Early in the girls 1600 meter run won by Maddy Denner (center). (Louis Amestoy photo)
Olivia O'Keeffe (Davis Senior/SJ), third as a sophomore in 2016 in the 1600, second as a junior to Maddy Denner, was second again to Denner a week after beating her with what remains the fastest time in the State. It took her second-fastest time ever, 4:43.69, to earn a second silver medal.
"Today I wasn't quite able to cover Maddy's move like I was last week," O'Keeffe said. "My legs just didn't feel quite as sharp and responsive."
Denner's 4:42.77 was a PR from the 4:44.01 from the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet a week ago despite finishing 2nd there. In a deep field for the four-lapper, Denner made her way to the front and at 600 challenged anyone to race her. None did.
"I honestly was trying not to think about it," Maddy Denner said. "My legs felt really bad. I think it was from the prelim yesterday. I was a little bit surprised but I knew I just got to do me and see what happens. I knew Olivia was coming and I knew if the race was any longer I was going to collapse."
Olivia wasn't coming. Maddy Denner did not collapse, and she ran off with a second consecutive title with her twin sister, Elena Denner, coming on strong for 4th.
"When she passed me with her kinda staple move that she does, my goal today was to just cover it like I had last week," O'Keeffe said. "When I felt the gap open pretty quickly, I guess I was just trying to hold onto my spot and not let the gap widen. But, like I said, I just didn't feel like I quite had it in my legs this afternoon to respond as much as I would have liked. So then it was about trying to close as fast as I could and just hold onto my spot for second."
Maddy said the key to her repeat was not thinking about a repeat.
"Honestly, I had to let go of winning another title," she said. "I knew if I went in with that mindset, 'I need to defend my title' than I knew I probably wouldn't.
"I just knew that I had to go out there and forget about what place I got and go out there and run and run my race. ... I thought I was going to be off-the-charts nervous but definitely having Elena there helped a lot.
"It was amazing, I can't even explain," Maddy said. "I'm happy with the PR but state titles are so much more exciting to me."
It was Elena Denner for the win in the 3200 with her twin Maddy in 2nd. (Louis Amestoy photo)
After a cool-down, the Denners were back at it toward the end of the meet for the 3200. A year ago in the eight-lapper, Maddy was 2nd to Claudia Lane and Elena was 4th.
With Lane never really in the picture this season because of injury, a Denner again took control toward the end. This time it was Elena. Maddy went with her and O'Keeffe hung tight onto the relentless Denner exhaust for 3rd.
Elena crossed in 10:10.32, closing in 1:15.576 and 1:06.627. Maddy was next in 10:11.56, closing in 1:16.053 and 1:07.974. O'Keeffe, who didn't compete in the 3200 until this season, was next in 10:12.56, closing 1:15.606 and 1:08.662.
"I came into this meet just wanting to make the podium in both events," Elena Denner said. "I honestly didn't think I could win the 32. I was just out there running my race. Start at the back, get warmed up, get going, as I go just pick people off. All of a sudden I was in first. 'All right, time to go.' I honestly don't know what to say.
"The last lap, 'You know what, I feel like I have a lot left.' "
At that moment, with only the 4x400 relay left to go, the Denners/Oak Ridge were leading the girls team race with 33 points.
"I remember last year, I ran the same, won the 16, second in the 32, and I was like, 'man, this was going to be a tough meet to out-do.' But I can say, even if we don't win the team title, today has been better than a year ago," Maddy Denner said, her sister nodding and smiling as she spoke. "Elena, you winning a state title and being up there on the podium, it just makes it so much more special. It will definitely be a great way to end our high school careers."
"I couldn't have said it better," Elena said through a wide smile.
But Gardena Serra still had a relay team left. And that would be the difference.
MORE STATE MEET COVERAGE
- Race Videos/Interviews
- Feature article on the Boys Sprints
- Feature article on the team championships