CIF State Track and Field Championships: Speedy area trio on edge of history (video)

The Fresno BeeJune 5, 2014 

They represent three classes and a marvelous balance of speed, strength and endurance.

And with that, Edison High's Jazmen Bunch, Buchanan's Hannah Waller and Clovis North's Mikaela Smith will attempt to do this weekend at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium what's never been done by the Central Section in the female division of the CIF State Track and Field Championships.

Never, in the meet's 40-year history of female competition, has the section delivered medals (top six) in each of the 100-meter, 200, 400 and 800 races in a single meet. But never has the section arrived as qualified.

There have been Central Section moments of girls' sprinting brilliance, to be sure: Clovis' Jenna Prandini early in this decade; the 400 dominance of Bakersfield's Janice Nichols in the early '90s; and half-mile sensations Alice Trumbley of Coalinga and Kristie Johnston of Central in the '70s and '90s.

They were all gold medalists — multiple in the case of Prandini (five), Nichols (three) and Johnston (two).

This isn't to suggest Bunch, Waller and Smith are so gifted they'll take turns atop the medals stand Saturday night, with 90-degree heat forecast.

But they're all back and improved physically after competing well in last year's state finals at the same venue. And, this time, they rank even higher at a state meet often likened to the Junior Olympics.

Bunch, a senior headed to San Diego State, has season-best times of 11.61 seconds in the 100 and 24.11 in the 200 that rank Nos. 3 and 6 among the meet's sprinters. She placed fifth in the 100 (11.83) last year, but didn't make the finals in the 200.

Waller has the fourth-best time in the 400 (54.57) a year after placing fourth as a freshman (54.69).

And Smith has the fourth-best clocking in the 800 (2:10.06) a year after winning as a sophomore in 2:08.39 — No. 2 all-time in the section.

It was then that Smith improved her personal record by 4 seconds.

That's what this level of state competition can do for you.

"I'm hoping for something similar," she says, "but you can never predict the future. I'm hoping to run as fast or faster than last year; we'll see."

This is certain: Bunch, Waller and Smith won't be running against the clock — as opposed to competition — as they were to a large degree at the section Masters meet two weeks ago.

"And that's hard to do," Waller says. "It sounds easy, but it's harder than what you might think."

She won the Masters 400 at 54.57. Second place was 56.35.

Bunch won the 100 at 11.52. Second place was 11.80.

And Smith won the 800 at 2:11.08. Second place was 2:13.70.

Bunch (23.93) was pushed while winning the 200. And guess who did the pushing? Yes, Waller (24.04).

Consider the competition for the state meet, which will begin with tonight's preliminaries:

For Bunch: Merely Long Beach Poly's Ariana Washington (11.49/23.40), an Oregon-bound senior, who's favored to join Marion Jones and Allyson Felix as the meet's only females to sweep the sprints at least three times consecutively (Jones did it four times).

For Waller: Long Beach Poly freshman phenom Kaelin Roberts (53.37) and Menlo's Madeline Price (53.43).

And for Smith: Mater Dei-Santa Ana's Ashlyn Rambo (2:08.75), San Lorenzo Valley's Anna Maxwell (2:08.84) and Redondo's Anevay Hiehle (2:09.19).

What will Smith be — the hunter or the hunted — after winning last year?

"I'm pretty much both," she says. "But I don't feel that much pressure because I'm not coming in with the best time. Physically, everything's perfect right now; I couldn't expect anything more for this weekend."

Clovis North coach Jason Lineau has a hunch, and it's a good one: "Mikaela's very ready to run very well, it's just a matter of keeping a level head, trusting her fitness and competing like she always does."

And how about the hunch Edison coach Danny Alberty is playing for Bunch against wonder Washington: "I think you're going to see a big surprise. Jazmen will leave it on the track."

 

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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