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Riverbank Rises To The Section Challenge

When the teams come together for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Track and Field Finals, Riverbank High surely is not the biggest school chasing after the DIII title, yet that did not affect the Trans-Valley League champion squad from making their mark.

Riverbank put together a solid performance as a team, finishing top-5 in the boys events and sending several athletes into the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet for a chance at a CIF State Meet berth.

"All of our kids are out here setting personal records," Riverbank head coach Monte Wood said at the meet, staged at Modesto Junior College. "You cannot ask for anything better than that. Tayler (Anderson) set a 35-second PR (personal record) in the 3200 to advance.

"Donovan (Wallace) is aching and hurting and he still got a first and a second in the 200 and the 100."

Riverbank received a valiant effort from each Bruin who participated, yet not every athlete in the program has the privilege of continuing on with their season. Riverbank standout Jenni Manriquez just missed out on her shot to advance, slipping out of the advancing top-6 with a frustratingly close eighth place finish in the discus.

"I think I was just in my head today," Manriquez said moments after competing. "The only good throw I had was in the first round and after that it was pretty much over.

"If I would have thrown what I threw last week (at TVL's) I would have made Masters easily."

The boys earned a fifth place overall finish, trailing meet champions Placer High by a 66-34 margin, but the squad was able to tie neighboring program Oakdale (VOL champions) with its fifth place finish.

"I think our kids have just been excited about this meet," Wood said. "They love this track, they love running against these bigger schools. When we go to big invitationals we'll run against the big schools, so I know our kids get up for this meet."

Bruin senior Chris Nunez took care of his agenda, combining with Placer High's Lucas Stancliff for one of the meet's most exciting races. The two closed out the last turn of the 800-meters in a neck-and-neck, crossing the finish line just four-tenths of a second apart.

"Most of the guys who were running the 800 had just run the mile," Nunez said after the epic battle. "I figured they'd be a little tired, so I tried to take it out a little faster than usual so I could burn them out. It seemed like they set the pace rather than me.

"I probably should have gone a little faster and burned it more."

Tayler Anderson made her presence felt in the clustered 3200-meter field, pacing herself for arguably the best race in her high school career. Anderson's time of 12:15.45 left her in fourth place, good for a piece of the track in the Masters.

Lady Bruin teammate Lizzie Uscanga just missed out on continuing her season, finishing one spot off the top-6 in the 3200, but her seventh place finish keeps her anxious as the event's alternate, pushing her into the Masters Meet should any of the top 6 participants not be able to go.

Bruin senior Donovan Wallace continued his heroics, racing to an exciting victory in the 200-meters, barely getting edged out of the double win by Folsom's Anthony Smith in the 100-meter. Wallace was also a qualifier in the long jump, but elected to forego competing in the triple jump due to back issues.

Riverbank will have a shot to distance themselves from the programs in the area with a quality showing at the Masters Meet May 28 and 29 at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento.

"We just want to perform our best," Wood said of his expectations for Masters. "If we can go and set PR's and do our best, everything else will take care of itself."