Kingsburg High's Joey Souza, on his first jump in his first track and field meet in months, found gold in the sand Monday.
Clovis North's Mikaela Smith awoke a bit ill, drove to the Save Mart Center and smoked a meet-record time over 600 yards.
Two different quartets of Fresno-area girls, exchanging batons with virtually no preparation together, won the 580- and 1,600-meter relays.
Simply, there was no denying several Central Section representatives, who turned the California Indoor Championships -- also known as the Run for the Dream Meet -- into a backyard party.
The section won nine golds among 30 events in the seventh annual event that drew about 1,500 athletes statewide.
The local winning performances were part expected, part mild surprise, part major surprise and part guesswork.
** Smith, and to heck with how she felt in the morning.
Eight months after drawing national attention by winning the 800 meters as a sophomore at the CIF State Championships at Buchanan, she blew away her 600-yard heat by 7 seconds with a time of 1 minute and 26.23 seconds on the four-lane, 160-yard, sloped Tartan track. That time held up for first place over St. Mary's of Albany Track Club's Chloe Jenkins (1:26.83), who ran in another heat.
Smith technically ran for the Edison Fresno Track Club in a meet that's not sanctioned by the CIF, thereby prohibiting the athletes from competing under their high school flags.
** Tulare Western's Joe Herrera, who successfully defended his 600-yard indoor title with a meet-record 1:04.08.
** Edison's Jazmen Bunch, a section 2013 100-meter champion, who torched a 7.08 in the 55-meter dash to obliterate a field that drew 103 competitors in multiple heats.
** Souza, a section 2013 long jump champion, who sailed 23-4 1/2 in his first of four attempts and would not be threatened. Paloma Valley Track Club's Chase Pacheco (22-6) was a distant second. Souza also tied for the best 55-meter time of the day at 6.52.
** Central's Eddie Parish, a year after placing 15th in the high jump at the section Masters finals at 5-11, who won the event by two inches with a leap of 6-7.
** Immanuel junior Kasey Knevelbaard (9:28.09) and Madera South sophomore Eduardo Herrera (9:30.78), who, not 2 hours after running 1-mile races, went 1-2 in the 2-mile.
** Bunch, Edison teammate Canisha Lewis, Clovis North's Rhesa Foster and Buchanan's Hannah Waller -- after only passing the baton in a recent qualifying meet -- who won the 580-meter relay in 1:14.80.
** Waller, Smith, Edison's Melese Crozier and Clovis West's Lindsey Lopes -- equally unfamiliar with exchanges as a team -- who blew away the 1,600-meter relay field by nearly 8 seconds in 3:55.99.
** Sanger senior Kesean McCandless, who won the 25-pound weight throw (hammer) at 61-8 3/4. It's an event only participated in by preps indoors.
The section nearly produced another gold in Clovis North sophomore Rhesa Foster, who placed second in the long jump at 18-3 3/4.
A year ago, she burst upon the West Coast scene by winning the section, finishing third in the state and delivering the fourth-best leap (19-101/2) in section history.
Two weeks after the state finals, she popped a 20-2 1/2-inch jump in a summer meet: "I hope to go 21 (this spring)," she said. "And I think I have a good chance if I work hard."
There's no questioning the work ethic of Foster's teammate, Mikaela Smith, but the 5-foot-6 16-year-old continues to make it look effortless with a clinical stride.
And that technique will take her to Miami in two months, when she will compete against mostly 17- and 18-year-olds while trying out for the USA Junior World Team. She just missed a year ago in Illinois as a 15-year-old.
Three months later, she was a section and state gold medalist and the second-fastest 800-meter runner (2:08.39) in section annals.
Only North Bakersfield's Linda Goen (2:05.43, 1977) has run faster in the section.
And, Smith -- concentrating exclusively on track and field after hanging up her soccer cleats -- is confident she can run in Goen's neighborhood: "I'm training a lot more without playing soccer. I'm lifting weights three times a week and running every day. My goal is to win state again and run a 2:05."
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