When the first Central Section track and field championships were staged at Fresno High in 1915, there were no Hannah Wallers.
In fact, the first section final to include females would not be until 1971.
And today, there still are no Hannah Wallers.
Not in this regard: Waller, a junior at Buchanan High, will be prohibitively favored today on her home track at Veterans Memorial Stadium to sweep the 200- and 400-meter races — a rare combination at an elite level.
It’s been done twice in section history, by Bakersfield’s Janice Nichols in 1989 and Stockdale’s Keisha Gaines in 2002, according to local historian Ron Blackwood.
And their winning times — Nichols 24.94 and 54.47; Gaines 25.20 and 56.63 — are many a stride behind Waller’s personal bests of 23.96 and section-record 53.57.
This is a sport that conventionally sees athletes double in the 100/200, 1,600/3,200, 100/300 hurdles, long/triple jumps and shot put/discus.
Not the 200/400, which — to succeed among the finest — requires a balance of sprinter’s speed and sprinter’s speed endurance.
Meet Hannah Waller.
“They’re both speed-based events that go together, but then they kind of don’t,” Buchanan coach Brian Weaver says. “The 400 takes so much out of you because it has to do with speed and endurance fitness. And Hannah is more inclined to run them both because of her physical strength.”
Meet the athlete who has established a short list of college favorites in USC, Oregon and Texas A&M — a who’s who of NCAA hierarchy in track and field.
Meet the one who also will run on Buchanan’s favored 400 and 1,600 relays.
Meaning that she’s expected to leave The Vet at about 9 p.m. with four gold medallions wrapped around her neck and with a team title that would be the Bears’ third in four years and a section-record sixth since 2000 under Weaver.
The former competitive cheerleader is flipping for joy in anticipation of the sprint to the state medal ceremony, also at Buchanan on June 6.
Waller placed third and fourth in the state the past two seasons, but is top ranked this year and No. 7 nationally with the 53.57 that won the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in April.
“It’s truly my highlight race,” she says. “I finally broke 54 and introduced myself to not only California but to the nation.
“The 400, this is mine, I feel it. I declared six weeks ago I’d be the state champ, even before Arcadia. I just have the feeling, you know? I don’t know how to describe it; it’s in my heart, I think about it every day and it gets me excited. I just need to stay calm and keep my composure. It’s crazy how fast everything has gone and it’s just right there now, right there. And I can’t wait.”
▪ The Masters Championships will begin with field events at 4 p.m. followed by track events at 5 p.m. The top three in each qualify for the state finals.
▪ Arizona State-bound Hannah Benoit, who offers the greatest range of distance running in the history of a Buchanan 22-year program oozing with it, figures to score big in the 800, 1,600 and relays. She’s the school record-holder in the 800 (2:08.73) and 1,600 (4:51.46) and ranks fifth and seventh in the state this season. Sprinter Amari Sperling also figures to make a major impact for the Bears and Weaver, already the section girls coaching leader in titles with five.
▪ Weaver’s chances of climbing to third on the boys’ coaches section title list with six took a blow when he lost sprinter Isaiah Robinson (hamstring) in the North Area-opening 400 relay. Robinson was ranked second in the section in the 100 (10.75) and 200 (21.77). Losing the top-ranked relay and Robinson likely will cost the Bears 26 points. Now the five-time section winning program since 2009 figures to be in a tight mix with Bakersfield and Clovis for the crown.
▪ Kingsburg’s Joey Souza will have the opportunity to pursue a fourth divisionstraight long jump title after winning an appeal to participate despite not competing in one of the section’s four qualifiers, in this case the Division II finals, because of a hamstring pull. He won the appeal by receiving medical clearance, according to section Commissioner Jim Crichlow. North Carolina-bound Souza (24-51/2) ranks second in the state after winning the state silver as a junior.
▪ Clovis North senior Mikaela Smith, who has signed with USC, is top ranked in the state and No. 8 nationally in the 800 (2:08.44) after winning two straight state titles. Her personal best of 2:06.85, clocked in last year’s state finals, is No. 2 to North’s Linda Goen (2:05.43, 1977) in section history.
▪ Liberty-Bakersfield’s Morganne Hill, who has signed with Washington, will be favored to become the first female to sweep the 100/300 hurdles three years in a row. She ranks third in the state in the 300 lows (42.23) and No. 6 in the 100 highs (section-record 13.99).
▪ Others from the section ranked among the top five in the state: Centennial’s Isaac Trevino (No. 1 800, 1:51.51), Lemoore’s Michael Burke (No. 2 high jump, 7-0), Kingsburg’s Seth Brooks (No. 2 triple jump, 48-7), Immanuel’s Kasey Knevelbaard (No. 3 1,600, 4:09.06), Madera South’s Eduardo Herrera (No. 4 3,200, 8:55.93), Dinuba’s Isaac Leppke (No. 5 110 high hurdles, 14.31) and Liberty-Bakersfield’s Dennis Hicks (No. 5 triple jump, 47-10); and among girls Central Valley Christian’s Gabby Satterlee (No. 5 1,600, 4:52.27).