Lindsay’s Marlena Gutierrez makes state in first year
Also, Golden West’s Zach Glick, Strathmore’s Madison Bower, and Lindsay’s McKaylie Caesar qualify for state
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
FOOTHILLS AREA– The month before spring sports were set to begin, Marlena Gutierrez decided to try throwing something else besides a softball. On a whim, she decided to try her hand at shot put. Now she’ll compete at state after hitting a personal best 42 feet and 0.75 inch, putting her fourth at the Valley Masters.
For the last three spring sports seasons, Gutierrez had known only softball. She became one of the best infielders in the East Sequoia League with her quick reflexes and strong throw toward the play. It was that strength which caught the eye of Cardinal throwing coach, John Caesar.
Gutierrez had known Coach Caesar previously from playing on the same girls’ basketball team as his daughter, McKaylie, for the last two years. It took some convincing on Caesar’s part, but eventually she relented. With no formal training, Gutierrez put the shot put up to the side of her neck, and threw it over 30 feet.
“From then on I decided I was going to do it,” Gutierrez said. “It’s my senior year and I want to see where it takes me.”
The throw clarified Caesar’s insight about Gutierrez’s ability and he took it one step further. Right there on the spot he predicted her qualification for the D-II championships.
“She definitely has a gift,” Coach Caesar said.
Gutierrez did not only make it the championships but medaled. She took second in the shot with a distance of 37 feet, 8 inches.
Instant success has not come without a cost. As a vital part of the Cardinals’ softball team, she decided to do both sports, creating a scheduling ordeal. Instead of having one of her coaches tell her what competitions she would enter, Gutierrez took the lead. She comprised a plan which suited both team’s coaches. Since softball had more games, she would make that the priority on days when invitational meets occurred. That changed on days when ESL meets happened. Gutierrez then went to track.
Practicing was a whole other story entirely. Again, softball took the lead since it began at 3:45 p.m. With practice running sometimes two hours long, she could not start her practice at the throwers pit until 6 p.m. When she first picked up softball, she had spent an additional two hours there, but there were days she’d miss practice completely. On those days, she took a shot put home to practice.
“We try and keep things real basic on the days we get her,” Coach Caesar said.
With this weekend culminating to be the last of her high school meets, Gutierrez has a big decision to make: Which sport will she play at the next level, if any? While softball has longevity, it is not her sport of choice when heading off to University of California at Davis next fall.
“I am going far in track, so I could see myself walking on and if that happens I would definitely do throwing,” Gutierrez said.
This year’s field of state qualifiers holds two returners from the local area. They are Strathmore’s Madison Bower and Golden West’s Zach Glick.
Last season, Madison Bower went in as the undisputed champion of the 300-meter hurdles. This season, she is going in as a runner-up after clocking a time of 44.37 seconds.
“I am definitely going for vengeance this time around,” Bower said.
This is not the first time Bower has gone into a meet with something to prove. During the third ESL meet, a misstep caused her to hit the fourth hurdle. It diminished her momentum and allowed teammate Jazmine Soto to catch and ultimately claim the win. The feeling after that race is one that Bower has not yet forgotten.
“I just remember being so mad at myself, and wanting to throw that silver medal away,” Bower said.
Overcoming that defeat, Bower found that tough competition has forced her to focus more on her form. Earlier in the season, she vaulted over the final hurdles because she had a big lead. Now she must assess her timing and strategy to become more competitive.
Bower has given more focus to her goals as well. The valley meet was the first time that she dropped her time into the 44-second range. That is one second slower than her goal of 43 seconds. If she can drop another second off her time, she’ll more than likely medal in the top eight, which is her second goal.
“I won’t say I compete better when I am mad, but I compete better when I have something to prove,” Bower said.
Golden West’s Zack Glick goes in as a Central Section Champion for the second year in a row. Only this time, it is in the long jump and not the triple jump. At the Masters Meet, he jumped a personal best 23 feet and 11.75 inches., nearly a complete foot longer than he jumped at the area qualifier.
At last year’s meet, Glick had trouble with distractions. During the wait time in between jumps, he experienced competitors trying to psych him out.
“You really need to be in the zone,” Glick said. “If you are not in it mentally, you are not going to go far.”
This year, Glick’s goal is to try and block out any potential distractions. Current head coach George Steward will help as Glick continues to learn, and gain confidence.
“This year, he is as good as anyone there,” Coach Steward said.
Running to state
While this is Lindsay runner McKaylie Caesar’s first state track meet, it is not the first time she has seen this level of competition. Earlier in the school year, she advanced to the State Cross Country Meet along with her team. She ended up finishing in 22nd place with a time of 19:02.8. Although she finished outside of the top ten, she is anxious to compete at the top level once again.
“I’ve never been this far in track, and knowing how hard it is, this is pretty amazing,” Caesar said.
Caesar will be competing in the 1,600-meter run after finishing third at valley with a time of 5:07.53, a new personal best for her career. She will more than likely hit another best this weekend due to the level of competition she’ll be facing. Already familiar with a trio of Buchanan runners, Caesar has plans for a victory running with them again.