STATE MEET PRE-MEET NOTEBOOK
By Rich Gonzalez - Editor, ESPNHS/DyeStatCal
YOUR THERMOMETER IS NOT BROKEN, IT HAS JUST MELTED: So all the talk about the heat forecast for this year's state meet isn't as bad as you're hearing. It's far worse. How bad is it? The forecast high for Friday's prelims is 104 degrees.
Yes, but that's during the hottest part of the day and the temperatures will be more moderate once the track events starts at 5 p.m., right? Uh, wrong. Friday's hottest temperatures are supposed to hit during the 4 o'clock hour, when most athletes would start their warm-ups for the first event.
But it'll get cooler as the night wears on, right? Not really. If you can believe it, the temperature forecast for 9 p.m. Friday is... a balmy 91 degrees.
Most athletes have already been hydrating throughout the week in preparation for the heat. For you fans in the stands, continue consuming ample liquids during the weekend -- preferably water and electrolyte-replacement drinks. Avoid choosing liquids that dehydrate such as carbonated drinks (i.e., sodas). Most important, do not wait until you feel thirsty. At that point, you're already showing signs of dehydration.
Despite the heat, the state meet certainly has found a perfect home in Clovis, where the facilities are competition facilities are first-rate, the community support is unmatched and meet management is well prepared.
Anyone who tries to claim the meet should be moved to a cooler locale like Southern California only needs to harken back to 2008 and Cerritos College, where dreadful humidity unfurled and the local temperatures seared toward triple digits while trackside temperature eclipsed it as the result of adjacent field turf infield, which traps heat.
FAHY'S HONEST EFFORT: Perhaps the most asked questions we've received -- either by phone, email, social media or text -- are, "Is Darren Fahy really going to try to double this weekend?" and "Might Fahy drop the 1600 to focus on the 3200?"
Answering both questions in one swoop, Fahy plans to attempt the double and he CANNOT scratch from the 1600 to focus on the 3200.
Under the California state meet's Honest Effort Rule -- a rule which is hardly ever used by any other meet in the state during the year -- Fahy must make an 'honest effort' to compete in (with the intent of placing, advancing, etc.) every race/round in which he is entered. The La Costa Canyon star cannot scratch from an event at this point. The penalty for not making an honest effort is to be disqualified for the remainder of the events the athlete is entered in during the meet. So if Fahy scratched from either the 1600m prelim or (if he qualifies for the) final, he'd be disqualified from the 3200.
Fahy inferred on Sunday that he did not intend to compete in the double but will now have to.
A couple of weeks ago, La Costa Canyon was in the hunt for the state team title. But one teammate's qualifying setback at the San Diego Section Finals meet lodged a bit of a dagger in those plans. When Fahy then learned temperatures for state meet weekend were expected to hover above a hundred degrees, Fahy admitted his plan was top focus on the 3200. But this was the day after CIF Finals. By then, the San Diego Section had already submitted its official state meet entries on to state meet personnel, so the Honest Effort Rule was then in effect and scratches were no longer allowed.
Fahy's coach later in the week indicated he might have opted to double Fahy anyway.
A team title for the Mavericks is a longshot -- although not entirely out of the question -- but a place on the team podium (via a top three finish) remains possible if everyone comes through....
RIO MESA'S RELAYS PROWESS: Over the years, Long Beach Poly has earned a reputation as being the best speed-based boys program in the state. By default comes the distinction of being recognized as the best relays program as well. Serra is another often mentioned in the discussion.
But history and the data show otherwise.
Instead, Rio Mesa of Oxnard has outperformed its two Southern Section counterparts to earn billing as the best relays crew around.
Over the last six years, Coach Brian FitzGerald's cast of Spartans dashers have finished the season listed among the top five boys relay times in the state leaders list on five occasions. That's most in the state. Next up are Poly and Serra, with four appearances apiece. No other program has made the list more than twice during that six-year study.
