Four Livingston High seniors struggled to catch their breath, but equally hard was coming to grips to what they just did.
Grayson Austin, Noah Guerra, Salomon Ramos and Abhishek Singh each competed in four events over two days at the Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV/V Track Championships. They had good reasons for their fatigue and joy – they had just won the Wolves’ first track section title.
The last event they worked together – a title-clinching victory in the 4x400-meter relay. Singh, the anchor, stepped away from Center and Placer runners for the victory in 3:27.47. Soon, the foursome celebrated in the warm evening air Thursday night at Cal State Stanislaus’ Al Brenda Stadium.
“I hope coach (Danny Wright) takes us somewhere good to eat,” Singh said.
It probably didn’t matter. Wright, finishing his seventh season as Livingston coach, guaranteed fun anywhere. The Wolves captured their first blue banner in any sport in about a decade.
Wright had worked the numbers going into the meet-ending relay. Livingston held a narrow lead over Placer and a win over the Hillmen would clinch it. The coach liked his team’s chances. Austin, Guerra, Ramos and Singh won this event in 2016 and, one year later, they defended their title.
Livingston totaled 77 points, 10 better than Placer, for the Division IV championship.
“I knew Placer could beat us (in the relay). I had my fingers crossed,” Wright said. “We had a lot of seconds and thirds, and three placed in the 800 (Austin, Ramos and Singh).”
77 Total points by D-IV section champion Livingston
Singh was the catalyst.
He tripled in the 100, 200 and 400 at the Western Athletic Conference Championships last week, and he again came through at Stanislaus. Earlier in the evening, he won the D-IV 400 in 51.84 (he also won in 2016) while Guerra chased him to the line in second.
Wind in the backstretch didn’t allow Singh to threaten his personal best of 49.79 at Sacramento’s Meet of Champions two weeks ago. Guerra also picked up important points with his second in the 300 hurdles, and Austin was fourth in the high jump.
“You’re just focused on winning your division and running fast enough to get a good time,” Singh said.
For the first time, the D-IV/V meet featured more autonomy between the divisions. Separate D-IV and D-V events were conducted across the schedule except for the 1,600, 3,200, pole vault and high jump. In the past, the divisions were merged in competition and then separated by computer later to decide the section team champions.
There will be one final merging: The top five Masters Championships qualifiers will come from the combined best times or marks in each event. They will advance to the Masters this week at Elk Grove.
Coaches voted in favor of the changes last December. It fell to Dave Soeth, who’s run section track meets since the 1980s, to make the longer program work. The same ideas also were adopted for the D-II/III meet finishing Friday at Bella Vista.
What didn’t change was that four blue banners were awarded to the boys and girls team champions in both divisions.
You’re just focused on winning your division and running fast enough to get a good time.
“More athletes will be honored. It is conceivable a division winner won’t go on (to Masters),” Soeth said. “Sometimes the results are strong compared to other divisions and sometimes they’re not. It changes from year to year. You are trying to send your best people to state.”
Consider Singh in the 400. His time overall was second-best behind D-V winner Mikah Bernal of Marysville (51.83). Those two and three others qualified for next week.
“It all gets decided at Masters,” Singh said.
Los Banos’ Leslie Hernandez would be an example of someone the new format hurt. The sophomore captured the DIV 3,200 title with a time of 12:32.91, but it was the seventh best time overall, denying her a trip to Masters. In contrast, teammate Mikayla Akers took third in the 800 race, but secured her spot in a third straight Masters trip with the fifth fastest time overall. Akers was the ony Los Banos-area athlete to advance.
Delhi senior Fabian Garcia, a two-way star for the Hawks’ 8-3 football team last fall, won the D-V 300 hurdles in a PR of 42.30. The future Marine squeezed into the Masters field.
“I knew I had it inside me. Just having my family here helped,” Garcia said.