10 Stanislaus District athletes heading to state track meet

SACRAMENTO -- The boys 800 meters played out like a destruction derby at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track and Field Championships Friday night. If they were stock cars, they would have been swapping paint.

Beyer High junior Sean Gomes of Beyer, nearly a victim of all the heal-clicking, pounded from fifth to second place in the final 100 meters and qualified for next week's State Meet.

"Willed my way in," Gomes summarized as the sun set on Hughes Stadium. "My only goal was, 'Get to state.' "

Gomes got there the hard way, but they don't award points for artistic merit on the result sheet. Only the top three, plus anyone who hit a qualifying time or mark, earned a trip to the State Meet next week at Clovis' Buchanan High.

Gomes and Oakdale seniors Tim House and Jaci Powell, the latter the surprise triple jump champion Thursday, shined this night and led 10 state qualifiers from the Stanislaus District.

The 800, often a tactical dual, requires runners to keep room in front of them. Getting boxed in means trouble, and it nearly happened to Gomes. It wasn't his fastest race (1:54.24) but it might have been his best.

He led until nearly the half-way point when a small posse, guided by favorite and eventual winner Jason Coupe of Galt (1:52.81), quickly relocated Gomes to fifth place. To his credit, the Beyer star didn't panic.

"Yesterday (in the preliminary race), I got boxed. I didn't want to make the same mistake again," Gomes said. "I was all right as long as I didn't get caught behind guys."

Finally, at the top of the final stretch, Gomes made his move. Seconds after he and Davis-Yolo's Bryan Soto staggered off balance, Gomes overtook Kieren Broussard of Rodriguez and -- in the final 20 yards -- eventual third-place finisher John Guerrero of Atwater. Broussard fell at the finish line, but he parlayed his fast fourth-place time into a state berth.

"I wanted to go at the turn, but I had to wait until the straight-away," Gomes said. "I just didn't want to get boxed in."

Powell, encouraged by her aunt and Modesto's three-time Olympian Suzy Powell, peaked at the perfect moment. In her next-to-last triple jump Thursday, she shocked herself by leaping a school-record 38 feet, 7 inches, more than two feet longer than her previous best, for the victory.

She wasn't finished. One day later as she struggled with fouls in the long jump, Powell summoned everything in her final attempt and produced a 17-2½ for second behind Tatum Souza of Napa.

"The triple jump was just a good jump on a good day when everything went right at the right time," Powell said. "Qualifying in two events -- I'll take that."

Powell, like many athletes here, exited quickly after their respective events for graduation ceremonies. One of them was House, Oakdale's talented three-sport athlete, who pulled off a mild surprise with his discus throw of 176-0. Only Stanford-bound Jeremy Hines of Jesuit (176-10) beat him.

Pitman's Markus Sanders rushed back to Turlock to receive his diploma -- he didn't even finish the event -- but not before he tossed a state-qualifying mark of 170-2 for fourth. Livingston's Albert Millan, second in the shot the night before, settled for fifth in the discus.

Buhach Colony junior Rebecca Hammar, a disappointed runner-up Thursday in the discus, recovered for a second in shot put (41-0¾) and will advance to state for the second straight year.

Like Gomes, Hughson sophomore Becky Hobby dug deep into her energy bag for a third in the 1,600 (5:11.28). The cross country star remembered how she barely missed a state trip last year and, when the leaders pulled away with less than a lap to go, Hobby chased them.

"I kept them within reach, unlike last year," Hobby said. "I said, 'No, that's not happening again.' "

Joining Guerrero next week at Clovis will be Atwater teammate Kyle Maxwell, who cleared 14-3 for third in the pole vault. Manteca senior Vincent Herrera, a first-year track athlete, extended his season by taking third in the 1,600 (4:26.23).

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