Joey Souza made a major leap -- placement wise -- during the conclusion to the 96th CIF State Track and Field Championships.
The Kingsburg High junior soared 24 feet, 2¾ inches Saturday at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium to place second in the boys long jump.
It was an improvement on Souza's 11th at last year's state meet.
"I don't know how I've been able to improve so much," Souza said. "But something's working. My coaches have been great."
Souza finished behind Castro Valley's Nate Moore, who won his second straight title with a leap of 25-8¾, fourth-best in the United States this year and the best in California since Tulare's James Stallworth went 26-4¾ in 1989.
"(Nate) is an amazing person on and off the field," Souza said. "I am humbled and honored to compete with him and to have someone like him to push me in my athletic journey."
Souza was well off his best wind-legal mark of 24-10 and his best wind-aided leap of 25-7, but that didn't matter as he clutched his silver medal.
"I am really happy with what I did, 24-2¾ is a great mark," said Souza, who was attempting to become Kingsburg's first gold medalist since Rafer Johnson, the Olympic great, 60 years ago. "It's not as good as I wanted to do, but second place in the best meet in the state is pretty good.
"To have the ability to even be here right now, it's such an honor."
History for Hanford school
Erick Loomis put Sierra Pacific in the state track and field record books for the first time, just as he intended.
The senior, who chose Friday's prelims over his high school graduation ceremony Friday night, was third in the boys discus at 183-0 -- becoming the first athlete from the 5-year-old school in Hanford to medal at the state meet.
"It means more to get my school recognized than medaling," said Loomis, who entered with a personal best and fourth-best qualifying mark of 183-10.
San Clemente's Rocky Fenton won at 184-10 and Grant-Sacramento's Darrin Paulo was second at 184-2.
"This is pretty big," said Loomis, whose best throw came on the fifth of his six attempts. "I've never been to the state meet before. I had some butterflies."
Loomis, who informed The Bee on Saturday that results sheets had his first name spelled incorrectly (the "k" was missing), started throwing the discus in the eighth grade. This season has been his best by far, and he credits that to throws coach Rosario Sanchez, a 2007 girls shot put state champion for Selma.
"This year's been a big difference thanks to my coach," Loomis said. "She strengthened my technique and my mental ability. She helped me realize that I'm capable of anything."
Medal at night makes up for Herrera's rough day
Considering how Joe Herrera's day started, the Tulare Western 400-meter runner was thankful to end up on the medal podium.
Herrera woke up vomiting, with a temperature of 103 degrees, but ran a personal-best 47.25 seconds and finished fourth.
The UCLA recruit entered with the best qualifying mark from Friday at 47.33. But Wilson-Long Beach's Kemonie Briggs (46.92), Vista Murrieta's Michael Norman (46.94) and Terra Nova-Pacifica's Jeremy Wright (47.10) were faster in the final.
"I felt weak coming in. Everything was sore," said Herrera, who had hoped to run in the 46-second range. "It felt like I couldn't give it my best. So I just wanted to get on the podium, and I did."
Herrera was eighth last year.
Clovis North sophomore has room to grow
Clovis North sophomore Rhesa Foster has experienced the highs and lows at the state meet.
She debuted year with a third in the long jump. This year, she didn't make it into the final nine jumpers, finishing 11th.
"She gave it her all," Broncos jumps coach Roman Gonzalez said. "One of the joys of our sport is when you're on, you're on. ..."
This was one of those off-nights.
She entered the weekend with the sixth-best mark in the state at 19-63/4. In the final, she went 17-31/2 on her first try, then fouled on two.
With two state finals appearances in her first two seasons, Gonzalez said, there is still reason to be excited about Foster's future.
"She's a great kid and her work ethic is phenomenal," Gonzalez said. "There's no doubt she'll be here again."
Medal haul includes pole vault bronze
Among the 23 medals captures by Central Section competitors were a third by Clovis West's Trevor Groom in the pole vault and a fourth for Lemoore's Michael Burke in the high jump.
Groom, the grandson of former Fresno State track and field coach Bob Fraley, cleared 16-0 in the pole vault, trailing Lutheran-Orange's Carl Johansson (17-0) and Ventura's Jake David (16-6).
Burke tied for fourth with American-Fremont's David Chukwu with a top mark of 6-8. Carter-Rialto's Eric Moore won with a jump of 7-0 1/4. Sage Hill-Newport Beach's CJ McCord was second (6-10 1/4) and Tesoro-Rancho Santa Margarita's Mitchell Bland third (6-8).
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