Los Gatos Weekly Times

Silver Creek's Nwachukwu qualifies for 4 CIF events

- By Vytas Mazeika

GILROY >> Chika Nwachukwu admitted she was winded. Tired. Drained. Well, let's just say fatigued.

After qualifying for four events at next week's California Interschol­astic Federation state track and field championsh­ips, who can blame the senior sprinter from Silver Creek?

“I am exhausted,” said Nwachukwu, with a smile. “But I would say it was a really fun experience. I mean, last year we couldn't have state, but I'm so happy that I made it to this point.”

The 102nd version of the state meet returns next weekend to Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High in Clovis for the first time since 2019 after the COVID-19 pandemic caused a two-year hiatus.

May 21 at Gilroy High it was a similar story for the Central Coast Section championsh­ips, which were canceled in 2020 and relocated to Soquel a year ago.

“It feels right,” Silver Creek coach Hector Flores said. “This is where it belongs. It's just beautiful. And now to be able to go to the state meet, to have this accomplish­ment and now the reward of going to state and being on that stage is such a blessing.”

Nwachukwu will be introduced in Clovis as the CCS champion in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles.

She also finished third in the 100 dash and ran the second leg of a runner-up 400 relay.

Will she compete in all four events at state?

“It's something I'll have to talk over with my coach and we'll see,” Nwachukwu said.

Prior to her freshman year, Silver Creek claimed the CCS girls title in 2018. It ended a 31-year drought for the Raiders, who also took home the title in 1977.

While it didn't diminish the accomplish­ments of teammates such as Jadyn Ayala, Kristy Huynh and Shayana Tomasetti, Nwachukwu helped to deliver 34 out of 51 firstplace points for Silver Creek's third

section trophy.

“She was just this uncoordina­ted tall girl freshman year that couldn't run the 100 in under 13 seconds,” Flores said. “Then she started to blossom her sophomore year and just as she got good the pandemic hit. But the girls just kept pushing, training, and we got a chance to put it together this year.”

Which event might prove to be her favorite in Clovis?

“I love the relay because it's a team event — and I love running with my team,” Nwachukwu said. “But I would say it would be both hurdle races, especially the 300. I do love the 100, but the 300 is more of a love-hate relationsh­ip. I just love the feeling of pushing and forcing myself to get to the finish line in a good time — coming in first.”

Elsewhere Nwachukwu is both

a repeat and double champion, a feat only matched by Stevenson senior Evan Johnson after once again sweeping the boys 100 and 200 dash.

Independen­ce junior Ben Kin Ho Tsang also doubled in the hurdles, including the closest event of the night — two-hundredths of a second ahead of Leland junior Miles Roberts in the 110 meters.

His winning time of 37.32 in the 300 hurdles not only dethroned Los Altos junior Shawn Toney (2nd, 37.61) but currently ranks third in the state.

“I still couldn't believe that I am both hurdles events champ,” Tsang texted on May 22. “Even though numerous probabilit­ies were repeated in my mind in the week before today, it's still unreal.”

Scotts Valley senior Jeremy Kain cruised to victories in the 800 and 1,600 meters, falling short by

barely more than half a second of breaking a meet record in the former that belongs to Los Altos' Rick Brown and was set in 1970.

More repeat champions included four members of field events:

Elizabeth Churchill, Aptos (girls high jump, 3 inches higher a 5-9);

Jessi Barry, Valley Christian — except in a different event (girls long jump instead of triple jump);

Andrew Fu, Harker (boys long jump, with top three marks at CCS, including 23-2.5 on final attempt);

Jacob Kiesman, Valley Christian (boys shot put, half an inch longer than last year's mark at 57-1: “I honestly give it all to my coaches and these guys,” he said. “We push each other. I mean, throwers, we're the best group there is.”)

Mountain View freshman Hannah Rutherford highlighte­d newcomers on the scene after tying a personal record of 55.88 to finish first in the 400 dash by over a second.

“I was so nervous before the race,” Rutherford said. “I think more stressed than I've ever been before, but once the race was over I couldn't believe it. It was just such an amazing feeling.”

Her goal at the beginning was simply to make varsity, which she easily accomplish­ed after the first meet of the season. Heading into the final meet, she also qualified third in the 200 dash.

“It just keeps getting better and better,” Rutherford said.

Meanwhile, St. Francis sophomore Lillian Kaelber was one of the many underclass­men for the Lancers who didn't need to rush out for prom after closing out the meet as an anchor on the winning girls 1,600 relay.

Earlier in the meet, she never relinquish­ed a lead at the midway point of the 800 meters.

“I tried to visualize myself winning it,” Kaelber said. “Because I felt like if I didn't have the confidence I wouldn't have been able to even be close.”

She added: “I'm just so excited and I'm really just grateful for everybody that's pushed me this year.”

One of the surprise winners? Cal-bound Jeremiah Earby, a twoway player on the Menlo-atherton football team who caught 11 touchdowns — including a pair for 71 yards.

He ran the boys 400 dash in a CCS best 49.35.

“I'd say it's a lot more grueling,” said Earby, when asked to compare his sprints to the gridiron. “It's just you're trying to keep the same pace all the way 400 meters, which is God knows probably double a football field, so it's just harder.”

Los Altos junior Lauren Soobrian set a PR in the girls 3,200 meters with a top-10 time in the state, proclaimin­g her intentions to compete for a podium spot at Clovis.

“Today was just to go out comfortabl­y hard and get in a good, solid effort before next weekend,” Soobrian said. “And just to go out and see what I could do, but just have fun with it.”

 ?? KARL MONDON — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Saratoga's Harrison Dance takes second place in the Boys 1600Meter at the CCS Track & Field Championsh­ip at Gilroy High School on May 21 in Gilroy.
KARL MONDON — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Saratoga's Harrison Dance takes second place in the Boys 1600Meter at the CCS Track & Field Championsh­ip at Gilroy High School on May 21 in Gilroy.

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