Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
GRANTS PASS — North Medford's Devyn Baldovino and South Medford's Carmen Mejia took different approaches in winning their respective 800-meter races at the Grants Pass Rotary Invitational Saturday.
Kerissa and Venessa D'Arpino, meanwhile, did things the same way, which is usually the case for the speedy twin sisters of North Valley, and they, too, were a big part of the story line in the 64th edition of the track and field extravaganza.
Baldovino and distance teammate Ray Schireman helped North Medford to second place among boys teams. Grants Pass won with 64 points and the Black Tornado tallied 62.
Marshfield claimed the girls crown with 83 points, followed by Grants Pass with 77.
Other area athletes to make a splash were Rogue River's Seth Gretz, who won both hurdle races and placed third in the pole vault; South Medford victorious triple-jumper Kyle Larson; Crater's Derrick Turituri, the shot-put winner; and Cascade Christian's Levi Girardot, who took the javelin.
Well before the boys 800, North Medford coach Piet Voskes predicted a big day for Baldovino, noting that the senior's workouts the previous two weeks had been very good.
The coach was right.
In only his second 800 of the season, Baldovino showed commendable patience through the first 400, then turned it on as if he'd hit a booster switch, racing to the front and building a big lead early on the second and final lap.
"I had a plan the whole time to stay back and go like between 65 (seconds) and 60," he said of the first lap, then "see what I've got for the last lap. It hasn't always worked in the past, but I just thought I'd try it again and see if I could come back."
Baldovino clocked a personal-best 1:58.23, beating out St. Mary's junior Tracy Salgado, whose time was 1:58.96.
Baldovino's victory wasn't actually that close because there were two heats, and he and Salgado were in different races. The former won his race by nearly 21/2 seconds.
Baldovino had tired of distance work and turned to training with sprinters. As a result, he felt strong on Saturday and ran away from the field.
One person he didn't get a chance to race was teammate Blake Spencer, the No. 3 800 runner in the Class 6A ranks who stayed home because of illness.
"I was really bummed that he wasn't here," said Baldovino.
Salgado's time moved him to the head of the 3A class and is the third best in St. Mary's history.
Unlike Baldovino, Mejia didn't wait on anyone. The senior, in only her second career 800, won in 2:15.17, moving into fifth place among 6A runners. She beat out Sierra Brown, a middle-distance state champion from Hidden Valley, whose time was 2:16.05.
Mejia didn't plan to set a fast pace, and when she heard someone call out her split time midway through, she adjusted.
"I'm not really sure what I was doing," she laughed. "I didn't think I was going that fast. Then I heard the split and thought, 'Oh gosh, I better back off a little bit. I don't want to die right before the end.'"
Brown came up fast before the next-to-last turn.
"I definitely felt her," said Mejia, a senior whose specialty is the 400. "But I've watched a lot of distance races, so I knew she wouldn't want to pass me on the corner. I slowed down a little bit. She wouldn't want to take the extra energy to go around. Then on the straightaway, where I knew she'd want to pass me, I tried to kick it in a little more."
The D'Arpino sisters are among the state's best sprinters, regardless of classification, in the 100, 200 and 400.
By the end of Saturday's event, they owned meet records at all three distances.