Skyline junior Eleanor Wikstrom (1052) won two titles at the Oakland Section Finals. (James Leash/file)
OAKLAND - Braving the notorious Bay Area breeze and scattered showers, Skyline junior Eleanor Wikstrom and Oakland Tech senior Caroline Garrett -- two of the greatest runners in the history of the area -- were the eye-catchers as the pair swept the distance events at the CIF-Oakland Section Finals at Laney College on Thursday.
Wikstrom started off the winning in the 1600m, where she comfortably ran 5:06.11 to take first. She doubled back in the 800m in 2:22.00, a season PR. It was the second year in a row she won both the 800 and 1600 section titles.
While both times are good enough to hit the section auto-qualifying time for the CIF State meet next week, Wikstrom said she has decided to only run the 1600m Clovis. She also ran in the 1600 prelims at the State Meet last year.
"It was not the best," Wikstrom said about Thursday's 1600m race. "Obviously, I wanted to go sub-five but I think given the conditions, it was pretty good. I haven't been able to do very many consistent workouts lately because I did actually just sprain my ankle. So coming back from that, it was good to just test the waters and see where I'm at.
"I think overall it felt good. I didn't feel especially wiped or anything -- I think it's boding good things for next week going into state."
The injury for Wikstrom occurred the week after she ran a lifetime PR of 5:00.33 in the 1600m at the Clash of Titans on April 27, where she duked it out against her section rival in Garrett, who ran 5:00.53. And it was Garrett who finished off the distance sweep in the 3200m at the section championships, which she won in 10:46.71.
For Garrett, the mark is a lowering of a meet record that she set last year. It was more than that though -- it was also Garrett's last time running in the city of Oakland as a prep athlete where she has now won six section titles in track (plus two in cross country) and will finish her great career going to a fourth consecutive State Meet in track after going all four years in cross country.
One of the best distance runners the section has ever seen closed this chapter of her storied career, and she took some time to reflect on that.
"I am definitely sad about it," Garrett said. "This whole season, I've been sad about it all. This has just been an amazing experience and I'm so grateful for everyone in the Oakland Section for supporting me all these years, so it's really bittersweet. I'm happy with the career I had and I'm gonna be running in college, so I'm looking forward to that as well."
Garrett swept the section titles in the 800 and 1600 as both a freshman and sophomore before taking command of the 3200, where she has now won twice. She went to State in the 1600 her first two years and now will be making her second appearance in the 3200.
Her fiercest competitor -- and close friend -- offered up high praise.
"Caroline is exceptionally bright, not just intellectually but also the way she carries she
herself and the way she interacts with other people," Wikstrom said. "It could've been
really easy for her, when I first came as a freshman, to immediately dismiss me or be a terrible person to me. But that was never her instinct at all.
"I'm incredibly grateful for her. She's done a lot of important things in terms of paving the way for female distance runners in Oakland. Of course we've both been influenced by people who came before us, but I think personally she's influenced the way that I approach running. Especially from the perspective from being from Oakland and going out to these bigger meets, she's had a very big impact and I'm very grateful for her."
Garrett leaves the Oakland Section as the record holder in the 3200m (10:42.25) and No. 2 in the 1600m (5:00.53). She will get one more chance for a new personal record in the 3200m next week at the State Championships.
Also joining Wikstrom and Garrett on a trip down to the State Meet are two Skyline sophomores, Jonathan Simmons in the 400m and De'Aya Smith in the 100m hurdles.
The CIF State Track and Field Championships take place May 24-25 at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Prelims will be held on the 24th in all events except the 3200, which only conducts a final on the 25th.
Insert above shows Caroline Garrett (862) in a James Leash file photo.