MANTECA BULLETIN ALL-AREA GIRLS TRACK & FIELD TEAM
• Jordan McNeal, East Union sophomore (sprints): Valley Oak League’s 100 champ placed second in the SJS Division IV/V final and qualified to the SJS Masters in both the 100 and 200.
• Eleanor Waters, Ripon freshman (distance): Qualified out of a loaded field in the SJS Division IV/V meet then improved her times at Masters to place 13th in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
• Taylor Spence, Ripon senior (hurdles, triple jump): The Trans-Valley League’s top triple jumper and 300 hurdler returned to the Masters meet via the 300 hurdles.
• Renee Royster-West, Weston Ranch junior (sprints): Beat out McNeal for the 200 title in the VOL Championships, took second at divisionals and 19th at Masters.
• Loreal Taylor, Lathrop junior (high jump): Made school history as its first VOL champion with a personal-best 5-foot jump and is also the Spartans’ first Masters qualifier.
— Jonamar Jacinto
It wasn’t the storybook ending Valerie Nestor envisioned.
Sierra High’s multi-sport standout qualified for the final round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters track meet, finishing eighth in the shot put with a mark more than two feet short of her personal best.
“I was a little upset about that,” Nestor said. “I hit my PR in the middle of the season and that’s when I peaked. I wish I could have done better (at Masters) because I really wanted to make it to the state meet.”
Looking back at her senior season and three varsity years of track, though, there is little reason for disappointment. Nestor had the credentials to add the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year award to the list.
Nestor was unable to vault herself into the state’s elite class of throwers, but she improved steadily every season and was a consistent performer. This past spring, she successfully defended her 2012 Valley Oak League crown in the shot put, placed in the top five of the SJS Division IV/V meet for a third time and qualified to Masters for a third straight season. Few who specialize in her event accomplish all of that.
Nestor is also a two-time shot put champion in the Tom Moore Relays and Mudville Invitational. She recorded her all-time best throw of 38 feet, 9 ½ inches in a league meet at Manteca High.
Nestor dominated in league despite stiff competition. She won with a 37-foot toss, while runner-up Valerie Westover, a fellow Timberwolves, topped out at 33-10. The field also included Kimball’s Jaleyah Douglass, who placed third, and Oakdale freshman Hannah Chappell. Chappell went on to win the league discus and earned titles in the event at divisionals and Masters.
“It felt good to be the top shot putter in league two years in a row,” Nestor said. “I knew I had some competition this year, so I was honored to keep my position at the top. And I was happy to make it back to Masters. I really wanted to go to state, but I at least qualified for (Masters) three straight years.”
Nestor did achieve her best finish at Masters, placing eighth with her top throw measuring at 36-2. Four competitors surpassed the 40-foot landmark, including two-time champion Mandy Coleman (42-04 ¾) of McNair.
Still, Nestor was the area’s lone female athlete to reach the final round of a Masters event. And the week before that, she was named Sierra High’s Female Senior Athlete of the Year — the school’s top honor for athletics. Nestor also starred on the varsity basketball and volleyball teams.
“That was really an exciting thing for me,” Nestor said. “Just to see how much people supported me, I was overwhelmed and so happy to receive that award. It was a great honor and I took a lot of pride in it. I appreciate all sports I participate in and worked hard to be a student-athlete.”
This is not the end of Nestor’s run as an athlete. She, in fact, looks forward to a new beginning.
She will continue competing as a thrower on UC Santa Barbara’s track and field squad and looks forward to adding the hammer throw to her repertoire. She follows in the footsteps of former East Union great Amy Haapanen, a professional hammer thrower who once held all three throwing records at UC Santa Barbara. Haapanen’s shot put (52-3 ½) and hammer (213-10) records still stand, but her discus (170-11) mark was passed up in 2010.
“That’s inspiration and motivation for me,” said Nestor of Haapanen, a Division I NCAA All-American and aspiring Olympian. “The UC Santa Barbara (throws) coach (Cody Fleming) mentioned something about her and it got me all excited.
“I’m happy that I’m able to continue my track career,” she added. “I know I have so much potential, and I want to see how far I can get with it.”