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Track: ‘Top 8’ Classic provides glimpse of CCS finals

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LOS GATOS — With the Central Coast Section championships almost a month away, once again the CCS “Top 8” Track and Field Classic provided a glimpse of what’s to come.

Or, in the case of St. Francis senior Brandon Bains, a blur.

The sprinter dusted the competition Saturday at Los Gatos High, setting personal bests in both the 100 and 200 meters.

What clicked for him?

“I don’t know,” Bains said. “I’m just feeling it.”

In the boys 100 dash, he crossed the finish line in 10.65 to beat out last year’s CCS champion, Jared Geredes of Los Gatos, on his own track.

“We get a kick out of the races sometimes,” Bains said of the rivalry between the fastest runners in CCS. “We talk about it. It just gives us another edge to run when we run, because you know you have a friend to your left and to your right. But as soon as you get in between those white lines, friendships away until after you cross the finish line.”

Easily the most watched spectacle of the meet, Bains shaved two-tenths of a second off his previous best this season.

“I’m pretty stoked about it,” Bains said. “I think that’s a school record, I’m not sure. I hope it is. And if not, fuel for me to run even faster next time.”

The school record of 10.61 still stands.

But less than two hours later, Bains broke the mark previously set in the boys 200 meters by winning the event in a time of 21.73.

He found an extra gear over the last 50 meters to pull away from the competition.

“That’s just mainly keeping my form through the race and not tensing up towards the end,” Bains said. “I’ve been working on that with my coaches a lot because I might get tight, but today I just had to stay relaxed and finish my races.”

Now he’s not only the top sprinter in CCS, but Bains ranks eighth in the 100 meters in the state.

“I know I can do it now,” said Bains, who as the anchor in the boys 400 relay brought the Lancers within four-hundredths of a second from first place as the runner-up in 42.42. “No doubt about it.”

On the girls side, Mountain View senior Rachael Estell had a case off déjà vu with a breakthrough in the 100 meters.

Her winning time of 12.15 was nearly three-tenths of a second faster than her previous best this season, rekindling hope that last year’s CCS champion in the event can best last year’s PR of 11.94.

“I had, like, a three-month lag in all of my events,” Estell said. “And I know my shins are hurting, but I shouldn’t have been as far as I was, so it worried me a little bit.”

Estell scratched from running in the 200 meters because the event clashed with the girls long jump, which she won with a leap of 19 feet — more than 11 inches from her top mark this year.

“Honestly, I think I ran out of anger today in the 100, at least,” Estell said. “And the long jump, I knew I had every component, I just needed to piece it together. And I guess it happened today.”

Ditto for teammate Sinai Fatafehi.

It was an emotional evening for the senior, who let out a scream as she released her last throw on the girls shot put for a winning mark of 43 feet.

“It’s been a struggle,” Fatafehi said. “I haven’t been able to get back in the 40s this entire season, so to finally come back, especially when I took a break because I dropped 175 pounds on my right knee, and it took me a while to try and recover. And I was always just hugging that line to get even past 40, and then finally just to sing a song in my head — I was doing the ‘Electric Slide’ — and finally the relief, it was just amazing.

“And then it’s emotional, too. Because my family knows I’ve been fighting, and I’m still fighting to beat the school record.”

The goal is to breach the 46 feet this season.

“In order to get a full ride, I need a 46,” Fatafehi said. “So kind of really that’s what I’m looking for.”

Last year, Serra junior Scott Fitzpatrick was promoted to varsity and helped the Padres reach the state finals in the boys 1,600 relay.

But it wasn’t until this spring that he began competing in the 400 meters.

“All the seniors left my team, so now I’m usually working out with myself mainly,” Fitzpatrick said. “But so far it’s a great experience.”

It got better at the CCS Top 8 Classic, with a comfortable victory in the 400 meters with a time of 49.88 — the only runner to crack 50 seconds.

“At the first 200, I try to keep it easy, cycle, keep bouncy,” said Fitzpatrick, who finished seventh in the long jump. “And then at the last 100, 150, I try to pull ahead of everyone else and just empty out the tank. And if I feel dead at the end, then I know I ran it right.”

The long-distance events featured a series of runner-up finishes from runners within The Daily News coverage area.

In the case of Menlo School junior Robert Miranda, he passed a big test in spite of not crossing the finish line ahead of runners from Bellarmine in each of the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

Is he a sucker for punishment by attempting the grueling events at the same meet?

“I guess so,” Miranda said. “My coach was just like, ‘Just try it, see how you feel.’ So I went out and didn’t know what to expect. … I just tried to give everything I had.”

