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Nia Lamas, right, gets a hug from teammates Jahari Garcia and Alondra Huerta.

Senior Isaiah Gaucin had one thought as he neared the finish in the 1,600-meter race April 12 at Dodson Field in Sanger.

“Get Juan,” he said. “Get Juan.”

Gaucin referred to junior teammate Juan Zamora, who ran near the front of the pack in the invitation only competition, challenging fleet-footed Isaiah Galindo, a Clovis North junior who also ended up winning the 800 meter race that day. Zamora said he pushed himself but didn’t quite make his goal. However, he did get a personal best 4:31.13 minutes, and Gaucin pulled down a 4:30.76, shaving a full 6 seconds from his previous record.

They scored the sixth and seventh places behind some of the best 1,600 runners in the central San Joaquin Valley. Gaucin passed Zamora ever so slightly in the final sprint.

Their stories of personal peaks and powerful performances punctuated the 62nd annual Sanger Metric Classic track and field meet. This year, participants smashed records in at least two events, and many more like Zamora and Gaucin ripped up their old times and records.

Chief among these was Nia Lamas’ domination of the 3,200 meter girls race. Lamas, a ninth-grader, is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of what a high school athlete can accomplish. Lamas set the Sanger High record for the 1,600 in February, shaving about 10 seconds from the record time Lupe Rodriguez set 37 years earlier.

At the classic, Lamas ran her first 3,200 in high school competition. Not only did she do well, recording a time of 10:45.62 minutes in the normally sedate distance event, she set the Sanger High record.

Again.

Megan Osten had held that honor with a 11:20.42 minutes since 2011. And Lamas also set the record for the classic, which was 10:50.86, set by Corie Smith of Buchanan in 2017. Smith, now a junior, won the 1,600 for the girls but didn’t dislodge the classic record of 4:55.09 set by another Buchanan star, Hannah Benoit, in 2015. But with a 2019 time of 5:00.92, Smith still scorched the track.

Lamas said she’d been reading some motivational material to help her improve her performances and that some phrases she picked up kept her going. “When you feel like quitting, remember all the people who said you could,” she said. “Remember that pain is temporary.”

Lamas said she watched the clock. “The first lap was easy,” she said.

Dariana Miramontes, a Madera South junior, kept up with Lamas early on but started fading in the later laps and eventually wound up with a second-place 11:12.32 minutes.

All alone and catching up to the slower runners in the event, Lamas had no competitors who could encourage her to speed up. She had to do it herself. “I had to push it,” she said.

Lamas did.

“That’s fast,” said head track coach Clay Manning. “That’s really fast.”

When she crossed the finish line, she got encouragement from teammate Ethan Hunt and then her fellow runners gathered around for a grand group hug. Family members joined in with congratulations, telling her how proud they were.

“A seven-year record got shattered,” Hunt said, although it was actually eight. Hunt had the school records printed on the back of his T-shirt and had to rely on others for interpretation. “Crazy. Like a fox.”

Jahari Garcia, who with Alondra Huerta hugged Lamas, said she was pleased with her performance in the 800 but still wanted to decrease her time. “I’m going to train to get a 2:30 or less by the end of the season,” she said.

Apache sophomore Jose Porras grabbed a personal record 11.18 seconds in the 100 for second in the freshman-sophomore race. “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw I was ahead of the kid from Central,” he said. “When I finished, I thought he ran slow or I ran really, really fast.” The Central runner, Cameron Tarver, got fourth.

Lamas wasn’t the only one breaking event records.

Elizabeth Funk, a Clovis West senior who will be competing for San Diego State, shattered the classic record for girls pole vault with her 13 feet 7 inches. The classic record was 13 feet 4 inches, set by Brooke Tjerrild of Clovis North in 2017.

“She’s a great kid,” said Chuck Anderson, Funk’s coach. “Couldn’t ask for a better kid.”

Then Anderson told a story, the one where he first met Funk four years ago when she was just an aspiring pole vaulter. Anderson said Funk lived nearby and she walked past his house. Students apparently practiced in his front yard, typical for a coach. She expressed interest.

“I asked her if she was serious,” he said.

She was. “We’ve been working nine months a year, at least, ever since,” Anderson said. He said she just hit 13 feet 4 inches two days previous to the classic. He said she’s going to clear more height, break more records. “Oh yeah,” he said. “She’s just beginning.”

Funk didn’t make any higher vaults that evening. She had three chances.

She didn’t mind. “That was my school record and my PR,” she said of her booked height. 

Sanger hurdler Carlos Wong was one of the student volunteers replacing the bar on the vault set-up. He wanted her to clear the bar. “I hope she makes it,” he said. “I can see the drive in her. The crowd loves her, cheering for her.”

The crowd, which had begun to thin somewhat but remained substantial, quieted for her jump and then cheered enthusiastically when she beat the classic record.

Funk said she worked hard to get greater verical lift. “I’ve been waiting,” she said. “Today I was just focused on my technique. I’ve been super close (before).” She said she clears her head before a vault of anything but her technique, letting the crowd fall away, the other athletes and the height. She just thinks about what she has to do, her technique. Nothing else.

Toward the end of the evening, Caleb Pouliot, a Buchanan sophomore, again got the crowd’s attention on pole vault, clearing 15 feet 4 inches. He said he had a personal record previously of 14 feet 10 inches. “The (Buchanan) school record was 15 feet 5 inches,” he said. “I was going for 15 feet 6 inches.”

He had three chances but didn’t make the greater height. “I’m not disappointed,” he said. “My form was a lot better coming into the competition.” The classic record is 15 feet 10 inches set by Mark Unzueta of Lemoore in 1997.

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