Clovis News: Sports

High school track stars eye today's finals

Jenna Prandini woke up this morning top-ranked nationally in the long jump and No. 2 in the 100 meters and triple jump.

Willy Irwin's orange juice flowed well, also, a national top discus ranking in his pocket.

Only, today, they must try a little harder.

That's the reality of the CIF State Track and Field Championships, when such marvelous performances delivered in preliminaries are good but for 24 hours.

While it's true the 11.34-second 100 and the wind-aided 20-7 3/4 and 41-10 1/2 long and triple jumps by Clovis' Prandini -- not Marion Jones-esque; merely one of the finest prelims in the 37-year history of the state girls competition -- and the 208-10 missile shot of a discus by Clovis East's Irwin can never be taken away, their meaning at this point are merely tickets to today's finals at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.

And consider what they will find there -- particularly by Prandini in the 100.

A crowd of 7,786 still was buzzing about the 11.34 displayed immediately in bright red digital numbers on the venue's east-side scoreboard when St. Elizabeth-Oakland's Ashton Purvis delivered another treat.

Two years after winning the state 100, and one year after buckling the crowd by jumping in the prelims, the Miami-bound senior sizzled a nation-leading 11.22.

"And I know she's going to run that time again," said Prandini, who probably has one chance in a race scheduled for 7:31 p.m. -- a textbook start.

At the very least, Prandini must fire out of the blocks better than Friday in her attempt to become the Central Section's first female 100 champion.

"I know I can run faster because my start wasn't good at all," Prandini said. "Hopefully, I can run with her -- that's my goal."

Regarding her overall performance in the trials, the junior said: "I'm just really excited about it. I've wanted to get to this point and I'm finally here."

Today, Prandini will be the prohibitive favorite in the long jump, where she blew away the field by more than 2 feet in her only attempt. She could have taken two more, but passed. Then in the triple jump, she also crunched the field by 15 inches with only one attempt.

But, in this event, a year after she placed sixth, she once again will oppose defending champion Ciarra Brewer of James Logan-Union City, who leaped 40-7 Friday, but has gone a state-leading 41-41/2.

Irwin, similarly, will be the choice in the discus, where his platter launch had no rival -- relatively.

The Nos. 2-3-5 throws also came out of the Central Section in Fowler's Jacob Budwig (189-4), El Diamante's Brice Sandri (182-3) and Frontier defending champion Matt Darr (181-11).

Irwin, who won the section Grand Masters at 199-9 two weeks ago, has now improved his personal best by 20 feet in this span.

Friday, he fouled on his first throw before stirring the small crowd on the northern discus field outside the stadium by heaving 204-4 on his second try.

Then the 208-10 bomb on final toss No. 3 that ranks second in section history and No. 9 all-time in the state.

He said crosswinds were ideal for a right-hander: "Actually, on the 204, my throw wasn't very high so I thought it would only go 185. But the wind just caught it and carried it.

"Then, on the 208, the height and everything was better."

A year after powering Clovis East to a tie for the team title by placing second in the discus and fourth in the shot pout, Irwin also qualified first Friday in the shot (62-63/4).

"I'll try it again tomorrow," he said. "This gives me a lot of confidence."

The Central Section advanced 26 athletes into the finals, including double qualifiers in hurdlers Sean Johnson of Buchanan and Alyssa Monteverde of Clovis West; Ridgeview's Johnny Carter in the long and triple jumps; and Frontier's Darr and Stockdale's Alex Collatz in the throws.

The trials closed with a rush when Serra-Gardena's boys clocked 3:08.42 in the 1,600 relay -- No. 1 nationally this year and No. 3 in the history of U.S. preps.