Finally, at the end of the day – better, at the end of the year; even better, at the end of two years – when fate was in the hands of Rhesa Foster, she whipped it.
She won the long jump in a Central Section record 20 feet, 7 1/2 inches at the CIF State Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadi um.
That broke the 45-year section record of 20-7 by Riverdale’s Doralee Roberts.
Above all, it came after the Clovis North senior missed all of last track season with a severe knee injury from volleyball, and it came after a hamstring injury six weeks ago removed her from the 100 meters and 100 high hurdles, where she had state-level marks.
Her fifth of six attempts won it Saturday before a crowd of 7,547, closing a two-day total of 14,755 on a weekend so hot starting times were pushed back for the first time in the meet’s 98-year history.
The Central Section hardly wilted, compiling a whopping 21 medals (top six).
I felt it as soon as I took my first step.
Clovis North’s Rhesa Foster, on her winning effort in the long jump
“I’ve never got the crowd going before,” Oregon-bound Foster said, “so I started to clap (atop the runway), the crowd started going and I was like, ‘All right, there’s going to be a big jump in me right here.’ I felt it as soon as I took my first step, and as soon as I landed I knew it was a big (personal record).”
Turns out, there was a silver lining in being denied the opportunity to compete in other events because she could concentrate on her strength – the long jump.
“I think that played a good part into it,” she said. “I felt all my eggs were in one basket. I wasn’t bitter not being in the 100 or hurdles. What’s done is done and I just left it all out there.”
Finally, she was in control: “Yes, I was. With all the adversity, it only made me stronger in the end. It was a humbling experience, but I feel great; I haven’t felt this good since, well, I don’t even know, maybe my sophomore year. I feel amazing; on top of the world.”
The amazing Zoe – While Foster is the section’s story of the year, Immanuel’s Zoe March is a close runner-up.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” she said after lowering her section third-best all-time mark of 42.23 seconds in the 300 low hurdles while placing third in her first prep track and field season.
Vacaville’s Jurnee Woodward, who advanced to the final despite falling in Friday’s prelims, won the gold in 40.62 – No. 2 in the nation for the season.
March preferred to talk first about Woodward.
“Oh my gosh, to fall, get back up and get here, that’s a story, a superstar story,” said March, The Fresno Bee’s Small Schools Player of the Year in basketball, a sport she’ll next play at Azusa Pacific. “She inspired me. It’s so cool coming out here and running against girls of this caliber; it’s an honor.”
Only Liberty-Bakersfield’s Morganne Hill (41.47, 2015) and Clovis West’s Alyssa Monteverde (41.90, 2011) have timed faster in section history.
And only high jumper Tara Flaming (first, 1995; fifth, 1994) has medaled in state in the girls division in Immanuel annals, according to historian Ron Blackwood.
Waller closes with class – Buchanan’s Hannah Waller placed second in the 400 (53.01), where she was the defending champion, and third in the 200 (23.53) to close one of the most accomplished careers in section history.
She checks out to Oregon with seven state medals – five individual and two relays. Her individuals were a gold, silver, two thirds and a fourth.
“I’m lost for words,” she said. “I’m so proud of myself. I just work hard and it shows; that’s as simple as it gets. I never give myself much credit, which isn’t a bad thing because it keeps me focused.”
Buchanan placed sixth as a team in the girls division and fifth in boys. Clovis North was ninth in both. Vista Murrieta of the Southern Section won the boys and Carson became the first Los Angeles City Section girls champion in 37 years.
Section strong in 1,600 – Madera South senior Eduardo Herrera led for three laps before being overcome by Great Oak-Westlake Village senior Isaac Cortes with 120 meters to go and finished second in the 1,600.
Herrera, who clocked a 4:05.63 against a 4:04.62 by Cortes, was attempting to become the school’s first gold medalist in the state meet.
Clovis North senior Lauren Moffett displayed a strong kick to finish sixth in the girls 1,600 at 4:51.09, and Central Valley Christian’s Gabby Satterlee was eighth at 4:54.48. National top-ranked Amanda Gehrich of Tesoro won at 4:45.51.