While Rio Mesa has featured pretty fine sprinters over the years, their key to relays success have usually centered on pristine handling of the baton. Precision timing in keep the baton moving through the exchange zone at maximum speed throughout means everything in the 4x100 -- and it's a tricky parlay which involves devising the correct acceleration rate of the outgoing dasher against that of the fatiguing incoming dasher. It requires plenty of practice to devise that proper "timing" between the competing inertias.
The other secret for Rio Mesa is the 'upsweep', or underhand, method of the baton exchange. It's considered a more efficient means of crisply transferring the aluminum cylinder from one dasher to the next without loss of critical momentum or target-exchange accuracy. FitzGerald's has employed -- and taught at various coaching clinics -- the upsweep method, which foreign nations have executed for years in international competition, often defeating American teams brandishing athletes with superior raw speed.
By the way, more and more California high school sprint coaches are beginning to emulate FitzGerald's approach in utilizing the upsweep method. Coincidence or not, the depth of quality across the state in the short relay has been improving in recent years. This year, the trend has continued. More than 100 schools across the state have run the 4x100 this year in 43.04 seconds or faster -- the most ever by California in a single season.
Who leads the California list this year? You guessed it: Rio Mesa. The Spartans have clocked 40.95 this spring, and also lead the state in the 4x200 (an event not contested at the state meet) and rank second in the 4x400. And the beat goes on....
NO SOPHOMORE-YEAR JINX:
When Stockdale High's Blake Haney "wowed the crowd" with a California all-time freshman record clocking of 4:12.54 at the 2011 Valley (Central Section) Championships Meet, it was big news.
This year, the Bakersfield-based teen has -- rather than be plagued by the dreaded sophomore jinx -- continued to celebrate with an achievement-laden encore season. Among his many successes are clockings of 4:11.55 for the full mile and 8:54.65 for the 3200; each ranks as the top sophomore mark in the nation this year in the event.
Haney's no longer the U.S. sophomore leader at 1600, however. That distinction now goes to Seattle Prep of Washington's Joe Hardy, who has clocked 4:09.29. Hardy has scooted very close behind Haney at 3200 as well, with his 8:55.22 at last week's Washington state meet. (Side note: the boys 3200m has reached unprecedented levels this year for sophomores, as three tenth graders have busted under 8:58 for 3200 meters. Before 2012, never had the nation seen even two sophomores get under 9:10 for 3200 meters in the same season, let alone three at sub-9.)
At last year's California state meet, Haney was understandably nervous as he came onto the track for his 1600m heat prelim, in which he came up just short in trying to advance to the final.
This year, the situation is a bit different. Haney is stronger and more experienced. With faith in himself and his training, he can afford to let the prelims race "come to him" before making the necessary in-race maneuvers to assert his talents. It's all part of the learning process, but so far his career is coming along very nicely.
Haney's best at 3200 meters ranks second in U.S. history for tenth graders, trailing only national record setter Eric Hulst of Laguna Beach High in Southern California. Way back in 1974, Hulst clocked 8:50.5 for the full two miles, a mark which converts to 8:47.5 for 3200 meters. ...
WE WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED THIS YEAR EITHER: One of the most lingering memories from the 2011 state meet was Oaks Christian's eventual victory in the boys 4x100-meter final. Going into meet weekend, we found it tough to fathom why the Lions weren't faring better in the event last season. Based on the raw speed of their relay team members -- statistically derived by a compilation of seasonal bests (adjusted for wind in each case), then subtracting the estimated time sliced away by efficient exchanges in the zone -- Oaks Christian should have been running several tenths of a second faster and projected as best in the state -- yet kept losing to 'slower' teams. It wasn't until the state meet final -- and what better time to finally put it all together, right? -- that the Lions sprinters (coached by Olympic medalist sprinter Maurice Greene) finally were crisp in the zone en route to the 'surprising' victory.
Guess what? That scenario appears set to repeat itself this weekend. The Lions arrive here with the best raw speed in the state and yet boast the fifth-fastest time of the year. With the likes of Vinnie Saucer, Terry Johnson and Ishmael Adams, this crew projects to run under 40.75. The state leader this year is Rio Mesa's 40.95. One thing to note: Saucer (stunningly) did not advance past the Southern Section Masters Meet as an individual. Perhaps injury or sickness played a role. ...
