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Elijah, Sierra 4x100 win preliminary heats at Masters Meet
Sierra sprinter Emmanuel Elijah, center, is in the lead before winning his heat in the 100-meter dash. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO


• WHAT: Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Finals
• WHERE: Elk Grove High
• WHEN: Today (3 p.m. field, 6 p.m. track)
• ADMISSION: Adults, $10; Students (K-12), $5; Children (5-under), free

ELK GROVE — Run the straightaway or walk the podium?

That’s the dilemma Emmanuel Elijah is faced with today.

On Thursday, the Sierra High senior won his heat in the 100-meter dash and qualified for today’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Finals with the second-fastest time overall (10.96 seconds).

Problem: Graduation starts at 7 o’clock tonight. The 100-meter final is scheduled for around 7:25.

“I don’t know for sure yet — still debating,” Elijah said. “I wanted a faster time, but at the same time I’m happy I won my heat. I really want to run the finals tomorrow and see if I can make it to state, but we’ll see what happens. If this ends up being my last race in the 100, then I guess I’m OK with it.”

This much is certain: Elijah is returning to Elk Grove High today for the 4x100, which has a 6:08 start time. With fellow seniors Jordan Lewis, Jayson Manuta and Nchekube Uwakwe, they blazed to the top trials time of 42.20 seconds. American Canyon turned in the second best time at 42.42. Manuta returns to the team after missing last week’s SJS Division IV/V Meet.

“We just wanted to make sure that we got the job done and get our baton handoffs right,” Elijah said. “Jayson is back on the roster, so there’s some familiarity.

“We did what we were supposed to do, today was all about qualifying. Tomorrow, win the whole thing and get to state, that’s our goal

The top eight finishers — which include the three heat winners and next five fastest runners — in Thursday’s trials advance to the final round. The top three placers in every event and at-large qualifiers move on to next week’s CIF State Championships in Clovis.

Elijah also advanced to Masters in the 200 but scratched out of the race.

Weston Ranch’s John McDonald is also on the cusp of a state berth, maybe two. The sophomore speedster is the fourth-seeded competitor in today’s 100 and 200 finals, but he wasn’t entirely pleased with his performances. His times (10.97 in the 100, 21.90 in the 200) are solid, but he expects them to be better tonight.

McDonald went head-to-head with Jesuit’s Austin Mitsch, the defending section champion in the 100. Mitsch won the heat in 10.69 and also clocked the best 200 time (21.52).

“I did terrible — one of my worst track meets ever,” McDonald said. “I’m mad at the times and I’m mad at the way that I ran. It just wasn’t my day.

“Come up with gold, that’s what I’m trying to do tomorrow,” he added. “The guy from Jesuit is real quick with breakaway speed, but I want it bad enough. I can go out there and take it from him.”

Sierra’s Nicholas Valdes also qualified for the finals, finishing eighth in the 110 hurdles in 15.11 seconds. He later took 19th in the 300 hurdles in 42.43.

Other area athletes who competed in preliminary track events were East Union sophomores Jordan McNeal (100, 12.93, 12th) and Haley Cook (400, 1:00.16, 17th), Weston Ranch’s Renee Royster-West (200, 26.99, 19th) and Ripon’s Taylor Spence (300 hurdles, 47.58, 17th). McNeal scratched the 200.

Distance standouts Phillip Herrera of Manteca and Eleanor Waters of Ripon will race today. Sierra’s Onix Paredes (pole vault), Jaliya Williams (long jump), Mason Merilles (shot put) and Lewis (long jump) join Manteca’s Daniel Clemons (shot put) in field events today.

Five local qualifiers got their field events out of the way Thursday, with none advancing to state.

Sierra senior Valerie Nestor had the best finish, placing eighth in the shot put with a toss of 36 feet, 2 inches. The Manteca sophomore tandem of Carl Chandler (43-01.25) and Lechi Nkwocha (42-07.5) placed eighth and 11th, respectively, in the triple jump, marking their best measurements of the day on their first attempts.

Lathrop’s Loreal Taylor and Ripon’s Bryan Vincent competed in the high jump, but both failed to clear the opening mark.