Girls finish 2nd; BHS’s Brooks pulls big upset in 400 dash
On Saturday afternoon, Jay Lawson walked around Edwards Stadium with a huge grin on his face. He had just finished watching several outstanding performances from his St. Mary’s track & field athletes, culminating in a North Coast Section team title for the boys, a narrow second-place finish for the girls, and a boatload of personal bests.
“I’m just ecstatic about how we ran today,” he said. “This is just about the best-case scenario for us.”
The boys won the title going away with 70 points. James Logan finished second with 46, but gained a measure of revenge by winning the girls’ side, edging the Panthers 84-82. St. Mary’s won a duel meet with Logan by one point earlier this year.
Saturday’s Meet of Champions in Berkeley was the final step before the CIF state championship meet this weekend, with the top finishers in each event qualifying to head up to Sacramento. As Lawson looked down a list of qualifiers, his smile got even bigger.
“We qualified just about everyone we possibly could have,” he said, shaking his head in wonder. “Everyone we had did as well as we thought was possible, or even better.”
Leading the way for the Panthers was Halihl Guy. The senior won both hurdles races, setting personal bests in each and a new North Coast record in the 300-meter low hurdles with a 37.79. Guy also ran the anchor legs for both of the St. Mary’s winning relay teams.
“I set a goal to win both hurdles when I was a freshman, and I finally did it,” Guy said. “I’m running better than I ever have in my life right now.”
Guy, who said he will likely sign with Washington State this week, cruised to easy victories in his final three events. His only real challenge of the day came in the 110-meter high hurdles, as James Logan’s Nate Robinson took an early lead. But Guy came roaring back down the stretch to take first place, and the rest of the day was cake. He was handed large leads in both relays, and took the lead by the second hurdle in the 300-meter event before winning by nearly two full seconds.
“I think Halihl will run bigger at the state meet with more competition,” Lawson said. “It’s a lot different if you have someone running next to you the whole way.”
Guy will be joined at the state meet in the 110 hurdles by teammate Jason Bolden-Anderson, who finished fourth. St. Mary’s Solomon Welch also qualified, but Lawson said he won’t run in Sacramento.
Kamaiya Warren was another St. Mary’s athlete who dominated the field, shaking off the disappointment of failing to qualify in the discus by putting all of her energy into the shot put. Warren won the event with a throw of 44 feet, 9.25 inches, four feet farther than her nearest competitor.
“It’s been really hard to put the discus behind me,” Warren said. “But now I’m concentrating on the shot put, so at least I did well in that today.”
Had Warren placed in the discus, the Panthers could have swept the team titles. But the girls wouldn’t even have been close if not for Bridget Duffy, who ran both the 1,600 and 3,200. After finishing second in the shorter race, Duffy was urged by her coaches to run in the 3,200 for team points.
“I wasn’t going to run both races, but my coach wanted me to try and get a personal record, as well as get the team some more points,” Duffy said.
Duffy finished the longer race in 10:49, achieving both goals. She had never broken 11 minutes in the event before, and she out-kicked Head-Royce’s Clara Horowitz to take second place. Duffy finished both races behind winner Sarah Bei of Montgomery, who is one of the best long-distance runners in the country.
“It’s great to run against her, because she’s the best,” Duffy said of her rival. “You know the closer you get to her, the better you are.”
The meet got an unexpected jolt from Berkeley’s Stephan Brooks in the 400. Brooks, who didn’t qualify at the regional meet, got a spot at the MOC when teammate Anthony Washington scratched from the event with an injury. Brooks took advantage, coming from third place to the front in the last 100 meters to win in 49.33 seconds.
“I didn’t really think I had a chance to win today, but I saw the other runners die in the last 50 yards,” Brooks said. “I was surprised I had so much energy left. I’m just glad I had the chance to run.”