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Elijah, Herrera skip senior trip to earn multiple section titles
Nchekube Uwakwe receives the baton from Sierra teammate Jordan Lewis on the final pass of the 4x100 race. The Sierra team broke the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV/V Meet record in 42.20 seconds Thursday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Phillip Herrera and Emmanuel Elijah opted not to join their senior classmates at Magic Mountain Thursday night.

They instead stayed home to make a little magic of their own during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV/V Finals at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

Herrera, Manteca High’s distance standout, clocked personal best times in winning the 800- and 1,600-meter races, and Elijah led meet host Sierra with three top-two medals in the sprints.

The top five placers in every event are guaranteed berths to next week’s SJS Masters Meet at Elk Grove High. Athletes who meet at-large marks also qualify.

El Dorado (61 points) held off Sierra (56) to capture its second straight Division IV boys championship. Cosumnes Oaks earned the Division IV girls title. Manteca’s Valley Oak League champion boys team was also in the hunt, finishing fifth with 42 points.

The Division V titles went to the Modesto Christian boys and Riverbank girls. .

Injuries kept Herrera off the track for most of the 2012 season, but on Thursday he made up for lost time. He opened up a big lead over the final 250 meters in the mile, finishing in 4 minutes, 26.88 seconds.

Herrera then entered the 800 as an alternate after Sonora’s Steven Grolle scratched to concentrate on the 3,200, which he ended up winning.

“I thought I was just doing the mile, but my coach (Rick Cuevas) said to go ahead and do the 800 one last time, go all out and use the next week to recover,” he said.

Thursday’s 800 race is likely going to be his last, and he made it count with a new PR of 1:57.63. He will focus on advancing to the state meet in the mile next week, a feat achieved by his older brother Vincent in 2010.

Elijah’s busy night started with the 4x100 relay, which includes Jake Supinger, Jordan Lewis and anchor Nchekube Uwakwe. They barreled through swirling crosswinds to break their own meet record (42.50), set in Tuesday’s preliminaries, in 42.20. The previous record of 42.74 was posted by the 2011 Sierra relay. The current quartet’s season best time stands at 42.15.

Elijah went on to win the 100 (11.04), narrowly beating Weston Ranch’s John McDonald (11.05). Elijah hoped to finally get the better of the talented sophomore from Texas.

“We’ve been battling neck-and-neck the past few weeks,” McDonald said. “I had a bad start off the blocks and relied on my pickup speed to get back in the race. (Elijah) just pulled through and got it in the last second with his length and stride. Nothing I could do about it.”

McDonald dominated the 200, his strongest event, crossing the finish in 22.28 seconds despite a heavy headwind. Elijah was the runner-up in 22.49.

“He’s a heck of a kid,” Elijah said of McDonald. “He’s going to be scary his senior year.”

Elijah doesn’t regret skipping the senior trip.

“I had been (debating) about that, but I just couldn’t let my team down,” he said. “I came here and did what I wanted to do. We got the (4x100) record, I won the 100 and took second in the 200 — I’m real happy with how I did today.”

One of the meet’s favorites came away mildly disappointed. Sierra junior pole vaulter Onix Paredes looked to defend his home pit with three worthy challengers coming from El Dorado. Paredes settled for a second-place vault of 14 feet, 7 inches — well off his personal best of 16-00. He was in danger of falling out of the top three until he cleared 14-01 on his final attempt.

El Dorado’s Matt Johnson set personal records four times and won at 15-04.

“It’s a stepping-stone process,” Paredes said. “You’re going to have bad days, but right now it’s about the upcoming meet. There’s no point in being stuck on one day, you have to look at the bigger picture.

“I understand what it’s like to be in the zone, so I give (Johnson) his props; he’s having a real good day.”

Manteca sophomores Carl Chandler (43-06) and Lechi Nkwocha (43-07.75) set personal records while taking second and third in the triple jump, respectively. Daniel Clemons placed second in the shot put (48-04).

East Union’s Jordan McNeal sprinted to two top-three finishes, placing second in the girls 100 (12.62) and third in the 200 (26.79). Renee Royster-West of Weston Ranch was second in the 200 (26.67).

Sierra’s Nicholas Valdez advances in both hurdle events, finishing third in the 110 (15.36) and fourth in the 300 (41.13).

Ripon High harrier Eleanor Waters also moves on in multiple events. She took sixth in the mile (5:18.75) but qualifies with an at-large berth, and she placed fourth in the 3,200 (11:38.07). Teammate Taylor Spence competed in three events but qualified in just the 300 hurdles (third, 47.15).

Also qualifying for Masters were: East Union’s Haley Cook (girls 400, fifth place, 1:00.56), Manteca’s Regan Both (girls 200, fifth, 27.46), Sierra’s Mason Merilles (boys shot put, fourth, 45-10.50) and Lathrop’s Loreal Taylor (girls high jump, fourth, 4-11).

Jaliya Williams (long jump), Valerie Nestor (shot put) and Lewis (long jump), all of Sierra, qualified for Masters on Tuesday, as did Ripon high jumper Bryan Vincent.