Anthony Santiago ended the 2014 track and field season nursing an injured wrist.
Carl Chandler began 2015 working his way back from a gruesome ankle injury sustained late in the football season.
Both ended up at the same place at the end of their senior campaign: Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis for the 97th annual CIF State Track & Field Championships.
The now-graduated seniors were the only Manteca-area athletes to qualify for state, and for their achievements they’re the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Boys Track and Field Co-Athletes of the Year. To top it off, both signed to continue competing for NCAA programs after the state meet.
They peaked at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet, earning state bids with top-three finishes and new personal records in their specialty events.
Doubt crept into Chandler’s mind as the rest of his teammates geared up for the season with preconditioning. He broke an ankle in the first-round of the football playoffs during Manteca’s win over Vanden on Nov. 14, 2014. It wasn’t until mid-March that he was cleared to start running again.
“It was a real tough time. I didn’t know if I would make it in time for track,” Chandler said. “I thought that would diminish my progress, but I think that actually helped toward my end goal because it caused me to work harder and persevere.”
Last year, Santiago was building momentum in the postseason with his first 50-foot tosses in the shot put that yielded a Valley Oak League title and third-place medal in the SJS Division IV-V meet. That was before injuring his wrist in a boxing workout just days leading up to the 2014 Masters.
“I almost came in last,” Santiago said. “Going into this year I was thinking that was going to change. Right off the bat the goal was to make it to state.”
Santiago successfully defended his VOL title, won the SJS Division II-III meet and had a career-best heave of 57 feet, 1 ¼ inches for a surprising runner-up finish at Masters, where the top-three finishers in each event — along with competitors who meet or surpass at-large marks — earn spots for state.
Santiago stood tall and proud on the medal stand next to mountainous athletes who physically dwarf him. The section’s shot put champ, Jonah Williams, is a 6-5, 280-pound offensive tackle for Folsom’s football team who has committed to Alabama. Third-place Darrin Paulo of Grant is 6-5, 344 and heading to Utah for football. And Jesuit’s Michael Titherington, who placed fourth, is on his way to Arizona, where he will continue competing in the throwing events.
“Compared to them I was six inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter,” Santiago said. “Throwing close to their marks was a very fun experience.”
At the state meet he came up well short of a personal record (53-9) and ended up placing 14th out of 27 entrants in the preliminary round. Disappointed, yes, but he was satisfied to make it in the first place. It even helped convince Sacramento State to offer him a partial athletic scholarship, which he gladly accepted.
“I was hoping to compete in Division I,” Santiago said, “and I get to do that.”
Chandler is on his way to the NCAA Division II ranks. Cal State Los Angeles coaches had their eyes on Chandler before the state meet. He got to meet with them in Clovis and was told they’d offer him a partial scholarship if he chose to go there.
That helped take away the sting from his effort in the final CIF event of the school year. His best triple jump mark of 44-8 ½ was more than 2 feet off his personal record set the week prior, and he settled for 18th-place.
But like Santiago, he made big strides just to get to that point.
He was the league runner-up in the long and triple jumps, and he set personal records in both events — 21-8 and 45-10 for fifth- and fourth-place finishes, respectively — during the SJS Division II-III meet.
Chandler raised his game for the section finale. It was at Elk Grove High where he launched his first 46-foot leap in the triple, going 46-9 ¾ to place third.
“I was motivated throughout the season, constantly practicing and getting better,” Chandler said. “I was able to peak at the perfect time, and the competition of those meets just brings the best in me.”
He may have been an even bigger long shot than Santiago to make it to state. Manteca coach Rick Cuevas believes Chandler is the first track athlete at the school to reach the state meet in a jumping event.
“Makes me feel pretty extraordinary,” Chandler said. “That’s not something that’s done every day so I don’t take it for granted.”
Chandler is just as proud of going out as a champion with his fellow Buffaloes. Manteca’s boys team claimed its third VOL title in four years, with Chandler serving as a key piece in all of them.
“My freshman and sophomore years I was able to jump and run with the older guys, and this year I was one of the seniors leading the team,” Chandler said. “To get that VOL patch was extremely special. Every league match was a battle and we got through it.”