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Weston Ranch sophomore qualifies for state 100, 200
Weston Ranch sophomore John McDonald, right, glances at the clock while running alongside Tracy Highs Nate Jones in the 100-meter dash. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

ELK GROVE — The kid they call “Texas” is competing in the California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field State Championships for the first time next week.

And the Weston Ranch sophomore could have two more trips to make in the future.

John McDonald, a Texas native, is the area’s last track athlete standing after he qualified with third-place finishes in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes in Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Finals at Elk Grove High, setting lifetime best times in both races in the meantime. He blew past the finish in 10.87 seconds — impressive considering there was a 2.8-meter-per-second headwind going against the runners. He also ran a 21.77-second 200.

The only two runners who finished ahead of him were seniors who successfully defended their 2012 section titles. Jesuit’s Austin Mitsch won the 100 in 10.76 and was the 200 runner-up. Robert Ellis got the edge in the 200 (21.32) while taking second in the 100.

“I’m extremely happy,” McDonald said with third-place medal dangling from his neck. “I’m only in 10th grade and 16 years old — those guys are seniors. All I can do is get stronger, come back here next year and it’s my turn.”

The state meet takes place May 31 and June 1 at Clovis’ Buchanan High School.

It was otherwise a disappointing meet for the rest of the area’s contenders for state bids.

Sierra seniors Emmanuel Elijah, Jordan Lewis, Jayson Manuta and Nchekube Uwakwe were favored to win the 4x100 after turning in the best qualifying time on Thursday. They settled for seventh place in 43.24, over a second slower than their season best. Granite Bay, the No. 6-seeded team, was the surprise winner in 42.04.

Elijah was the No. 2 qualifier in the 100, but he scratched out of the finale to attend his graduation. Lewis advanced to Masters in the long jump but focused on the relay race.

Also from Sierra, pole vaulter Onix Paredes came up short but at least has another crack at it next year as a senior. He ended up in 13th place, topping out at 13 feet, 4 inches. His season best stands at 16-0, which is better than the top mark of 15-01 that won the meet on Friday.

Manteca High’s state hopeful, senior Phillip Herrera, hoped to follow in his brother Vincent’s footsteps by qualifying in the 1,600. Unfortunately for Phillip, he ran up against some stiff competition.

Herrera set a personal record in 4 minutes, 19.40 seconds. He was in third place on the final turn, but that’s where he began losing steam. The SJS Division IV/V champion in the 800 and the mile settled for seventh place as the top four finishers eclipsed the at-large standard of 4:16.38 for automatic berths.

“Pretty fast,” Herrera said of the pace. “Last year if I ran a 4:19 I would have taken second. My legs just got super heavy over the last 120 (meters) and I almost fell. I tried to push through for a bit but for whatever reason I couldn’t get it going again.

“A little disappointed about (not making) state, but overall it was a good season.”

Two other seniors had their season end in the shot put. Sierra’s Mason Merilles took 13th with a toss of 48-07.25, while Manteca’s Daniel Clemons placed 16th with a mark of 47-06. Jaliya Williams of Sierra finished 22nd in the long jump (15-11).

Nicholas Valdes and Eleanor Waters were multi-event Masters qualifiers who gained valuable experience.

Sierra’s Valdes competed in both the 110 and 300 hurdles, making it to Friday’s 110 final. He took eighth in 15.31 seconds. The good news is that five of the competitors were seniors, including Nebraska-bound Andre Lindsey, a football standout out of Stagg. Lindsey clocked the fastest time in California Friday and was just two tenths away from tying the section meet record set by Stagg alum Lonzell Hill in 1983.

“It was an honor — pretty cool,” Valdes said. “It’s the biggest race I’ve been in so far. I knew it was going to be a tough race, but I was confident that I was going to do better than I did. I’m just going to start training harder and hopefully go further.

Ripon’s Waters, only a freshman, ran solid races in the mile- and two-mile races, placing 13th in both. Her times (5:15.15 and 11:18.31) were improvements from last week’s section Division IV/V Meet.