Ripon senior Anthony Sausedo is faced with a dilemma this week: Continue his march toward a CIF State title in the 300-meter hurdles or deliver the valedictory speech at Ripon High's graduation on Friday?

Ripon track star must choose between valedictory address and state meet

Ron Agostini

DAVIS – Weston Ranch’s Galadriel Mellion, Enoch’s Abayomi Babaloa and Manteca’s Zion Allen never will forget the 2022 Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track Championships, the two days during which they inscribed their names in red letters in school and section lore.

Each won twice, Allen in the sprints and Mellion and Babaloa in the throws. But there was another athlete Saturday at Davis High who, by his victory in the 300-meter hurdles, faces the decision of his young life.

For Ripon senior Anthony Sausedo, it is simple yet impossibly difficult: Do I compete Friday at the CIF State Championships at Clovis’ Buchanan High, or deliver my address as valedictorian at Ripon’s commencement?

“I really don’t know,” he said. “It’s a hard choice, but it’s a good choice to have.”

Sausedo had pondered the possibility before Section Masters, which sends its top three athletes in each event to State. Properly, he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

First things first.

Tall and angular with white socks pulled up to his knees. Sausedo cut a unique presence at Saturday’s finals. Earlier in the 110 hurdles, he placed sixth. No matter. He logged the fastest time in the 300 hurdles in Friday’s preliminaries. That would be his race. And it was, almost from the gun. He built a commanding lead and pounded home in a lifetime best 38.26 seconds, about 10 meters ahead of the field.

“My goal was to get out fast and try to establish a lead as fast as I could to create a comfortable gap,” Sausedo said. “And I was able to do that.”

Manteca High's Zion Allen stood atop the podium twice at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet, winning the 100- and 200-meter dashes and establishing himself as the section's fastest man.

Now comes the provocative part.

Conflicts with graduation are not uncommon at the late-season track meets. For Sausedo, however, the problem is especially acute.

He’s the top-ranked student in Ripon’s senior class and soon will be headed to Stanford. But the qualifying heats in the 300 hurdles at State will be staged on Friday evening at about the same time as Ripon’s graduation.

“It’s been on my mind for so long. Both are so important to me,” said Sausedo, who rose on the track scene earlier this spring by winning at Sacramento’s Meet of Champions. “I’ve tried to figure how to do both.”

He’ll talk it over with his family this week. In truth, there is no bad choice, but easy it is not.

Sausedo wasn’t the only student-athlete to shine at Masters, held for the first time since 2019. Babaloa, soon on his way to Dartmouth, won the shot put (52 feet, 9 ½ inches) and, the day before, annexed the discus title (168-1).

It was a satisfying moment for Babaloa, who transferred from Houston, Texas, to Enochs before his freshman year.

“I didn’t know anyone from California,” Babaloa said. “I made a lot of friends in sports.”

Babaloa and senior teammate Steve Mai (he’s going to USC) formed a 1-2 punch for Enochs. Mai placed second in the discus and fourth in the shot, and all those points carried Enochs to an impressive second-place finish in the Masters team standings. The Eagles totaled 41 points, six behind host Davis.

“We’ve had a lot of that (success) at the bigger meets,” Enochs coach Michael Beeman said. “We saw after yesterday’s results when we led the day.”

Allen, the former Manteca football star soon to play for BYU, scored an impressive double in the 100 (10.73)  and 200 (21.82). In the latter, he trailed Capital Christian’s Kanye Clark but drew even and out-leaned him at the finish. Allen lowered his school records in both.

“I like the competitive nature (of track),” Allen said. “It’s only on you. Nobody knows but yourself.”

Mellion, a junior, underwent surgeries to both knees over the past year but the strength always was there.  She jumped from third to first on her final attempt in the discus (137-6). On Friday, she won the shot (40-4).

“The shot put didn’t go good yesterday, but I redeemed myself today,” Mellion said. “Next year, I’ll have my body back.”

Twenty-three athletes from the coverage area qualified for State. The wind reached a gusty 35 mph during Friday’s trials but Saturday’s weather was ideal.

Oakdale senior Haleigh Humble, a qualifier for state cross country last fall, was a gutsy winner in the 800 (school-record 2:13.79). She held off a determined bid down the stretch by Edison’s Aliyah Williams.

“In my head, I was thinking, ‘Let’s race,’” Humble said in reference to her duel with Williams.

Humble, who targeted the school record and got it, has scratched from State and will graduate with her class Friday night.

Hughson junior Joseph Lighthall sensed a slow pace in the boys 800, bolted into the lead, and got to the line just ahead of surging Noah Pagaran of Lincoln. Lighthall was timed in 1:54.25, about seven seconds faster than a year ago.

“That was maybe my fastest final 200,” Lighthall said. “I felt him (Pagaran) breathing and saw his shadow.”

Placing second were East Union’s Taylor Snaer in the 400, Turlock’s girls 4x400 relay team (Ava Torres, Olivia Walker, Zoe Lamur and Ella Spaulding), Max McFarlane of Turlock in the pole vault, Jeontay Berry of Sierra in the long jump, Jazmine Severo of Golden Valley in the high jump and Enochs’ Keith Orona in the high jump.  Orona’s personal-best 6-4 helped Enochs’ team total.

Recording thirds were the Downey boys 4x100 relay team (Jorden Lewis, Fayzon Allen, Gabriel Hernandez and Rusty Jones), Damian Garcia of Pitman in the 800, Isabel Perez-Zoghbi of Merced in the 300 hurdles and Legend Moore of Venture Academy in the high jump.

Fourth-place finishers did not advance but did earn medals: Ian Strode of Turlock in the pole vault, Chidiebere Agunanne of Modesto in the high jump and triple jump,  Walker of Turlock in the 400, Kylee Redman of Turlock in the 100 and 200, Joey Stout of Pitman in the 200, Adin Dibble of Sonora in the 3200, Pitman's 4-by-400 relay team (Zachary Blood, Ben Plaa, Garcia and Stout) and Derek Taylor of Hilmar in the high jump.

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