ELK GROVE — At about this point last year, Sierra junior Miranda Miller was forced to quit competitive gymnastics because of a knee injury.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
She’s now heading to the CIF State Track & Field Championships in her first year in the sport. Miller earned her spot by placing third in the triple jump during opening day of the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet at Elk Grove High on Thursday.
Miller’s best mark of the day came on her final attempt of the preliminary round — 37 feet, 4 inches, an improvement of her own school record (36-10) set in a Valley Oak League dual meet at Kimball. Miller is the first female athlete from Sierra to reach the state meet in a jumping event.
“To be the first girl jumper from my school to go …,” Miller said while fighting back tears. “I just really wanted that.”
The top three placers and any other athlete who meets or surpasses at-large marks in each event qualify for state, which is set for June 1 and 2 at Buhachan High in Clovis. Half of the field-event finals in Masters were held Thursday, with the rest taking place today.
Miller will also compete in the long jump today and holds the sixth-seeded mark of 17-11 ½, a personal record established in last week’s SJS Division II/III meet. She has also tried the 100 hurdles and pole vault this season, but the triple jump is her specialty.
“When I first started I did not want to do the triple because of my knees,” Miller said. “I took third in my first meet and I just fell in love with it. It’s just something different, and not everybody can do it.
“I’m really looking forward to state,” she added. “It’s a big opportunity just to be there. Next year I’m hoping I can go into the 40s and maybe go to college to keep doing this. This is definitely something I want to take further.”
Sierra teammates Dulce Cruz and Perla Valdovinos are competing in the discus throw today, while Megan Oblin is in the 1,600. Distance events were not run on Thursday.
Four individuals from the area advanced to today’s final heats for track events along with the Sierra girls 4x400 relay. Heat winners and runners with the next five fastest times from the trials on Thursday move on in most events; there are 12 finalists in the 800 — the top three placers in each of the three heats and the next three fastest times.
Sierra senior Jasmin Correa is returning to run two events and will miss her own graduation tonight. She won the third and final heat in the 400-meter dash in 57.56 seconds, but it’s the slowest of the eight qualifying times. Missing from her heat was Sheldon’s Thalia Reid, the section’s best in the event.
“I didn’t know she was going to scratch,” Correa said. “I definitely wanted her to run so she can be there to push me. I run better when someone is in front of me and there’s competition.
“I got first in the heat so I’m OK with it. I’m excited for tomorrow and I’m hoping to run a faster time.”
Her best time, 56.83, is a school record. She also holds Sierra’s girls 200 record (25.45), but she scratched from the event Thursday to save her legs for the mile relay. Correa was joined by Jeida Lavender, Raiann Prieto and Julia Recker, and the Timberwolves broke their own program record in 4 minutes, 1.40 seconds while taking second in their heat and seventh overall.
Lathrop’s Michael Ramos clocked a qualifying time in the 300 hurdles, finishing seventh overall in a new personal best 40.16 seconds.
Valley Oak League hurdles champion Nicholas Stanley ran with Ramos in the second preliminary heat but stumbled after hitting the opening hurdle. Stanley earlier scratched from the 110 hurdles. A junior, he’ll have another year to redeem himself. For Ramos, it was a bittersweet ending to his career, as he plans on attending his graduation tonight instead of running in the finals.
“I was planning on this being my last race,” Ramos said. “I was just trying to get to 39 before the end of my season. That was my PR right there but it could have been way better. I was just slipping the whole way and hitting hurdles — it was a horrible race. I was pushing myself because it’s my last race. As much as I want to (return), I just can’t miss graduation.”
SJS Division III girls 100-meter champion Jadyn Snear turned in the fourth fastest time in the event Thursday at a wind-aided 12.22 seconds. The East Union junior took second in the heat to West’s Zharia Dixon, who is first overall.
Snaer said it’s a “relief” to qualify for the Masters finals in what she called “an odd season” in which she has been slowed by minor injuries.
“It’s nice to be out here with a chance to go to state,” Snaer said. “With the girls I’m up against, there’s just a lot more intensity to the race and it pushes me a lot.”
Sierra’s Jesse Hurtado will run in the 800 final after taking third in his heat and 11th overall in 1:59.13.
Others participating in the Masters meet Thursday but not advancing: Ripon’s Ryan Daggett (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), East Union’s Julia Vezaldenos (300 hurdles, high jump), Weston Ranch’s Jeremiah Richardson (200), Sierra’s Miguel Cervantes (discus), East Union’s Jaysen Reindel (discus), Sierra’s Citali Chavez (shot put), East Union’s Alexus Surnip (triple jump), East Union’s girls 4x100 relay and Sierra’s boys 4x400.