TRACK AND FIELD PREVIEW
HIGHER, FASTER, FARTHER
Northern California schools continue to put out top athletes
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
(03-25) 21:54 PDT -- Few thought Kevin Craddock could be topped, but David Klech followed.
Many thought the 2006 state girls crown shared by James Logan-Union City would be a long-standing highlight, then Northern California girls teams took the first five places at last year's state meet. East Bay girls, led by Jamesha Youngblood (Hercules) and Ke'Nyia Richardson (Holy Names-Oakland), piled up 10 first- or second-place medals at the 2007 state meet.
It's hard to imagine Bay Area high school track and field getting much better than the last three seasons, but as James Logan coach Lee Webb said this week, "We'll sure give it a good try. (The area) might not reach those marks or accomplish those things but I think we can come pretty close."
With the Purvis sisters - senior Julian and sophomore Ashton - still hurdling and sprinting at St. Elizabeth-Oakland, the region is pretty much guaranteed to contend for state gold.
Ashton Purvis continues to break national age and class records. Last month in New York, she ran 23.43 to break her own sophomore 200 indoor record for the third time. She has the national freshman indoor mark of 23.55.
"She's right where she needs to be," said her club coach, Curtis Taylor, also the head track-and-field coach at Laney College in Oakland. "As long as she gets strong starts in the 100, she'll be just fine."
Last season at state, she finished second in the 100 and 200 behind Mt. Pleasant-San Jose's Jeneba Tarmoh, who repeated as a double winner. Purvis' times of 11.41 and 23.24 were lifetime bests, but not good enough to catch Tarmoh's 11.27 and 23.20.
Known as a fierce competitor, she was surprisingly content after last year's runner-up spots. It certainly gave her motivation in the offseason.
"Learning how to win is as important as it is to learn how to run," Taylor said. "If you run your best and lose, that's OK. I think Ashton was OK losing in the 200 because she ran her absolute best. But she wasn't her best in the 100. She got a terrible start and was like sixth or seventh at the 50 mark then blew all those girls away except Jeneba."
Julian Purvis, who has signed a letter of intent to Michigan, was the state 100-meter hurdles champ as a sophomore and even though she improved her time by almost a half-second to 13.32 last year, she was the state runner-up.
She had a superb summer, winning the Youth (17-and-under) World Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, with a time of 13.41.
"There's not a better (high school) hurdler in the nation," Taylor said. "Especially from hurdle five through 10. It's just a matter of getting out early, which is the key for Julian. If she's ahead at hurdle five, forget it."
Webb would just as soon forget an injury-filled 2007 season, especially among his girls who return one of the top sophomores in the state in Brianna Stewart, who won the Percy Knox Invitational in Southern California 100 hurdles last week in a wind-aided 13.85.
Webb said she went 41-8 in the triple jump over the summer and is hopeful she'll be a 19-foot long jumper.
"She has a lot of talent and this year she's very hungry," Webb said. "She also run a leg on one of our relays."
This is one of Webb's deepest girls teams with 400 to middle distance standouts Thandi Stewart, Victoria Johnson, Donnise Powell and Jami Hardy all capable of reaching the state-meet finals.
The Colts also added freshman Ciarra Brewer, who is already triple jumping near 40 feet. Nicole and Lauren McGlory and another newcomer, Juliette Stewart, are all high-teen long jumpers and high-30s triple jumpers.
"We have a lot of depth in the jumps," Webb said. "It's just a matter of plugging some holes and this team has a lot of potential. The girls throughout the region should be very strong again."
Among Metro Area girls seemingly within range of reaching the state finals are Carlmont-Belmont junior Justine Fedronic (800, 1,600), Livermore senior Diane George (3,200), Carondelet-Concord sophomore Nicole Hood (1,600/3,200), Palo Alto junior Mia Lattanzi (800, 1,600), Casa Grande-Petaluma sophomore Jacque Taylor (3,200), St. Ignatius senior Katy Daly (3,200), Valley Christian junior Dahlys Marshall (hurdles), Bishop O'Dowd-senior Brazile Clark (800), Carondelet sophomore Adrienne Johnson (high jump) and Moreau Catholic-Hayward junior Alitta Boyd (jumps).
"And there's always going to be a surprise along the way," Taylor said, "someone you least expect."
Two expected to do plenty of damage are just outside the region, Amber Purvis (Benicia) and Vashti Thomas (Mt. Pleasant). Amber, the half-sister of Julian and Ashton, won the state long jump as a sophomore, endured numerous injuries as a junior and has committed to Oregon. Thomas, who won the 100 hurdles last year in a state-record 13.03, is considered the best female athlete in the state. She triple jumped 42-8 3/4 indoors in Idaho last month.
As good as Thomas is, Taylor isn't conceding the state title to her yet.
"She's going to try to triple in three very taxing events," Taylor said. "That could open the door for Julian."
Though Bay Area boys prospects aren't nearly as bright, the surest bet appears to be in the always unpredictable pole vault.
Nico Weiler, a foreign-exchange student from Germany, got his visa extended and figures to repeat as champion after winning last year at a state-meet record 17-2 after going a national best of 17-6 1/2 during the regular season.
He already has gone 17-2 indoors to win at the Simplot games last month in Idaho and earlier this month, he went 17-0 to win at the West Valley Relays.
Castro Valley junior Maurice Valentine emerged late last year to finish second at state in the high jump at 6-10, a mark he repeated at Simplot. He's also a terrific short hurdler and overall is one of the area's top athletes.
The boys also have a strong distance contingent, led by state cross-country champion James Attarian (Dublin), who went 4:17.87 in the 1,600 last year. Palo Alto sophomore Phillip MacQuitty looks fit after becoming the first boy to win a Central Coast Section 3,200 title as a freshman.
Carlmont, led by senior Brad Suhr, who won the 1,600 (4:19.38) at the Bay Area Distance Festival in Pleasanton this month, is thriving once more. Coach Jeff Gilkey is building a powerful program as shown at the Festival, where 12 of his runners broke 5 minutes in the 1,600.
Other Metro Area boys looking like possible state medalists in the early going: Acalanes senior Nate Beach (3,200), Las Lomas junior Diante Jackson (long jump), St. Mary's senior Matt Duffy (3,200) and James Logan seniors Belal Mogaddedi (400) and Arnaux Brewer (triple jump).
Returning State individual medalists
First place: Nico Weiler (Los Gatos) pole vault
Second: Ashton Purvis (St. Elizabeth-Oakland) 100, 200; Julian Purvis (St. Elizabeth) 100 hurdles; Maurice Valentine (Castro Valley) high jump
Fourth: Stacey Jung (Campolindo-Moraga) pole vault; Dahlys Marshall (Valley Christian) 100 hurdles; Jacque Taylor (Casa Grande-Petaluma) 3,200
Fifth: Diana George (Livermore) 3,200; Adrienne Johnson (Carondelet-Concord) high jump
Sixth: Josh Cusick (St. Lawrence-Santa Clara) pole vault
Meets of note
April 4-5: Stanford Invitational
April 11-12: Arcadia Invitational (Los Angeles County)
April 12: Serra Top 7 Invitational
April 18: CCS Top 8 Meet, Los Gatos HS
April 18-19: Bay Area Top 8 Invitational, James Logan-Union City
April 26: Sacramento Meet of Champions, Hughes Stadium
May 17: CCS trials, Gilroy HS
May 23: CCS finals, Gilroy HS
May 23-24: NCS trials/finals at Edwards Stadium, Cal
May 30-31: State Meet at Cerritos College, Norwalk (Los Angeles County)