CLOVIS --- The 103rd CIF State Track and Field Championships shine every year because of their perfect inclusion.
Other states split their season-ending meets into as many as eight divisions. Not California. Here, those divisional meets were held at the section level. What happens every year at Buchanan High’s Veterans Memorial Stadium is an ideal Masters meet.
The best test the best here, and they come from schools big and private, charter and academies, big and small. It’s not shocking to see an athlete from the tiniest valley berg go head to head against the best of Los Angeles.
The competition is keen, for sure, but it’s pure. And it matters little what you did in last week’s Masters competition. Twenty-seven athletes from the frontrowpreps.com’s coverage area earned a coveted berth to the season-ending meet. Only five qualified for Saturday night’s finals.
Weston Ranch senior Galadriel Mellion, a two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion in both the shot put and discus, arrived here with expectations. She annexed state medals in 2022, fifth in the shot put and sixth in the discus, and she’s in line to do at least as well this year.
But her Friday began with a walk on the discus tightrope.
Mellion fouled on her first try and tossed a modest a 132 feet on her second. She paced calmly behind the cage knowing her dilemma. She stood in 13th place in the field of 23. Only 12 qualify for Saturday’s finals.
‘I was ready to put it out there and be happy with it,” she said. “But I’m happier that I did it.”
Mellion did it, all right – a toss of 158-9, her PR since her double-knee surgery two years ago. It was the longest threw of the trials and no doubt caught the attention of defending champion Nailea Fields of Caruthers (154-9).
A few hours later, Mellion – soon bound for Arizona State --averted any anxiety by ripping 41-4 ¾ on her first attempt to easily advance in the shot put.
Impressive stuff, for sure, but she understood the larger truth:: No medals were awarded this night and no podium calls were made.
“They were marks, but I’ll put them behind my back tomorrow,” she said.
Hughson senior Joe Lighthall, the two-time Section Masters champion in the 800 meters, showed why he should be a contender Saturday night. His race strategy clicked as he captured his heat for an automatic qualifying spot in 1:53.42.
Lighthall, starting on the outside, found running room with an aggressive move at the cut-in. Later, he jumped into the lead with 300 meters left and didn’t let go.
“That was lovely. I was feeling really good,” said the expressive star who will soon take his talents to Brigham Young. “I hope to go out and be in the pack after the first 400 and take it with 300 (Saturday) to go. I feel ready for it.”
Turlock junior Max McFarlane, another Section Masters champion, also figures to be a be in the mix in Saturday’s pole vault.
McFarlane, ranked among the state’s best, conserved energy and delivered. He passed on the opening height of 14-6, then cleared 15-0 on his first and only trip down the runway.
That’s all McFarlane needed. Eleven of the 12 finals qualifiers cleared the bar at 15-0.
Golden Valley senior Delbert Davis, who nearly cleared a state-leading 6-9 ½ while winning the Masters high jump last week, was confronted by stress of a different kind at state. He took the prelim’s final jump and – after two misses at 6-5 – needed to make it to continue his season.
Davis nailed it withroom to spare to join 11 others at 6-5 in the finals.
“I put everything into that last jump,” Davis said. “I was mad about missing the first two the way I did.”
Modesto senior Chidiebere Agunanne, a runner-up at Masters, triple-jumped 37-10 1/4 and was sixth to earn a finals spot.
Many mini-dramas, the vast majority not known by the crowd, abounded. Pitman senior Joey Stout ran the first turn with power in the 400 and placed second in his heat (48.66), yet finished 11th overall and missed a finals berth by only 17/100s of a second. East Union senior Taylor Snaer, racing in the 200, logged a PR but missed by the same margin as Stout.
A similar fate met Oakdale senior Caleb Cavanaugh in the 1600. He placed 14th overall (4:14.97), but only 12 reached the finals. He was about a second shy. Turlock’s 4-by-400 girls relay quartet – Ava Torres, Olivia Walker, Zoe Lamur and Ella Spaulding -- sped in 3:54.11 for 11th overall, two spots from a lane in the finals.
Argonaut junior Jake Todden, the Section Masters champion in the shot put, recorded a 52-4 ¾ and was 16th in the prelims. Turlock long jumper Shaylan Roy-Williams and West junior Cameron Williams, both Masters winners a week ago, failed to advance to the finals.
There were no preliminaries in the 3200. Oakdale senior Dax Daley, second last week, and Sonora sophomore Broen Holman, third last week, will join the other local athletes in the finals.