Track and field is starting up around the state, so it's time for us to shine the spotlight on some of the top athletes in each section. Today we're focusing on the movers and shakers among the Sac Joaquin Section boys, where some of California's top talent resides. Check out the brief profiles on each of these athletes to watch below!
Given the limited data from last year and this year, it's almost certain that we will overlook someone (or include someone who isn't competing this spring). Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with any updates you think are warranted.
Sprints & Hurdles
After posting an eye-opening 37.59 in the 300 Hurdles as a freshman and qualifying for the state finals, Marshall had a run of bad luck that would rival that of just about any athlete. A fall in the 2019 state final was followed by a 2020 season wiped out by the pandemic, robbing the budding star of his chance to develop. The good news is that he seems to be back on track for stardom, opening this season with a hand-timed 14.14 in the 110 Hurdles (14.40 is his best FAT so far). We're looking forward to seeing what he can do, and grateful that he has another year still to go after this one.
Already the top returner in the section in the 100 & 200, Kent opened 2021 with PR's of 10.73 and 21.68, although neither comes with a wind reading. He even added a 47.47 400 for good measure, showing that he could be a state-level contender in that event as well. There could be some epic showdowns coming between Kent and Wheeler, and we're excited for them!
You have to go back to 2019, when Wheeler was a sophomore, to really see why he belongs on this list: he posted PR's of 21.95 and 47.45 that spring, finishing 5th in the state meet in the latter event. Since we never got to see how fit he was in 2020, we're looking forward to charting his progress this spring. Wheeler has committed to Oregon, and it's possible he may sit out and train through to avoid injury, but we hope to see some 46's from him.
Peters is a bit of a sleeper in this section, having flashed high potential with a 21.91 200 in 2019. All of the time off since then is the big wild card: it could greatly hurt an athlete through lack of experience and racing fitness, but a dedicated sprinter could also have made huge gains behind the scenes over the last 2 years. If the latter is true for Peters, he could make the 200 a three-way battle in the SJS.
During his freshman track season in 2019, Steplight wowed us with a 4:16.90 1600 and a 1:55.96 800. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much from his since the following fall, which makes his fitness a mystery. He ran 4:29 back in February, but don't be surprised if he drops back below 4:20 soon. Still just a junior, we have plenty of time to watch Steplight develop.
The first of these three to break through was Pickren, clocking 4:18 in 2019. He dropped that to 4:17 in 2020, with Salcido joining him there and Chambers posting a 4:19 (all of these on March 7th, before the coronavirus shut everything down). You have to believe that they were all going under 4:15 last spring given a full season. When you consider the fact that Salcido led the section in the 5K this strange cross country season (Chambers was 4th), the potential for huge times is very high over the next few months. Having three such evenly-matched, talented runners to push each other in practice is an incredible luxury, and we can't wait to see what the seniors make of their last chance to put up some formidable high school marks.
Another sleeper here, but one with strong early-season times to bolster his credentials. After staying completely off the radar screen during all of cross country, Winter has dropped 4:21 and an eye-popping 9:07 already this spring. That puts him 6th in the state and a solid threat to break 9 minutes soon, which is hallowed territory - especially for a runner that had never broken 10 minutes before this spring! We see you, Daniel Winter, and all the work you've obviously put in.
Well, we know somebody's been putting in the work during the long off season! After peaking at 136 feet in the abbreviated 2020 season, Buck opened with a 164 foot throw and then followed it up with 173' 2". That puts him in the driver's seat this spring, especially if he is still trending upwards. Claiming the top spot in the SJS won't be easy, though...
The top returner from 2020 and a consistent 160-footer in the past, Eaton will definitely be in contention for the section crown this spring. He's overdue for a 170 foot toss, and in the discus it can just take one perfect performance to top the rankings for the whole season. His consistency will also be an asset in head-to-head matchups, where throwers often battle it out below their PR's and a few inches can swing the competition.
Butler is taking advantage of the opportunity to compete again - he has already jumped 3 times this spring, including a new PR of 44' 5.25". Considering that he broke 44 feet two years ago as a sophomore, we expect he has a lot of growth still in him.
Eitan Goore (Jesuit)
Gore obviously made good use of the offseason, posting a 15' 7" PR in November that is showing on the 2020 season (this year has really messed with our database). He is the only vaulter in the section with plus-15 on his resume, and it will be interesting to see how far he has progressed over the last 5 months.
As a sophomore in 2019 he popped a 23' 4.5" long jump (and also two strong 22-footers to back it up), advancing to the state meet. He has signed with Sacramento State for track, but he also plays baseball for the Patriots, and he may opt to spend his last high school season on the diamond. If we do see him jumping, part time or full time, it will be fun to watch his development.
Just a sophomore this spring, McDowell has already jumped 5 times - four of them in the 21's, with a best of 21' 8.75". That puts him just ahead of last spring, and he looks like he's on the verge of breaking through into the 22's. That will make him a force to be reckoned with this year, but we're most excited about the next two years of his career!