Bellarmine junior Alex Scales, who has the top mark in the state in the boys 800 meters, nearly broke the meet record in the 1,600 meters set in 2001 with a time of 4:13.39.

Miranda briefly took the lead prior to the final 100 meters, but had to settle for second place in 4:14.22, which moved him to fourth in the state this year.

In the 3,200 meters, Miranda finished nearly 2½ seconds behind Bellarmine junior Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau, losing a little steam in the latter part of the race to clock in at 9:19.36.

Will he try both events again at CCS?

“That’s still up for grabs,” Miranda said. “A lot of that was run here, see if I can double, which now we know I can. So we’re going to have to make a real decision about it.”

In a display of endurance, Santa Cruz junior Mari Friedman swept the girls 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

Chasing her in the longest event was Gunn junior Joyce Shea, who set a new PR with a time of 11:08.45 — almost nine seconds faster than third place.

Wobbly at the legs after crossing the finish line, Friedman checked in on her closest competitor after the race.

“I always want to put my best foot forward in my races,” said Shea, who found herself surprised to be ahead after the first lap. “It was a very satisfying and good race.”

Castilleja senior Claire Traum also set a PR as the runner-up in the 800 meters with a time of 2:15.15, barely more than two seconds behind Friedman.

“I was thinking about my own race,” Traum said. “Definitely inspired by Mari. I saw her run at Arcadia a couple of weeks ago. She ran a big PR at 2:09 and she just killed it. It was really inspiring and I was thinking about during the race just how it’s really an opportunity for me to run my best.”

Traum now ranks No. 2 in CCS in the event, and the goal is to “keep plugging away and improving” in the hope of qualifying for the state championships.

“I think the special part is having such a strong team,” said Traum, who helped set the school record in the distance medley relay at the Stanford Invitational three weeks earlier. “I’m really motivated by my teammates, and I think the relays we’ve done have been really special, and definitely a highlight of this season. And for me, personally, I’m just making the most of the time I have left in the track season.”

Mountain View junior Gabrielle Joffe placed third in the girls 800 meters in 2:16.36.

Here’s a rundown of additional local athletes who delivered top-5 performances, including a couple of champions:

• Boys throws: Mountain View senior Owen Mountford won the shot put with an effort of 51-0¼, while he finished second in the discus with a mark of 156-5; also, Menlo-Atherton senior Terrance Mathews-Murphy took fifth in the discus (144-7), with Serra junior Elijah Folau and St. Francis senior Dominic Graziani claiming fourth and fifth in the shot put, respectively;

• Boys jumps: Los Altos junior Max Molchanov leapt his way to 44-11¼ in the triple jump for first place, while also finishing as the runner-up in the high jump by clearing the bar at 6 feet, 2 inches; in the long jump, The King’s Academy sophomore Bralyn Lux was second-best with an effort of 25-2¼, with Serra teammates Sammy Nofal and Brendon Carbullido in third and fourth, respectively;

• Boys 110 hurdles: Serra junior Jack Allara took fourth in 15.33;

• Boys 800 meters: St. Francis senior Jackson Highley was third in 1:55.42, with Carlmont junior Ryan Wilson right behind him for fourth in 1:56.53;

• Boys 1,600 relay: It was a 1-2-3 finish between Bellarmine, Serra and Los Altos, in that order;

 Girls 400 relay: Within less than a quarter of a second from each other was the trio of St. Francis (2nd, 49.04), Mountain View (49.23) and M-A (49.25); meanwhile, Notre Dame-Belmont set a school record as the runner-up of Heat 2 in 50.94;

• Girls 1,600 meters: Los Altos sophomore Naomi Donovan came in fourth in 5:02.55;

• Girls 300 hurdles: M-A senior Charlotte Schroeder got bronze in 46.28;

• Girls 1,600 relay: M-A placed second in 4:02.85, with Los Altos right behind in 4:05.24 for third;

• Girls triple jump: St. Francis did a double take with junior Camille Esterlecher (2nd, 37-2¾) and senior Annika Opsasnick (36-9¼);

Girls shot put: Notre Dame sophomore Krissy Smoot took fourth with a toss of 37-10.

Last, but not least, M-A freshman Brooke Olesen set a PR in the girls 400 meters with a time of 58.69 as she continues to find her form on the varsity roster.

“It was really hard at the beginning of the season, now it’s nice,” Olesen said. “I’m starting to get more PR’s. … I keep taking seconds off. I don’t know how much further I can go.”

She moved into sixth place in the CCS rankings, and is now a dark-horse candidate to qualify for state with a top-3 finish at CCS.

“If I train really hard, I might be able to,” Olesen said. “I don’t know about this year, though.”

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