LONG BEACH LINEAGE: Two names of note in Long Beach Poly lore, both past and present: Among the current members of Poly's girls team is dasher Diamond Thomas, whose father is perhaps the most legendary boys prep sprinter in Golden State history (with apologies to Obea Moore) -- Henry Thomas. Back in the 1980s, Henry "The Heat" dazzled sprint and non-sprint fans alike with his amazing performances including still-standing California state records for 100 meters (10.25 wind legal), 400 meters (45.09) and anchoring the still-standing national 4x400 record of 3:07.40. All three marks came in 1985. ... In going over past state meet history, colleague Mike Kennedy noted that back in 1980, Long Beach Poly's runner-up 4x400 girls team included Faye Paige as one of its team members. The interesting note there? Paige's son these days is none other than prep hoops mega-phenom Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas. Regarded as the #2 recruit in the nation, he has signed on to play basketball at UCLA this coming school year....
CHECK YOUR PROGRAMS, PLEASE: The official state meet program will be chock full of great information, as usual. But there are at least two small errors you should be aware of, for sake of accuracy. In the boys high jump competition, defending state champion Cody Crampton of Canyon High in Anaheim was listed as Crampton Cody in the Southern Section meets, an error which originated at the league level. An attempt was made to alert the proper party of the error in time for the state meet program, but it might have missed the early deadline. If young Mr. Crampton, who is headed to UCLA in the fall, wins the event again this year, we're confident people will learn his name.
Another snafu of unknown origin is in the boys hurdles, where Kennedy High's Kenneth Walker is listed as being from Richmond High in the heat sheets; Kennedy is in the city of Richmond. Since he's the favorite to win the high hurdles, we just wanted to inform you of his proper school. Being the top high hurdler in the state coming in, we just wanted to alert you to the right uniform to look for. Again, these errors usually originate at the league level and a couple inevitably do not get corrected before they reach the CIF-State office. ...
EXPERIENCING Déjå Vu: In case you're watching the boys triple jump competition this weekend and the mention of the name Ricky Carrigan on the stadium's public address system rings a bell... it should. That's Ricky Carrigan Jr. of Cabrillo HS in Long Beach. His father, Ricky Sr., scorched the straightaway for Compton High in 1991 in 10.29 seconds, the second-fastest wind legal 100m clocking in Golden State history....
LORD OF THE RINGS: It's no secret that the Southern Section is the strongest and deepest section in the state, year in and year out. So when a coach makes it a habit of qualifying kids to state from the SS, that means it was done the hard way. Which makes Newport Harbor throws coach Tony Ciarelli's long-standing success in the sport absolutely mind boggling. This marks the 23rd year that Ciarelli -- who has also coached at Southern Section schools Huntington Beach Edison High and Huntington Beach High in addition to Hawaii's Damien High -- has qualified at least one thrower to the California state meet.
This year, "Team Ciarelli" is taking over the throws rings at Buchanan High. The Sailors have two qualifiers in the shot put (senior Ethan Cochran and junior Marty Taylor) and two qualifiers in the discus (Cochran and Steve Michaelsen). Newport Harbor is ranked fourth in the state as a team based solely on the prowess of its throwers.
Congratulations also are in order for Coach Ciarelli for another reason this week. He and wife Stephanie are celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary! ...
FIELD OF DREAMS? For those field event athletes who've only dreamed of making the state meet final, your chances of making it a reality could grow in the future. Why? The sport's state advisory committee reportedly will be asked to look into the possibility of expanding to 12 the number of qualifying spots from the state prelims to the finals in the field events. Currently, only nine advance. Not only would the field events be impacted, the 800-meter final would likely mushroom to twelve as well with athletes in that event then starting in alleys rather than lanes.
There are other progressive proposals being discussed regarding the state meet, but those remaining items were discussed on the condition of being off the record. We hope to share them in due time, once they become official discussion items.
What's all this mean? It means we'll likely see Coach Ciarelli able to mentor even more throwers to the state finals!
See you at the meet!