By Patrick Dillon @Pdillon_SGN
TULARE – The new era of qualifying for the valley track meet began last Wednesday with the first ever East Area Qualifier Tournament taking place at Tulare Union High School last Wednesday.
The new model of qualifying replaced the Division II Championships, and split the Central Area into the East and West qualifiers. According to the CIF, this method of qualifying aligns best with their mission toward competitive equality by sending their best athletes from each area to Buchanan’s Veteran Memorial Stadium this Saturday.
Lindsay’s McKaylie Caesar led a group of Tulare County athletes as valley automatic qualifiers.
A state qualifier last year, Caesar came in as one of the favorites in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs.
In her first event, the 1600 meter, Caesar came one step closer to breaking the five minute mark. It has been a goal of hers all season, and on the biggest stage so far, she came within four seconds (5:04.26) of accomplishing it during her first win of the evening. To her surprise the pace of the race was slower than she had expected. She came out and ran 1:16 minute lap splits on her first two. On her third lap she began to put some distance between her and the rest of the field on her way to the win.
“I knew this was the time for me to get a personal record,” Caesar said. “It is just another step toward the goal.”
Caesar later won the 3200 meter with a time of 11:19.55 minutes. It was her second personal record of the night.
It was the first time in a few meets that Caesar had been challenged early on in races, but none of the competitors were able to keep up with her pace as the meet went on. The closest margin of victory was 16 seconds over Nia Lamas of Sanger in the 3200 meters.
Such dominating performances is a good sign for Caesar heading into valley. According to Caesar, her legs feel as strong as ever.
Exeter’s Chad Hilvers unfortunately did not have the same feeling. He entered as the Central Sequoia League champion in the high jump, 100 meter, and 200 meter. However, his list of events changed at the qualifier. Hilvers instead competed for both of Exeter’s relay teams, 200 meter race, and the high jump.
Hilvers’ first event of the evening, the 4X100 relay, did not have any affect on his high jump performance, but the other two did. Once the bar reached a height of 6-feet, 1-inch, He had to exit the event and run in the 200 meter. In the strongest flight, he came in fourth. While he gained a chance of advancing to this weekend’s Valley Championships, the effort drained his legs.
Once Hilvers returned to the high jump it took him all three chances to clear the height of 6-foot, 1-inch. A drastic step back from the previous week where he cleared a record setting 6-foot, 7-inches in two attempts.
Hilvers cleared 6-feet, 3-inches on his second chance, but then his 4×400 relay, where Hilvers runs the anchor leg, teammates began to call him over to check-in and warm up for the race. Frustrated and tired Hilvers wasn’t able to recover any momentum and failed to clear the height.
Hilvers finished third in the event, and will compete at the Valley Championships in the high jump this Saturday.
Caesar and Hilvers join the likes of Golden West’s Lonnie Wessel, who qualified in the mens discus, Lindsay’s Elijah Page, who qualified in the triple jump, Kaija Ambriz, who qualified in the 300 meter hurdles, Strathmore’s Caroline Ertl, and Golden West’s Indya Smith, who both finished second and third in the high jump. Smith qualified in the womens long jump as well.