NCS Stars Overcome Wet Conditions to Punch Tickets to State

Chinyere Okoro, Gabrielle Peterson and Airiana Dargan looked good in preparation for the state meet and Rayna Stanziano survived a scary moment at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions on May 18 at Diablo Valley College.

The top three finishers in each event earned automatic berths in next week's California Interscholastic Federation championships, to be held at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis.

Okoro swept the 100 and 200 meters. The Amador Valley High School senior won the 100 in 11.65 and the 200 in 24.42.

"I feel good," Okoro said. "I just wish that the rain was a little lighter for the 200 but that's about it. I just kind of paced myself more than I really wanted to."

Okoro said that the wet conditions forced her to take the curve with caution in the 200. She is now ready to face the higher level of competition at the state meet.

"I think it's a real nice opportunity knowing that last year I wasn't able to," she said of the state meet. "I'm really excited to get pushed and hopefully PR for the end of the season so that will be fun."

Peterson followed up her performance at the NCS Redwood Empire meet (4:47.90) with another stellar time in the 1,600: 4:48.54. She came back in the 3,200 and looked like she might nail down the double, taking the lead on the final lap before Monte Vista's Kelli Wilson passed her on the backstretch. Wilson ended up taking the win in 10:31.84. Peterson took second in 10:32.53.

Peterson, a senior at Healdsburg, has had an outstanding senior season, setting a personal-best of 10:25.15 when she finished ninth at the Arcadia Invitational.

"I'm feeling good," Peterson said. "I'm been feeling blessed with having a good training plan and, knock on wood, staying healthy so far. I'm feeling good going into next weekend."

She added, "I definitely want to be competitive in the state meet and I really want to try to get my 1,600 time down to 4:45 or 4:44. Somewhere around there. (3,200) I'd also like to get my time down and focus on placing there as well."

Wilson, a junior, set a PR with her time. She said, "You always want to go to state. Top three is good, but I knew I wanted to compete for first."

Wilson explained her strategy.

"My strategy was to tuck behind the main pack," she said. "Stay with them so if any moves were made throughout the race, I would be able to stick with them. I think the main word going through my head the entire race was, 'Stick, Stick, Stick.!' I knew if I was to stay with them until the sixth lap and I was still feeling good and was confident to move up that I could hopefully win and place for state."

Dargan, a junior at Concord, was able to win the long jump on May 18 with a leap of 17-8 ¾. That win came a day after her triumph in the triple jump. She won that at 38-5 ½.

Rayna Stanziano, a senior at Concord, came in as the defending champion in the 800. She appeared well on her way to repeating, leading in the homestretch when suddenly, about 75 yards from the finish, she went down on the track. Marin Catholic-Kentfield sophomore Samantha Wallenstrom started to pass the the fallen Stanziano, then instinctively stopped to check on her. Stanziano began to get up and Wallenstrom then finished the race, winning in 2:13.49. Stanziano finished second in 2:16.26.

Stanziano said she didn't know what happened. She didn't appear to trip. Wallentstrom said she thought Stanziano's legs just suddenly gave out.

"She looked strong the whole time," Wallenstrom said. "She looked good and she ran really fast and she qualified for state and I guarantee that next week, she will be out in front again and will finish it strong."

Wallenstrom also said she thought Stanziano would have won the race by five seconds. Wallenstrom didn't touch or assist Stanziano so her action wasn't subject to a disqualification.

St. Mary's won the girls team title with 74 ½ points, well in front of second-place Campolindo. The Panthers got wins in the 100 hurdles (Sofia Bailey; 15.58) and both relays. The 400 relay team of Kaia Gant-Hatcher, Sophia Alexander, Maddie Dwyer and Bailey clocked a 48.46. The 1,600 team of Dwyer, Jordan Cornet, Bailey and Gant-Hatcher came in in 3:58.01.