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Rookie senior graduated as Sierra’s most accomplished sprinter

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Shakira Lewis is the Manteca Bulletin’s 2012 All-Area Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED July 10, 2012 1:36 a.m.

Shakira Lewis wasn’t sure how far her first, and what was initially thought of to be last, venture in track and field would take her.

Well, it took her as far as Clovis on a blistering Saturday night. Buchanan High is where the 94th Annual CIF State Track & Field Championships took place. Saturday, June 2, was when she ran the 100-meter final against five of the 11 fastest individuals in the nation.

Yes, in a short period of time, this diminutive softball standout turned track star went a long ways. And Lewis did it in record times.

Sierra High’s all-time fastest female sprinter and second track athlete to reach the CIF finals is the 2012 Manteca Bulletin All-Area Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“I never knew how fast I was,” Lewis said.

That’s because she had never really raced against anyone else.

In 2011, opposing players ate her dust on the softball diamond — literally perhaps.

It’s the sport she grew up playing, and it was there that she established herself as one of the most dangerous players in Sierra’s lineup because of her speed. The starting right fielder helped the Timberwolves capture the program’s first Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section championships.

A change of scenery — and pace — was in store for Lewis.

“I’ve always wanted to do track ever since my freshman year, but I just didn’t know how to transition so I just stuck to softball,” she said. “My senior year I just thought (since) it was my last year — just go out and have fun. I had the mindset that I was going to play softball in college anyway.”

Her mind may have changed since.

Lewis is now the school record holder in the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 11.91 and 25.83. She eclipsed both marks (11.72, 25.67) in the 53rd Annual Golden West Invitational on June 9, but her heats were wind aided. Lorelyn Pascual had held the Sierra 100 (12.46) and 200 (25.85) records since 2001.

“The first record I broke was the 200 (April 21, Mudville Invitational), and I didn’t even realize I broke it,” Lewis said. “I honestly didn’t know what the records were coming in.”

It wasn’t until the final Valley Oak League dual meet against defending champion Oakdale that Lewis realized what her potential in the sport could be. She finally got to go head-to-head with veteran Me’che Brown.

“The whole season coach (Nate) Diamantine kept saying that Me’Che Brown from Oakdale is this and that, so I just kind of psyched myself out going into the Oakdale meet. But during the Oakdale meet I wasn’t nervous at all. I just ran my race and went, ‘Wow.’”

And off she went.

She won both sprints in the VOL Championships and added a second-place finish in the long jump to her résumé. Lewis lost the long jump to Sonora’s Abby Runte by just a half inch with a leap of 16 feet, 2 inches.

Lewis qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV/V Meet in all three events, but her destiny was with the sprints. Her personal best long jump of 16-9 ¾ would have been plenty good for a berth to the SJS Masters meet, but she ended up in eighth place with a 15-4 ½.

“That was just a bad day,” Lewis said. “I was so stressed out about the long jump, but since that was done I started doing better in the track events.”

Lewis won the meet’s 100-meter finale in 12.27 seconds, a new meet record. She was also the runner-up in the 200 (25.89).

At Masters she reached the final day in only the 100, missing out in the 200 by two places. By opting to run the 200, she risked missing her graduation ceremony in its entirety.

“At the time my mindset was that this is going to be my first and last year doing track, so why not just give it my all?” she said. “If I make it to graduation I make it, but if I don’t at least I finished out something that I really started to love. I wanted to be able to say that I left my heart out on the track.”

She extended the season the next night by taking third in the 100 in 12.57. Times were affected by a severe headwind, but her ultimate goal was met.

Lewis went on to make school history at the state meet, where she entered the 100-meter preliminary races as the No. 25-seeded qualifier. She ran in the fastest preliminary heat in 11.92 seconds, and in the finals Lewis finished in eighth place — to spots shy of earning a state medal — in 11.91.

“There are so many great athletes there,” Lewis said. “I didn’t think I could compete with the best; they’ve been doing it for six, seven or eight years and I’ve been doing it for one year. I ran against the top five girls in the country. What else could I ask for?

“After the race I just had a breakdown,” she added. “There were a lot of emotions: I was happy because I made it that far, but I felt bad because it was the last track meet. I felt bad that I didn’t place, but I felt happy because I PR’d twice. My mind was all over the place.”

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