Three Panthers competing at masters

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comMay 23, 2013 

And then there were three.

A pair of Pacheco athletes are competing at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters track meet today at Elk Grove High School -- Paul Parks in the triple jump and Ryan Salcido in the 3,200-meter race. Another, Aaron Belasco, competed in the high jump Thursday (results were unavailable at press time).

Belasco earned the distinction of being the first athlete from Pacheco High to qualify for the masters meet with a 5-foot-9 leap at the Division 4 meet.

"It meant a lot," Belasco said. "But I feel like I was just lucky, because my event was first. Last year I placed also, but I was the third one out. Last year's jumpers were way better."

Belasco's jump put him in fourth place, with the top four from the Division 4 meet qualifying for the masters meet. His 5-foot-9 mark places him dead last among the masters meet qualifiers. The gap isn't so big -- Harman Purewal of Golden Valley has the high mark among qualifiers at 6-foot-6 -- but every inch has to be squeezed out of a high-jumper's technique.

"My arch, my back, when I go up to drive, I have to keep my arms up while I hold my position. It's pretty difficult," Belasco said. "You have to think about a lot of stuff, but at the same time, not think about it. There's a lot to put on my brain in like a third of a second."

At practice, Belasco has hit 5-foot-10 before, and he came a hand away from 6 feet at one of his meets this year.

"I almost got 6 at our meet, but I hit it with my hand," he said. "That upset me quite a bit. I had it cleared, and then my hand came down. It's the hands, you have to throw them up and keep the technique."

For Salcido, the divisional meet gave him a different perspective -- staring at the backs of a lot of runners in the 3,200-meter race.

"It was really different. It didn't feel right," Salcido said. "It just felt like I was already out of the race at that point."

Salcido expected it to go a lot like most races, where runners feel each other out the first few laps. Not so in this race.

"It wasn't a strategic race," distance coach Gerald Wall said. "It wasn't get out there and measure each other -- they got out and they took off, because there was a severe desire on everyone there to be in the masters meet, there was an intense desire to be there."

With 300 meters of the race gone, Wall estimated the leader to be about 60 yards in front of Salcido. But the Western Athletic Conference scholar athlete, who made the Division 4 state race in cross country last fall, wasn't about to give up.

"I just moved over to see where everybody was at, and then I just kind of went my own pace, not too fast, and just passed people every single lap," Salcido said. "I focused on one person each lap and passed them. By the time I got to the sixth lap, I was top five."

By the time he was done, Salcido had moved up to second at 9:42.02, the best 3,200 time by a high school runner from the city of Los Banos, according to Wall, surpassing Salvador Garcia's 9:52 near the turn of the century.

At practice the other day, Parks was working on his triple-jump approach with coach Laura Barger, and kept missing his spots. That was when Barger noticed something.

"I said to him, 'You're nervous, aren't you?' " Barger said. "He kind of shrugged and said yeah."

Parks' 42-foot-8 mark was good enough for fourth at the divisional meet, but has him deep in the field for the triple jump at masters.

For all three athletes, the masters meet is uncharted territory.

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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