Clovis News: Sports

Girls 100-meter dash highlight of state meet

In a major track and field meet that typically runs for 5 hours or so, the greatest glamour is reduced to 10 seconds, give or take a tick.

Snackbar lines are cleared, restrooms are emptied and wagers have been known to fly in the bleachers.

It is the 100-meter dash. It always is.

And it is here Friday and Saturday in the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High's Veterans Memorial Stadium that the most compelling matchup will be delivered, and in the girls division.

No event in the grandest of all state meets in the land – one drawing seven nation-leading athletes or relays – offers more intrigue, combining out-of-area and local talent, than this one.

Upon whom do you place your buck?

Ashton Purvis? The St. Elizabeth-Oakland and Miami-bound senior won the event as a sophomore, sucked the air out of the Veterans Memorial Stadium crowd last year by false-starting as the favorite in the preliminaries and now returns with the third-best time (11.50) in the nation.

Valexsia Droughn? The Rio Mesa junior is the defending champion whose 11.63 ranks third in the state and No. 9 nationally.

Jessica Davis? Narrowly overcame Droughn in last weekend's Southern Section Masters in 11.66 – No. 4 in the state and No. 8 nationally.

Or Jenna Prandini? The Clovis junior – with a barely-legal wind push of 1.5 mph, and the best start of her life – blew away the Central Section Grand Masters field two weeks ago with an 11.46 time that ranks No. 1 in the state, No. 2 nationally and No. 1 all time in the section.

Never since girls competition began at the state level in 1974 has a Central Section girl won the state 100.

And it's not as if Prandini has no other responsibilities. The record-holder with nine section gold medals, she's also a legitimate contender in the long (20-2) and triple (39-5 3/4) jumps, where she ranks Nos. 1 and 6 in the state.

So the pressure's on again for the athlete who also dominated the section Grand Masters as a sophomore (four golds), only to leave the state finals with merely a sixth-place medal in the triple jump.

"It's a lot of pressure," said Prandini, who was beaten soundly by Purvis in the Stanford Invitational 100 on March 26. "But I like it because it makes me want to do better because I know people want me to do good. I think it's exciting.

"It's going to be fun. I mean, I'm competing against the best people in the state so I have to relax if I want to do good; I have to stay relaxed and not get overwhelmed by everything."

At Buchanan, a venue common to her, she'll have homecourt advantage.

Or will she?

"I'll have family and friends there, and I'll sleep in my own bed," she said. "But I think most tracks are the same; you run down a runway and jump into a pit, so I don't think it will be different for anyone."

If anything, Prandini can sing praises for good health after battling through a torn labrum in her hip as a freshman and strained hamstring as a sophomore.

In track and field, whose premium meets have no compassion for such things, the same can't be said for Michael Woepse and Kori Carter.

Woepse, a senior from Mater Dei-Santa Ana and the state's defending champion in the pole vault, is out with a late-April hamstring injury. His 17-6 led the state by nearly 1 1/2 feet, and was also No. 1 in the nation.

And Carter, a three-time state hurdles queen (one 100 highs; two 300 lows) and silver medalist at the World Youth Championships in Italy last summer, will be a mystery competitor here while continuing her recovery from mononucleosis.

Consequently, the athlete coached by former Fresno State conference hurdles champion Richard Holmes didn't practice for a day prior to recent Southern Section Finals and Masters meets. Yet she escaped the Masters with third place finishes in both hurdles to qualify for the state finals.

"I hope we can get in two days of practice this week and let the chips fall," Holmes said. "Kori is the ultimate big-meet runner, so when she lines up, it should be interesting."

But no more intriguing than when Prandini, Purvis and the rest of the field fire from the blocks in the 100.

"I know she is going to be running really fast times," Prandini said of Purvis, "but I have to treat her just as another competitor and run my best."

As for Purvis, who placed third in the 100 and 200 at the World Youth Championships, she returns to the meet with resolve after last year's tragedy in the 100.

"I'm at the top of my game and focused on the state," said the athlete who chose Miami over Texas and Florida. "I should be peaking in the 100 and 200. I just feel good about running right now."

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