ELK GROVE — Carl Chandler stared at the ground as he paced alongside the triple jump runway, while Manteca High teammate Kenny Wooten was preparing to take his final leap in the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet Thursday at Elk Grove High.
Chandler was in third place at the time, and only Wooten — the third-seeded competitor coming into the event — remained as a threat to steal his long-awaited berth to the CIF State Track & Field Championships.
The 6-foot-8 Wooten came up short, and surprisingly it’s Chandler springing his way to school history. Chandler is believed to be the first-ever triple jumper from Manteca to qualify for state, and he did so with a personal record mark of 46 feet, 9 ¾ inches. It’s an improvement of nearly a full foot after jumping a 45-10 for a fourth-place finish in the SJS Division II-III meet last week.
Wooten was the Division II-III runner-up with a career best 47-1 and was figured to be a contender at Masters. He settled for fourth, with his best jump measured at 45-10 ¾. His final attempt was marked at 44-11 ¼.
The top three finishers and at-large qualifiers in Thursday’s field events make it through to state. In track events, the three heat winners and competitors with the next five times advance to today’s finals.
Wooten still has an opportunity to make state today in the high jump, where he is one of the top five qualifiers. For now, it is Chandler soaring above the clouds. He’ll also compete in the long jump today, a few hours before graduating.
“I’m kind of in shock,” Chandler said. “Finally, after four years, I’m making it to state. It feels good. It happens throughout the week in practice and just trying to get better every week.”
Chandler eclipsed 46 feet just once Thursday, and for a few moments he had the top mark. The 46-9 ¾ came on his last try in the preliminaries. Oakmont’s Isiah Holmes then leapfrogged Chandler with the eventual winning jump of 48-3 ¼.
Chandler’s best barely missed the at-large qualifying mark of 46-11. Woodcreek’s Lenny Nelson bumped Chandler down another spot on his fourth of six overall attempts at 47-2 ¾, so the Buffalo senior was far from comfortable throughout the finals — especially with Wooten looming.
“You can’t ever be too sure, always have to be cautious,” Chandler said. “Coming into this meet our goal was to hit the (automatic) qualifier and not necessarily to place. I was about 2 inches off but I still made it.”
Also in field events Thursday were Manteca’s Loretta Kakala and East Union’s Maliah Watson in the girls shot put and Sierra’s Jojo Macias in the boys pole vault.
Kakala’s first throw (36-11) of the competition was her best, and it was good enough to advance her to the final and a ninth-place finish. Watson scratched on all three attempts.
Macias completing his senior season at Masters was an accomplishment in itself. Three weeks ago he broke his ribs in a scary incident during the Valley Oak League Championships when his pole shattered into three pieces during a vault.
Macias made it through the divisional stage and finished in a tie for 12th at Masters. He cleared 14-3 but was unsuccessful at 14-9, which would have tied a personal record. Macias raced back to Manteca to make graduation after his last attempt.
“Coming off an injury I did better than I expected,” Macias said. “I thought I was going to hang it up, but these last two weeks I healed up and was able to do what I do best. I came up short of my goal but I still have college to look forward to.”
East Union’s girls 4x100 relay team — Katelyn Allen, Alyssa Drew, Sophie Williams, Jordan McNeal — is the lone qualifier from Thursday’s track events. They were third in their heat and are seeded eighth overall in 49.20 seconds.
Any other year the quartet would be joined by its male counterpart, but the East Union boys 400-meter relay failed to advance despite placing second in its heat and breaking a school record (42.88) in the process.
The team recovered well after a shaky first exchange from Joe Borba and Darian Joseph. Cody Keener’s burst around the the second turn had the Lancers in first place when he handed the baton off to anchor leg Taariq Davis, who was able to hold off most of the pack. Franklin of Elk Grove snuck in first to seize the automatic berth to the finals.
“I couldn’t see (the first exchange) because some people were in the way, but I was hoping our second leg would do what he usually does and make up some ground. I had faith in those guys, I was just waiting.
“When I got it I was just trying not to get caught. I knew Sacramento was right behind me and Franklin got by, but I’m happy we took second and set a school record.”
Joseph also ran the 100 and finished 14th overall in 11.11. He was in the same heat as top-seeded John McDonald (10.68) of Lincoln, the section’s top sprinter and former Weston Ranch standout who qualified for state as a sophomore.
The youngest athlete from the Manteca area at Masters was also the busiest, as Ripon freshman Taylor Werner ran both hurdle events and the 4x400 relay. She was 14th in the 100 hurdles (16.47) and 22nd in the 300 hurdles (48.68). The mile relay — also consisting of Liz Eicher, Kayla Jacklich and Ellie Waters — finished 21st in 4 minutes, 48 seconds.
“It’s really awesome because not that many people can say they made it as a freshman and I worked really hard to get here,” Werner said. “Right before track season I decided to get into it and try something new.
“I really liked being here. It’s a lot different from league meets and it’s fun to see who I’ll be going against next year if I make it again.”
Also participating in the track trials were: Manteca’s Jade Griffin (girls 200, 14th, 25.90) and Juan Gomez (boys 400, 16th, 50.71), East Union’s Patricia Tajii (girls 100 hurdles, 15th, 16.50) and Ripon’s Jose Munoz (boys 400, 20th, 50.99). In the last race of the met, the Manteca boys 4x400 — Brandon Craighead, Mahir Pepic, Gomez, Chandler — ended up 13th overall in 3:27.11. Running in the same heat, Ripon — Brandon Roma, Jared Lawlor, Jack Nelson, Munoz — was 19th in 3:33.59.