His first try at the hurdles was a mess.
The experiment was over as far as Nick Stanley was concerned.
His final race of the season was a disaster.
The Sierra junior now craves the opportunity to redeem himself and sees a future in the events he once loathed.
Stanley virtually came out of nowhere and helped the Timberwolves’ boys team claim a piece of the Valley Oak League championship. He follows in the footsteps of former Sierra hurdling standout Bikram Thiara as the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
“The only thing I regret was that I started to get good toward the end (of the season),” Stanley said. “So now I know what I’m doing, and I want to start out strong from the beginning.”
The beginning was nearly the end for Stanley.
Needing a hurdler to score points and replace the void left by two-time state qualifier Thiara, now competing for Cal Poly, Sierra coach Ezequiel Ruiz asked Stanley to convert from the sprint events.
So, he gave it a shot in the 110-meter hurdles during the first VOL dual meet of the season on East Union’s dirt track.
“I hit every hurdle,” Stanley said. “I hated it. I kept hitting them with my ankle and my knee. I wanted to be a sprinter again, to be honest. I was not enjoying it.”
That was on March 8.
One month later, his confidence was soaring and times shrinking. He didn’t completely abandon the sprints either, contributing points in the 200-meter dash and 4x400 relay.
On April 18, he came up big in Sierra’s 68-66 win at Kimball, forcing a three-way share of the championship along with Oakdale. Stanley took second in the 200, first in both the 110 and 300 hurdles and was part of the winning mile relay that clinched the win at the end.
He took off from there.
Ten days later at the Sacramento Meet of Champions, he clocked what were then season-best times in the 110 hurdles (15.49 seconds) and 300 hurdles (40.77) for respectable ninth- and sixth-place finishes.
Then at the VOL Championships, hosted at Sierra’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, Stanley won both hurdle events and was on the winning 4x400 relay while taking fourth in the 200. His times in the 200 (22.89 seconds) and 110 hurdles (15.35) and 300 hurdles (40.10) were all personal records.
He knocked off more ticks off his 300 time in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Finals, narrowly beating River Valley’s Imani Greene in 39.54 seconds — two-tenths faster than the runner-up. Stanley was also second in the 110 (15.49), seventh in the 200 (23.28) and helped the 4x400 relay place third. He qualified for the SJS Masters Trials in every event but the 200.
The 300 time is the sixth fastest of the season among overall SJS competitors, according to Athletic.net. This, he figured, would be his ticket to the CIF State Championships, so he scratched the 110 at Masters to narrow his focus on the 300. The top three finishers and others who meet or surpass at-large qualifying marks — set at 38.17 for the 300 hurdles —out of the SJS Masters meet advance to state.
“I was really nervous,” Stanley said. “It was my first time making it to Masters, but I knew what I was doing at that point and just had to run my race.”
Stanley was assigned a favorable lane in his preliminary heat at Masters. Running alongside him was VOL foe Michael Ramos of Lathrop.
What happened next will haunt him until his senior season. It is also what drives him.
Stanley stumbled on the second and third hurdles as the rest of the pack — and chances of making state — dashed away. To his credit, he got back up and made it to the finish line in 50.71 seconds.
Ramos, meanwhile, set a personal record (40.16) and turned in the seventh fastest time to reach the final round. He opted to attend graduation instead of finishing the meet the next day.
“You’re supposed to be on our toes, but when I jump my heel is on the ground,” Stanley said. “The track (at Elk Grove High) is hard, and that came into effect when I slid straight underneath the hurdle. It hurt me and took me awhile to get back up, but then it happened again.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this just happened.’ I just had to finish the race at that point.”
A forgettable end to the season marks a new beginning for Stanley. Also a football player, he plans on training for track soon after the fall season ends. He is eyeing more championships, faster times, a spot in the state meet and a collegiate career — as a hurdler.
“I’m coming for it all next year,” Stanley said. “I’m motivated for it, especially with how this last season ended.”
Boys track & field
Ryan Daggett, hurdles, Ripon, Jr.
Jesse Hurtado, distance, Sierra, Jr.
Michael Ramos, hurdles, Lathrop, Sr.
Chris Cook, throws, Ripon, Sr.
Blake Greenlee, jumps, East Union, Sr