Hopes will run higher than the pole vault bar at the CIF Track & Field Championship meet June 3 and 4, where nearly 1,100 student-athletes will compete for the state title in 33 events.
“It’s dubbed the greatest high school meet in California on one of the greatest facilities in the country,” said meet director and Buchanan High School track coach Brian Weaver. “Everyone who comes out is just amazed at the talent out there.”
The two-day event held at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Minnewawa and Nees avenues draws about 10,000 spectators each day.
“The meet is always extremely exciting. You’re going to see a lot of kids from our section, obviously,” Weaver said.
One of his standouts is senior Hannah Waller, the 2015 state champion in the 400 meters (53.13).
“They don’t get much better than Hannah,” Weaver said at a recent sports media day hosted by Clovis Unified School District. “Hard work and determination has really made her something special. She’s always been good but she’s gone to another level.”
Waller is running times faster than college athletes. (The winner of women’s 400 meters at the PAC-12 Track & Field Championships ran a 53.20.)
Waller said she doesn’t feel any pressure for next weekend’s meet.
“I’m definitely excited for this year’s match-up because it’s me, the 2015 defending champion, versus the 2014 defending champion,” she said, referring to Kaelin Roberts of Long Beach Poly High School.
When asked if she has a 52-second race in her, Waller was quick to respond, “Yeah. I do.”
Waller gets pumped up for her races by dancing to “Work It” by Missy Elliott. Then she just goes out and “executes,” she said.
“When I’m about to race I just say, ‘Hannah, you don’t have any more time to think about things or sit here and strategize, you just have to go out there and do it. You know you are trained to your best physical fitness. You know you have this in you, you just have to go out there and do it.’ To be honest, most of my races don’t last any more than a minute and a minute is not that long, so …”
She trailed off with a smile and a shrug.
Her event preliminary heats begin at 6:33 p.m. Friday, June 3 with finals held at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, June 4.
After competing on one of the best tracks in the nation, Waller will head to Track Town, U.S.A. (Eugene, Oregon) in the fall. Waller signed to run track for the University of Oregon, where she plans to study psychology.
Another local athlete to look out for is Clovis North senior McKay Johnson, who won the Central Section with a 63-9 shot put, making him one of the top throwers in the state. Johnson signed to throw for Cal Berkeley, where he hopes to major in business accounting.
Johnson worked hard over the summer, which resulted in an 11-foot personal record in the shot put. Last year his farthest throw was 52-1 ½ .
“Over summer I was kind of upset about my previous season. I probably didn’t put in as much hard work as I should have to get to where I wanted,” he said. “So I would wake up in the morning and throw for two hours to three hours, then I’d work out for two hours, sleep for a while and then wake up at night and throw for two more hours. So I put in 6 to 7 hours every day over the summer.”
Johnson said he didn’t really test his capabilities until the day before the first meet of the season.
“When I opened up, there was a big difference from last year,” he said.
He’s excited for this weekend’s meet and believes he thrives in competition.
“This is one of the best years in California state history, I would say, in throwing, definitely, so I’m excited to be a part of that. It’s really special to me to represent my school at the top level state meet.”
What: California Interscholastic Federation Track & Field Championships
When: Preliminary field events begin at 3 p.m. Friday, June 3. Track events begin at 5 p.m. Field event finals begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 4; track finals begin at 6 p.m.
Where: Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School, 1560 N. Minnewawa Ave. in Clovis.
How much: On Friday, general admission is $10; children, students with a school ID and seniors 65 and older pay $7. On Saturday, general admission is $12; children students with ID and seniors pay $8. Parking is $5 each day.