juli Powell, the nieces of Modesto's three-time Olympic discus thrower Suzy Powell, continued their strong seasons. Juli, the field events MVP, doubled in the pole vault (10-0 after winning a jump-off) and the discus (105-2). Jaci tripled jumped 36-5¾ for the win.
Cross country star Becky Hobby of Hughson, showing off an economic, energy-saving stride, overtook Maryssa Mcduffy of Grace Davis and pulled away in the final lap and a half for an impressive win in the 1,600 (5:17.67). Mcduffy responded by winning the 3,200 (11:44.96).
Beyer's 4x400 relay team -- Akim Muhammed, 400 winner Sean Gomes, Jamal Qarqat and Anthony Jones -- took charge quickly for a big win (3:25.02). Modesto City Schools relay teams won three of four.
Roberto Rosas of Grace Davis doubled in the 1,600 and 3,200.