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Girls shine, boys stumble for St. Mary’s at Stanford meet

By Jared Green, Daily Planet Wire Services
Monday April 01, 2002

Last year, the St. Mary’s High boys were the strength of the track & field program, winning a North Coast Section title and finishing third at the state championship meet. But by the looks of it, the boys may take a back seat to their female counterparts this year. 

Tiffany Johnson and Danielle Stokes both set personal records in their individual events and gave the Panthers a big boost in the relays at the Stanford Invitational this weekend. Johnson won the long jump with a top leap of 18’3” and finished third in the 100-meter dash, and Stokes took second in the 110-meter hurdles, finishing second to James Logan’s Talia Stewart, who put up the state’s top time this season.  

The pair then teamed up with Chastity Harper and freshman Willa Porter to set a school record in the 4x100-meter relay with a time of 47.5 seconds for surprising third-place finish in the event. Holy Names High of Oakland won the event with the state’s fastest time of the season. 

“That’s a huge time for us,” St. Mary’s head coach Jay Lawson said of the relay team. “Our girls are doing great. They’re stepping up and not fearing anyone.” 

Stokes and Porter also helped the Panthers’ girls set a new state-best in the distance relay. Along with distance runners Bridget Duffy and Gabriella Rios-Sotelo, they finished the event in 12:05.9 on Friday night.  

“This is the first time I’ve run outdoors against really good competition, so I’m very happy with how I ran,” Stokes said. 

Unfortunately, the 1,200-meter leg by Duffy left the senior worn out for the mile on Saturday. After leading for the first two laps of the race, she fell back to finish seventh in 5:03, nearly 15 seconds off her personal best. 

“I think Bridget just isn’t conditioned well enough yet to go back-to-back,” Lawson said. 

Kamaiya Warren completed the girls’ impressive effort with second- and third-place finishes in the shotput and discus, respectively. Bakersfield’s Rachel Varner won both events in a continuing duel with the St. Mary’s senior, who took a narrow loss in New York last month but beat Varner at a meet two weeks ago. Warren set a personal and school best in the shotput, for which she has had more practice time so far this season after finishing third in the state last season. 

“Kamaiya’s improving by leaps and bounds every week in the shotput,” Lawson said. “She’ll show more improvement in the discus with more practice.” 

The St. Mary’s boys, on the other hand, appear to need more practice in a few events. Although Solomon Welch put in a nice performance on Saturday, winning the triple jump by more than two feet and finishing fifth in the 110-meter hurdles at his future home stadium, the rest of the boys disappointed for the most part. Their highest finish other than Welch was a fourth-place finish by Jason Bolden-Anderson in the 110-meter hurdles (Anderson also finished seventh in the 400-meter hurdles. Omarr Flood and Courtney Brown finished 17th and 20th, respectively, in the 400-meter race, and the 4x400 relay team finished 11th. 

The biggest disappointment was the anxious feet of junior Steve Murphy. After missing most of last season with pneumonia, Murphy has been jittery so far in his return to the track, a trend that continued at Stanford. He false-started in the 100-meter dash on Friday night, then did the same as the first leg of the 4x100 relay on Saturday, disqualifying the Panthers from one of their stronger events. Murphy will likely be removed from the relay team for at least a week, but Lawson knows he needs Murphy to settle down if the boys are to repeat last year’s strong efforts. 

“In my mind, there’s no excuse for the fast start in the relay, especially after talking all night about it after he did it on Friday,” Lawson said. “You can chalk some of it up to a lack of experience, but it’s more a lack of focus, which is something only he can fix.” 

The Panthers are still looking for a leader to replace departed stars Halihl Guy and Asokah Muhammed, both of whom consistently put up great finishes last season as well as anchoring the relays. Welch seems to have the consistency, but the other runners don’t seem to be following his lead. Senior Chris Dunbar is another likely candidate, but he has battled hamstring injuries the past two seasons and is just now getting healthy. 

“Our boys need to get tougher mentally if they want to have a decent season,” Lawson said. “Someone has to step up into a leadership role.”