Bullard history – Charles Williams couldn’t chase down the nation’s king of sprints in Vista Murrieta’s Michael Norman, but the Bullard senior became the first 100 or 200 runner in school history to medal at state when he placed third in the 200 at 21.40. Norman won in 20.42.
Williams also finished eighth in the 100 at 10.76.
Teammate Mahmoud Adams found the medal stand with a sixth in the 400 at 47.95 and also placed seventh in the 200 at 21.87.
Norman, headed to USC and a USA Olympic Trials two-event qualifier, also won the 400 in 45.77.
Section’s first medal – A year after the section last year earned 17 medals (top six), including three golds, the medal count began this time with an improbable source.
Or was it?
Fowler freshman Jocelyn Budwig placed sixth – a rarity for a rookie on the grand stage of the nation’s finest prep track and field meet.
For example, only two freshmen placed in 28 boys and girls individual events last year, one being Clovis high jumper Alexis Vincent-Walker (fifth).
But Budwig is the daughter of former Fresno State throwers Jeff and Jayleen Budwig (he went to McLane; she attended Burbank High as a Romberger) and a relative to several other accomplished track and field athletes.
Vincent-Walker, this year, failed to clear 5-5 and didn’t medal in an event won by Oaks Christian-Westlake Village junior Cassidy Palka at 5-9.
The section’s big news in the event was delivered by Sanger sophomore Chinenye Agina, who climbed the podium with a sixth-place 5-5 while become the school’s first individual girls medalist in history. The Apaches have had one previous girls medal – by their 400 relay in 1975.
Relays to complement weather – The track events began at 7 p.m. and 100 degrees, and Southern California 400 relays matched it with scalding times.
First, Carson’s girls from the Los Angeles City Section, with a torpedo anchor from national-class quarter-miler Kaelin Roberts, won in 45.06 – No. 2 in the nation this year and No. 10 all-time in the U.S.
Then Vista Murrieta’s boys, charged with a lead leg by the nation’s premier sprinter, Michael Norman, struck gold in 40.32 – also No. 2 in the nation this year and No. 4 all-time in the state.
CIF TRACK FINALS: CENTRAL SECTION MEDALISTS LIST
▪ Girls long jump: Rhesa Foster, Clovis North, 27-7 1/2
▪ Boys 1600: Eduardo Herrera, Madera South, 4:05.63
▪ Boys triple jump: Dennis Hicks, Liberty-Bakersfield, 48-6 1/4
▪ Boys long jump: Emmett Brooks, Kingsburg, 24-3
▪ Girls 400: Hannah Waller, Buchanan, 53.01
▪ Boys discus: Jacob Wilson, Buchanan, 188-6
▪ Boys 200: Charles Williams, Bullard, 21.40
▪ Boys shot put: McKay Johnson, Clovis North, 60-7 1/4
▪ Girls 300 low hurdles: Zoe March, Immanuel, 42.23
▪ Girls 200: Hannah Waller, Buchanan, 23.53
▪ Boys triple jump: Seth Brooks, Kingsburg, 48-1 1/4
▪ Boy discus: McKay Johnson, Clovis North, 188-4
▪ Boys 300 intermediate hurdles: Paramveer Chohan, Buchanan, 37.48
▪ Boys shot put: Jacob Wilson, Buchanan, 59-8 3/4
▪ Girls pole vault: Brooke Tjerrild, Clovis North, 12-2
▪ Boys 400: Mahmoud Adams, Bullard, 47.95
▪ Boys discus: Jonah Wilson, Clovis, 182-9
▪ Girls 1600: Lauren Moffett, Clovis North, 4:51.09
▪ Girls high jump: Chinenye Agina, Sanger, 5-5
▪ Girls discus: Jocelyn Budwig, Fowler, 144-3
▪ Girls triple jump: Remington Mahlum, Buchannan, 38-3 3/4