When the West Coast Relays are on the schedule, many central San Joaquin Valley high school track and field athletes look forward to competing at the prestigious event even if it's for the first time.
Saturday’s 91st West Coast Relays was no exception, as 1,120 athletes and 78 schools, including squads from New Zealand and Argentina, convened at Veterans Memorial Stadium on the Buchanan High campus.
It was the first time Fowler High junior Jocelynn Budwig competed at the relays.
She said it’s a family tradition to be competing at the annual event.
“All my siblings have competed and my dad and uncles competed here,” said Budwig, who finished first in the shot put and javelin. “It’s like continuing on a family tradition.”
The West Coast Relays, once an Olympic-class event that has morphed into a top in-season high school meet, boasts past competitors including Dutch Warmerdam, Bob Mathias, Tommie Smith, Rafer Johnson and Henry Ellard.
It was the first Tulare Union senior Kazmeir Allen has competed at the event. He showed a good performance when he finished first in the 100 meters with a time of 10.74.
“It’s a good opportunity for our team to put up some numbers," said Allen, who will play football and track at UCLA next season.
Then there is the duo of Meagen Lowe, a junior, and Corrie Smith, a sophomore, who finished first and second, respectively, in the 1,600 meter run.
It is nothing new for the Buchanan pair who also finished in the top-two spots at the state cross country championships at Woodward Park in November. Smith won the cross country meet, ahead of Lowe.
This time, it was Lowe who came out on top .
“It’s really special to me because I’ve been running in the Junior West Coast Relays since I was in seventh grade,” said Lowe, who was clocked in 4:49.92. “It's a really special meet.”
As far as the race, Smith said “it goes back and forth” with running with Lowe.
“We just kept going and never slowed down and she took off her last lap,” said Smith, who was timed at 4:56.50. “She had an amazing kick and she did great and I just tried to hang on for the ride for the rest of it. It was a great race for the rest of us today.”