Clemons' debut, girls 1600m record highlight Oakland meet

St. Mary's junior Malcolm Clemons, pictured during a meet in 2018, made is injury-delayed 2019 season debut on Saturday competing in the long jump and triple jump at the Clash of the Titans Invitational at Skyline High School. Clemons is the defending State Meet champion in the long jump. (James Leash photo)




OAKLAND -- Three jumps. That's all Saint Mary's junior Malcolm Clemons needed to show he was back.

Clemons, the 2018 California state champion in the long jump, competed in his first meet since February this weekend at the Clash of the Titans Invitational at Skyline High School.

Clemons had been dealing with a hamstring injury that he suffered during an indoor meet in Seattle, making this weekend his outdoor season opener.

First up was the triple jump, and immediately Clemons showed some of the stuff that made him the state champion as a sophomore. Clemons jumped 44-08 on his first attempt, invoking "Oh's" and "awes" from the crowd.

On his third and final attempt, Clemons hit 46-06 to take home first place. The mark is a foot off his PR of 47-07.50, but as Saint Mary's jumps coach Jeff Rogers said, this meet was just "testing the legs" for Clemons.

Later on in the day was the long jump, Clemons' marquee event. Clemons would only reach 21-05 on three total attempts -- still good enough for first place -- but well off his best of 25-01 from last June's State Final.

That's fine, though, in Clemons eyes, as he wasn't expecting a PR or anything close.

"I feel pretty good," Clemons said. "You know getting back into the flow, it's been awhile since I've had actual competition. It was good getting back into the motion of jumping against people."

Rehabilitation was the competition for awhile as Clemons worked on his hamstring -- specifically strengthening his glutes. With athletic massages mixed in the process, Clemons said he is now at a point where he is confident in his health level.

Clemons hasn't set a specific goal in either event for this season yet, but he certainly is aiming to defend his state title in the long jump and hopes to make the podium in the triple jump. The road for Clemons begins next week at the Tri City Athletic League Championships (TCAL).

On the oval, history was made by both Skyline junior Eleanor Wikstrom and Oakland Tech senior Caroline Garrett in the 1600 meters. Wikstrom ran 5:00.33 to just edge out Garrett's 5:00.53, which are also the two fastest times in CIF-Oakland Section history.

"I think the first word that pops up is fun," Wikstrom said when asked to describe the race. "It was definitely a really fun race."

Heading into the race, that was goal. Wikstrom, who already held the section record in the four-lap race, and Garrett, while being their each others' top competition, have struck up an unique relationship. They both have been working on a personal project they dubbed "Breaking5," their quest to eclipse the five-minute barrier in the mile and also an ode to the groundbreaking "Breaking2" project by Nike. The two have been doing workouts and long runs with each other.

(Wikstrom (13) is at right in 2018 James Leash file photo.)

"I think it builds a really good camaraderie," Wikstrom said. "Obviously, at the end of the day, we're competing against each other. But even beyond that, we're just really good friends. In races like this, we're there to push each other."

Joining Wikstrom and Garrett in the headlines from the oval was Saint Mary's senior Sophia Alexander, who dominated in the sprints. Alexander won the 100m in a blazing 11.74 (a school record as well), which now puts her at No. 2 in the North Coast Section.

She then doubled back for the 200m, winning in 24.49. That's also good for No. 2 in the NCS.

"My emotions are through the roof," Alexander said. "I was consistently at like 12 flat this whole season, and then I was touching 11.9. I really wanted to have a breakthrough meet, and I'm happy that today was the day I was gonna have one."

With this race under her belt, Alexander said she is feeling more confident to take on the top tier talent that California has to offer. Rightfully so, too. Alexander begins her march to a hopeful appearance at the state meet next week at TCAL.