Survive and advance. That’s what the Southern Section Masters Meet is for, the conglomerate of division qualifiers held in the week between the Section Finals and the State Finals. The main goal of top athletes like Ventura’s Sadie Engelhardt is simply to break the state mark and not over-push.
And yet there was Gardena Serra’s Brazil Neal after the girls’ 200m, her distinctive bright red hair draped over a trash can, expending every ounce of energy and bursting into tears as she stood at the scoreboard at Moorpark High as she listened last time. The Oregon player wears rose-colored glasses off the track. When she runs, she said, everything is blurry. She knew she had won the 200m but didn’t know her last time.
At first she thought the announcer said she got a 23.9. A far cry from her 23.67 set time, but good, she thought. Enough to survive and advance.
Then she moved closer to the chalkboard, saw that it had a personal best of 23.36 on it – good for the best time in the state – and then the tears came – from joy and pain.
“Everything hurts,” she moaned to her friend and running superstar Rodrick Pleasant, the Serra runabout, who had just finished the boys’ 200-mile race when they limped toward the podium.
“Survive and advance” doesn’t quite apply to Neal and Pleasant, two seniors who spent four years defining a new generation of Serra track greats together. With only two contests left in their high school career, competing in Saturday’s Masters meeting at Moorpark High, they pushed until they gasped.
“I just want to come over here and stamp my name,” Neal said. “And make sure people remember who I am.
“We both just want to make sure that people know who we are and that people remember our name. I want to put Serra back on the map as a circuit.”
A week after clocking a wind assisted time of 10.09 seconds in the final of the southern section of the boys’ 100-meter dash, Pleasant crossed the finish line at Moorpark in a wind assisted time of 10.14 seconds – setting the State record he had set. I started on the Moorpark circuit almost a year ago. An hour later he fought his way to victory in a crowded 200 meter field with a time of 20.71.
“Let’s go, Superman!” a Serra parent yelled from the stands after Pleasant’s 200-meter dash.
But Superman’s face was scowling on Saturday, even as he chose to go with the story. Coach Christopher Mack said the goal of any Serra program is for Pleasant to finish high school in under 10 seconds. Feasible, the coach thought, if Pleasant maintained his form through all 100 meters – he’d gotten “stiff” even in last week’s 10.09-meter race, Mack said.
The pressure on Pleasant has grown enormously, both within his own program and from the fans. He turned down interview requests Saturday after the 200-meter dash; “I wasn’t happy with how he got off the grid,” Mack said, despite having won two medals and being tied in history.
“The expectations of the whole thing … I think that weighed on him at times,” Mack said. “Everyone expects him to put on a show every time he walks. You can’t please everyone.”
In fact, Pleasant delighted almost everyone at Moorpark on Saturday. He just didn’t seem happy. There was no survival and no progress; There was only history to follow.
Next weekend he will have another chance at the Clovis State Finals.
The Long Beach athletes win the day, but Wilson fails
In the stands at Moorpark High, Paula Nelson – wife of Long Beach Wilson head coach Neil Nelson – wore a black shirt tailored by a friend that read “It’s Always Long Beach”.
It’s always Long Beach, and at larger events, said Xai Ricks, top runner at Long Beach Poly, the region’s athletes feel a sense of unity and represent a region that regularly produces some of Southern California’s best track and field talent.
“Just DJing for Long Beach, that’s great,” Ricks said.
He and many others did quite well on Saturday. Ricks set a personal record in the boys’ 400 – beating his third-best time in California – with a grade of 46.50 and also made the final loop of the boys’ 4×400 relay, giving Poly the win . Wilson won the girls’ 4x100m relay to open the day and senior Aujane Luckey clocked the fifth fastest time in the country at 52.71 to secure the girls’ 400m relay.
However, Wilson’s boys 4×400 team failed to make it into the state despite starting with the fastest time of any program in the southern section. They received a disqualification after officials discovered that a runner had interfered with the Irvine Northwood track during a handover, leading to one of the strangest situations in recent area runner history: the Northwood 4×400 team arrived an hour after the end of the competition and performance in an empty stadium back a replay to try to qualify for the state.
They missed 0.13 seconds.
Other outstanding achievements
Engelhardt won the girls’ 1,600 m in a time of 4:46:02. … Westlake Village Oaks Christian had a great day: the boys’ team won the 4×100-meter relay and junior Niya Clayton won the girls’ 100-meter dash with a personal best of 11.46. … Eastvale Roosevelt’s Cayden Roberson went from last place finisher in the boys’ 300 hurdles to the winner with a time of 37.59.