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Seven Bruins Qualify For Masters Meet
The blue on blue combination of a Sac-Joaquin Section banner and Vista del Lago High's navy track and field uniforms was simply too much of the same color for the Eagles girls on May 15 and 17 at the SJS Division IV-V Championships at Modesto Junior College.

Either that, or Vista del Lago athletes were convinced the banner contained a bad case of smallpox.

The heavily favored girls program from the Sierra Valley Conference elected to not send their best athletes to multiple races, allowing fellow SVC team, Cosumnes Oaks, to steal a title.

The Eagles had two qualifying runners within the top recorded times in the division's 1600 meter race, but both declined entry in the event, ultimately competing only in the 3200. If the pair had only run the 1600 or 800 (where they also would have likely won/placed), Vista would have escaped Modesto Junior College with a D-IV title.

Instead, Vista placed just third and left the 1600 door open for Riverbank sophomore Mikayla Florez to stroll through at a fairly easy pace. Florez stayed at the heels of Calaveras freshman standout Hannah Hull for most of the race, then out-kicked her in the final 150 meters to win an individual section title in the event.

"Maybe (VDL) thought they could have won without it, but had they just won the mile they would have won a section title," Riverbank coach Monte Wood said. "They weren't even entered in the event, which confused me as well."

Florez' winning time of 5 minutes, 16.14 seconds, was hardly her personal best, but it was a smart race that allowed the Bruin standout to snare a section title and prepare for a vigorous showdown in her next race. Florez qualified with teammates Melissa Garcia, Robert Martinez, Raymond Burney, Angel Harrell, Joaquin Felix and Gabe Manriquez to the SJS Masters Championships on May 24 and 25 in Elk Grove.

The top three at Masters in each event and those that reach elite 'at-large' qualifying marks will advance to the state meet.

"Overall I was really impressed with how we did at divisionals," Wood said. "It was a really good meet for us and the kids seemed really focused coming into it."

Riverbank's Hernandez, Manriquez, Burney and Felix made the 400 relay finals with a sharp 44.11 time, then broke the school record in the event with a 43.88 in the event finals to finish third.

Since the top six in each event moved on to Masters, Martinez also qualified in the 200 with his 22.96 time in fifth. Melissa Garcia reached Masters with a 35 foot, 3 inch toss in the shot put to end third. Angel Harrell exploded for a 103-00 toss in the discus to finish sixth and see her first trip to Masters.

Florez enters the 1600 at Masters with the 13th best time of any qualifier this season. She's beaten two of the top three runners in head-to-head action this year and is a serious threat to snare a state qualification because of a tremendous kick to close her races.

If Florez can stay with the top group of runners at Masters through the first three laps, she will have a good opportunity to out-kick several of them during the last turn and straightaway. The athleticism and strategy involved isn't what you expect from a 1600 meter legging around an oval.

"If you know what's going on then you are entertained the whole time while other people just watch people run around a track," Wood said. "She doesn't want to go out and try and lead the race (at Masters), and if the race works out where no one wants to lead until the last lap, it could really work into her favor. If not, she will have to test and see what she is made of."

Masters will scatter event trials and finals between both days of action. The 1600 expects to begin at 6:28 p.m. on May 25.