If it weren’t for the Junior Olympics, Anna Zaeske might not be preparing to compete in Friday’s Central Coast Section track and field finals.
“That’s where I started to figure out that I liked to run,” she said.
In three years, Zaeske has gone from representing Almond School in the JOs to becoming the lone girl from Los Altos High to qualify for the CCS finals at Gilroy High. The freshman seized the eighth and final spot in the 400-meter dash with a personal-best time of 59.14 seconds at Saturday’s semifinals in Gilroy, where temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees at race time.
“I got off to a really good start – I felt really relaxed before the meet – and I just tried to keep pace (with the other runners),” Zaeske said. “Then in the second half, I just tried to finish strong.”
Her previous best (59.49) came the week before at the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League championships at Los Gatos. Zaeske knows she will probably need to set another personal record to extend her season one more week.
“I’m hoping to get a PR and, if I’m lucky, get on the podium and get to states,” she said.
Seven members of the Los Altos boys team will also get a chance to qualify for the state meet – two of them in multiple events after strong showings in the semifinals. Max Molchanov advanced to the finals in the triple jump (fifth, 44 feet, 3 inches) and high jump (tied for eighth, 5-11). Tommy Andrews made it in the 200 dash (fifth, 22.41) and as part of the 4x400 relay team (second, 3:25.44) with Derek Mark, McKinley Polen and Austin Townsend.
In addition, Owen MacKenzie qualified in the 3,200 run (11th, 9:51.93) and Victor Yu advanced in the long jump (fourth, 21-4.5).
“I am especially proud of Victor Yu, who has battled through injuries all season and has come on very strong at the end of his senior year,” Eagles co-head coach Dave Barth said.
Mountain View’s Rachael Estell is headed to the CCS finals in four events. The senior won the long jump (18-4.5), placed second in the 200 dash (25.17), finished fifth in the 100 dash (12.29) and ran on the Spartans’ sixth-place 4x100 relay team (49.33) Saturday.
Two of Estell’s teammates will join her at the CCS finals: Sinai Fatafehi won the shot put (41-11) and came in third in the discus (120-0); Gabrielle Joffe was seventh in the 800 run (2:18.30).
The Mountain View boys will have three representatives in the finals. Austin Raiff made it in the high jump (tied for eighth, 5-11), while runners Rohan Sarathy (10th, 1:59.22) and Daniel Frees (11th, 2:00.10) qualified in the 800.
Brandon Bains leads the pack of St. Francis athletes who will return to Gilroy. The senior sprinter won the boys 100 dash (10.86), took second in the 200 (22.08) and was on the Lancers’ 4x100 relay team that placed second (42.27). Teammate Colton Colonna was fourth in the 1,600 run (4:21.36) and ninth in the 3,200 run (9:50.58).
Emily Skahill and Camille Esterlechner were the highest finishers for the St. Francis girls, placing second in the 1,600 run (5:02.43) and triple jump (38-4), respectively. Esterlechner also advanced in the long jump (fourth, 17-7.50), along with Sophia Pace (fifth, 17-6).
Annika Opsasnick took fourth in the triple jump (37-7.5) and Julia Bounds notched fifth in the 800 run (2:19.38). The Lancers’ 4x100 relay team moved on as well, thanks to a third-place time of 48.65.