Patricia Tajii has dedicated much of her life to softball.
After playing for East Union’s sophomore team as a freshman, she wanted to take a break from the diamond.
“I just wanted to try out a different sport,” she said.
Tajii turned to track, and she never imagined just how good she could be at it. Tajii successfully defended her Valley Oak League titles in the hurdle events and highlighted her senior campaign with a record-setting effort in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III finals. She’s the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
And she nearly did not go out for track at the start of the season. Already committed to Dominican University for softball at that point, she thought about joining her younger sister, Allie, on East Union’s VOL championship club.
“I really wanted to finish out track and finish what I started,” Patricia said. “I was really debating it but ended up going back. Since it was my senior year, I really just wanted to have a good time with it and I’m really happy I did. I don’t regret the decision because I had such an amazing season and met good people.”
Tajii earned top-three finishes in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles at the Modesto Junior College and Glenn Poole invitationals. She also showed well at the Mark Macres and Woody Wilson invites, placing no worse than seventh.
She did not lose a race in league, winning both hurdles handily at the VOL finale.
Tajii was also a member of East Union’s 4x100 relay, joining sophomore standout Jadyn Snaer, Nicole Robertson and Zoey Visser. The quartet had aspirations of reaching the CIF State Championships in the event and put its talents on display at the SJS Division III meet. The foursome led area schools with a fourth-place finish, one spot ahead of VOL champion Sierra.
At sections, Tajii won the 100 hurdles in 15.78 seconds and was the runner-up in the 300 in 46.65, setting personal records in the process.
“It felt great to PR because I felt like I really turned the corner toward the end of my senior year,” she said. “I didn’t improve a whole lot my junior year and stayed where I was at the start of my senior year.
“I really wanted to take the gold in both events but came up a little short. It was a great experience. I just wanted to go out there and give it my all because it was my last section meet.”
Tajii said she was even more proud of what the 400 relay team achieved. Snaer anchored the thrilling race, leading the foursome to a gold-medal finish and a new school record of 48.86 — three-tenths faster than the previous record it set in the trials just two days prior.
“That was so great,” Tajii, who ran the third leg. “The 4x100 is my favorite event. The girls on the team were so awesome and we have such a great bond with each other.”
The season ended a week short of state for Tajii and the rest of the Lancers. She failed to qualify to the second day of the SJS Masters Finals, finishing 13th overall in the 100 hurdles (16.13) and 20th in the 300 hurdles (48.53).
Tajii chose to compete that Thursday instead of partaking in her graduation ceremony. She did advance to the finals with the relay team, which set a school record for a third straight meet in 48.86 for the eighth-fastest time in the preliminaries. They wound up seventh in 49.17 the next day.
“Doing track for only three years and competing against people who have done it their whole life, I’m proud of what I’ve done,” Tajii said. “My best chance to go to state was with the 4x100, but I’m super happy with what I did. I wish I could have gone to state but I was also realistic about my chances.”
Now it’s back to the softball field for Tajii, who said her speed and conditioning has improved thanks to her experience in track. She’s currently competing for the Ripon Rampage travelball team to stay sharp before college.
“It was sad,” Tajii said of her last track meet. “It’s hard to let it go. It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling, but I’m ready to move on and continue playing softball. I’m happy to go play softball in college but I really wish I could do both.”