Clovis News: Sports

Clovis keeps track fans happy at state meet

Despite attendance that slipped a bit over the weekend in 90-degree temperatures, meet officials remain ecstatic about the overall quality of the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.

"Revenue, attendance and management wise, we're extremely pleased with the two years in Clovis," CIF senior director Ron Nocetti said.

A year after the two-day meet drew a total of 17,660 fans in unseasonably cool 70-degree weather, this weekend's meet attracted 17,358 fans, including 9,572 for Saturday's finals, which delivered six nation-leading marks.

The attendance was consistent with previous years at Norwalk's Cerritos College and Sacramento's Hughes Stadium, which combined to house the meet from 1985-2008.

The CIF's three-year contract with Clovis Unified will expire next year, but all indications are that the meet will remain indefinitely at Buchanan, where the production is supported by 500 volunteers and more than $50,000 in sponsorship from local businesses and the Fresno Sports Council.

"Last year, the revenue was up from the previous year [at Norwalk]," Nocetti said. "That was a pleasant surprise. And, this year, we're pretty much on par and ahead from last year, so we're very pleased."

Saturday, on a June 5 day whose average high temperature is 88 in Clovis, temperatures peaked at 95 about the time the meet started with field events at 4:30 p.m. But a consistent breeze helped comfort fans by the time running events began at 6 p.m.

"I was walking around in a CIF shirt," Nocetti said, "and I was continually stopped and asked questions, like when certain events would start and about the snack bar. But I did not have one person stop me and say this is too hot to have a meet in. It was a very pleasant atmosphere."

In comparison, average high temperatures on June 5 are 76 in Norwalk and 86 in Sacramento. But what remains indisputable are the depth of improved fan-pleasing amenities at Buchanan, ranging from parking to views, restrooms and snack bars.

Dream results for Papa Prandini

It's been five years since Clovis North area superintendent Carlo Prandini, Clovis Unified then-superintendent Terry Bradley and Buchanan coaches Brian Weaver and Marty Simpson began formulating a pitch to bring the state meet to Clovis.

And it was only when Veterans Stadium was upgraded with an Olympic-class Mondo track and digital scoreboard, positioning the district to actually bid for the meet, did it strike Prandini that his daughter, Jenna, might one day have the chance to compete in the nation's premier track and field event in front of family and friends.

"That was a personal perk," dad said, "not personal motivation to go after it."

He talked on his cell phone while preparing a pork chop barbecue Sunday evening, and never has the grub tasted better than after his daughter -- a junior at Clovis High -- won golds in the long and triple jumps and a silver in the 100 meters in one of the most outstanding performances in the meet's 37-year history of girls competition.

And she's ranked among the nation's top 10 in all three events.

"She's healthy and happy, and that's all any parent would want," dad said.

Key for Jenna Prandini in Saturday's finals was popping a 20-5 3/4 long jump in her second of a maximum six attempts in her first event of the day.

Knowing no one else in the nine-jumper field had gone 20 feet this year, that virtually guaranteed her the gold, allowing her to pass on her final four attempts.

"It took a lot of pressure off me because I knew 20-5 would be hard for someone to come and catch," she said. "I was really happy because it saved my legs for the next couple events."