Ten strides into the 800 meters, Beyer High junior Sean Gomes already had put his stamp on the race.
Gomes is ranked second in the Sac-Joaquin Section in this event, and no one else at Thursday's Modesto Metro Conference Track and Field Championship has reached the top five. His long and confident stride reflect old-fashioned hard work and commitment.
"I've trained pretty hard during the off-season," Gomes said. "It's definitely helped."
Gomes, an easy victor at Modesto Junior College Stadium, was timed in 2 minutes, .34 seconds, not near his season-best of 1:54.88. Times and marks were secondary, however, on this day.
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The elite athletes merely held form while everyone else scrambled to place in the top five, the qualifying standard for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championship (formerly called the sub-section) next Thursday and Friday at Sacramento's Hughes Stadium.
Though Gomes cuts an intimidating presence on the track, he actually should be an inspiration to every high school athlete. A year ago, he placed a modest fourth at the MMC and posted times a full seven seconds slower than this spring.
And look at him now. The competition intensifies next week, of course, but Gomes appears to be ready.
"It's always nice to run against people who are faster than you. They push you," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."
The MMC, a non-scoring meet — Modesto's boys and girls swept to dual-meet titles — was conducted in nearly perfect 83-degree conditions. The top-level athletes clearly stood out, none more than Gomes and Enochs sophomore Erica Goynes.
Goynes, an Olympic Development Program soccer prospect, sped to wins in the 200 and 400 and impressively anchored both relay victories. She's ranked seventh in the section in the 400 (57.49) but wasn't stressed about her 59.13.
"I'm just trying to stay on track and not get mentally psyched out before the subsection. Good enough, but not the best yet," Goynes said. "I know there are so many girls who have better times than I do. The margins are so close that anything is possible."
A mild surprise happened in the boys 100 meters when Johansen freshman Dwight Shaw barreled neck and neck down the track against Modesto junior Kyle Sharp.
Both were timed 11.14 — they dualed in adjacent lanes — but meet officials declared Shaw the winner after checking the photos.
Shaw, who lost to Sharp last week, began the academic year playing football for the Central Catholic junior varsity. He's a raw but promising talent who admitted he was surprised that he won.
"My goal was to just stay with him (Sharp)," said Shaw, who also won the long jump (22 feet, 1 inch). "I was nervous."
Other meet highlights:
Beyer's 4x400 relay team — Gomes, Anthony Jones, Akim Muhammed and Jamal Qarqat — easily won in 3:24.55, not far off their 3:22.93, seventh-best in the section. Muhammed also doubled in the 200 and 400.
Roberto Rosas of Grace Davis sped smoothly through the warm air en route to victories in the 1,600 and 3,200. He's won four straight MMC titles in the 3,200.
Other double winners were Modesto sophomore Jaron Ingram in the hurdles, Grace Davis sophomore Shea Taylor in the 100 hurdles and long jump, Alex Brown of Enochs in the shot put and discus, and Natalie Salemme of Enochs in the discus and shot put.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at 578-2302 or email@example.com.