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Herrera seeks finals berth in state mile

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Manteca High graduate Vincent Herrera is the area's only qualifier to Friday's California Interscholastic Federation State Track and Field Championships. He aims to finish with a top-12 time to adv...

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED June 3, 2010 2:39 a.m.
Vincent Herrera graduated from Manteca High last week, but he has one more day to sport the school’s colors.

And he’s hoping to wear them one more day beyond that.

Herrera’s out-of-nowhere rise as the area’s top distance runner in track will reach a crescendo in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships, which begins with the preliminaries Friday and ends with the finals Saturday at Buchanan High in Clovis.

Herrera, a first-year track athlete, won the Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III 1,600-meter races and qualified for state last week in the SJS Masters Meet with a third-place finish and a new personal record time of 4 minutes, 21.41 seconds. He is the first track athlete from Manteca High to win a section-meet race in the mile.

Herrera was seeded 15th out of 24 going into the Masters mile. For state, he is seeded 23rd out of the 25 qualifiers. Now he’s up against the big dogs in state, but he is not intimidated.

 “I think I have a lot to prove,” he said. “I’m going to shock everyone there, that’s what I want to do. I’ve been doing it all year, so hopefully I get to do it again at the state meet.”

Herrera’s seeded time may pale in comparison to what’s ahead of him.

San Diego Section champion Chris Brewer holds the top-seeded time of 4:11.29, but No. 5 Elias Gedyon of Loyola may be the favorite. Gedyon checks in at 4:13.15, which was good enough to win the Southern Section crown, but as a sophomore last year he was the state’s runner-up in 4:07.26.

The top three finishers in each of the two heats and those with the next six best overall times advance to Saturday, and the top six placers in the finals earn medals. The 1,600 heats are scheduled to start at 5:48 and 5:56 Friday night.

Last year, the slowest qualifier clocked in at 4:13.59.

Manteca distance coach Rick Cuevas said that Herrera could have reached a sub-4:20 time in Masters last week and possibly won the race, but he was bumped at the final turn. It was also a tactical race from the start, with most of the contenders saving their best strides for last, leading to slower-than-expected times.

“I told him he has the stamina to go 4:15,” Manteca distance coach Rick Cuevas said. “Some of the guys he’s running against are doubling up (competing in both the 1,600 and 3,200), so they’ll be running a strategic race to save something for the finals.

“I see it happen every year at the state meet, and I see that as an advantage.”

Herrera hasn’t had the chance to push himself to his physical limits. He was hampered by shin splints going into the VOL meet, but he managed to win both the mile and the 800.

The shin splints led to a sore left ankle that he ran through in divisionals and Masters, but for the first time since league Herrera said he feels 100 percent ready to go.

“I feel way better than I did the week leading up to Masters,” Herrera said. “I think 4:15 is in my range. I think can be up there (with the finalists). It’s what I’ve been training for; plus, my adrenaline is going to be pumping.”
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