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CUSD athletes step up
Gardner, Simon, Ford & Smith qualify for Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet
Central Valley junior sprinter JaQuan Gardner, right, blazed to a fifth-place finish in the 100 at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV-V Track and Field Championships on May 16 at Sierra High School. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Courier

Central Valley's Ja'Quan Gardner and Heaven Simon, and Ceres High's Bryce Ford and Gykisha Smith qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Track and Field Championships.

Gardner, Simon, Ford and Smith advanced after finishing in the top five in their respective events at the Division IV-V meet, staged May 14 and 16, at Sierra High School.

"It's different," Hawks head coach Mike Reynolds while talking about the level of competition during the postseason. "There's a lot more stress."

Ja'Quan, a junior, placed fifth in the 100 with a time of 11.38 seconds in the varsity boys division.

"He was excited," Reynolds said. "It's been nice to see him progress this much. He's worked hard this year."

Rey Vega, a fellow standout running back in football and Gardner's rival in sprints, took ninth (11.46).

Vega topped Gardner twice during the Western Athletic Conference season.

"It's always been close," Reynolds said. "This is the first time he's beat Vega. He's been chasing him all season. They have a lot of respect for each other. They're high-caliber football players and track and field athletes."

Gardner managed to finish fifth last week despite stumbling out of the blocks.

"Time-wise, he was slower but everyone in the field was because it was cold and windy," Reynolds said. "There's still room for him to improve. He hasn't had a perfect race this season."

Heaven, a sophomore, placed set personal records while finishing third in the 400 (59.59) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (47.24) during the varsity girls finals. She took ninth in the 200 (27.43).

Simon has been working closely with former Central Valley/Fresno State star Latrisha Jordan.

"Heaven's the most driven, focused and hardest-working athletes I've had in a long time," Reynolds said. "The motivation is there. She picks up something new at each track meet. She reminds me of Latrisha. They're both gifted."

Ford, a third-year star on Ceres High's girls team, placed second in the high jump (4-11), fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.99) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (48.98)
Smith, a newcomer to the Bulldogs, placed fifth in the 100 hurdles (16.11).

Cecilia Carretero placed ninth in the 800 (2:33.71) and 10th in the 1,600 (5:40.42).

Perla Vargas placed 17th in the 400 (1:10.01).

Ceres High's 4x400 relay team of Vargas, Aurora Almonte, Karina Ruiz and Aura Miranda placed 11th (4:33.37).

Bulldog senior boys distance runner Judas Chavarin placed 10th in the 1,600 (4:46.81).

Tristan Dray placed 10th in the 110 hurdles (16.14).

Caden Johnson placed 11th in the triple jump (39-41/4) and 14th in the high jump (5-5).

Jacob Edwards placed 14th in the long jump (19-21/4) and 19th in the triple jump (36-61/2).

Central Valley junior Kenneth Padilla finished ninth while eclipsing his previous-best mark twice in the pole vault.

Padilla cleared 12 feet, one inch.

"I knew he was capable of it," Reynolds said.

Jose Uribe finished 16th in the discus (110-10).

Milton Uti finished 19th in the high jump (5-3).

Jordan Sek finished 16th in the high jump (5-5).

Sherlyn Hernandez, a member of Central Valley's girls squad, finished 15th in the 100 (13.51).

The Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships will be held this Thursday and Friday at Elk Grove High School.