Lissette Mendivil has the smile of a cheerleader, the pleasant personality of a young lady you want babysitting your children and the wherewithal to be a high school discus champion in the most powerful track and field state in the land -- California.
The Bee's girls Athlete of the Year in the sport also aspires to be an emergency room doctor, and apparently has the make-up to be one of those, also.
How else to explain Mendivil's response in the CIF State Championships June 2?
In 97-degree heat, in second place and trailing Arroyo Grande's Madison Jacobs by 2 feet 11 inches, Mendivil had the final throw of the competition on a field just outside Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Never in the first 93 years of the state meet had Redwood produced a gold medalist, boy or girl.
Never in the meet's first 36 years of girls discus competition had Tulare-Kings counties delivered a girls champion.
Three more feet to make history.
"I just stepped into the ring, took a breath, didn't think about anything and went for it," she says.
"It was a dramatic moment, really," Redwood Coach Randy Ziraldo says. "There were a lot of people there and everybody was aware. It was quiet, it was tense; you could feel it."
Mendivil, smallish in comparison to most throwers, but technically sound while combining speed, power and coordination, made her 1 1/2-rotation spin and launched the 7-inch, 2-pound rubber platter: "It was fluid and smooth, a definite improvement. But when I saw it land, I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' I wasn't sure."
She held her breath.
The digital scoreboard, as fed by laser measuring (no tape), flashed 155-10 -- precisely the 3-foot gain needed.
By one inch, she was California golden.
"I was relieved, I was excited, I didn't believe I won the way I did," says the section's only champion.
When she awoke Sunday morning in her family's north Visalia country home, "It felt like I had been dreaming. 'Wow,' I thought, 'I can't believe I won as I did, by one inch on my very last throw.' "
The next stage of her career will be on full scholarship at the University of Indianapolis, a 110-year-old, private NCAA Division II school of 5,000 students.
Mendivil, attracting national attention after placing eighth in the state in the discus as a sophomore, then progressively more after finishing third as a junior, also visited LSU.
In addition, Oregon, UCLA, Notre Dame, Florida and Duke expressed interest in the student with the 3.4 grade-point average.
But the tiny school in Indiana won.
"I loved the campus, the program, the coach, and they have my major," she says. "I intend on going into pre-med, and that was big."
Emergency room doctor?
"I don't know, just helping people in a hospital, just being there. It's something I always wanted to do."
Athlete of the Year: Lissette Mendivil
She's qualified because: Became Redwood's first gold medalist in the 94-year history of the CIF State Track and Field Championships by winning the discus on the final throw of the competition. She threw 155 feet, 10 inches, winning by 1 inch over Arroyo Grande's Madison Jacobs. Mendivil was also the Central Section's only gold medalist in the meet, and she's the first Tulare-Kings counties girl to capture the state discus title in the 37 years of that competition. The 155-10 is a school record and ranks ninth in section history. Next stop: University of Indianapolis.
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