Ceres High School boys track and field standouts Verlis Smith and Fermin Esparza opted to not compete at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships earlier this month due to exhaustion and injury, respectively.
The meet was staged May 20-21 at Davis Senior High School.
“I was bummed they chose not to go,” Bulldogs’ coach Brett Johnson said. “But I understand their reasoning. I support their decision.”
Smith felt physically fatigued during the latter part of his final season with the Bulldogs due to a busy schedule.
He lettered in three sports as a senior and four as a junior.
A 3.9 student, Smith also works part-time.
“I didn’t want to go and compete if I didn’t feel 100 percent,” he said.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Smith added. “It was an exhausting year.”
Smith advanced to the Masters in the 100 and long jump after turning in standout performances at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships, staged May 11 and 13 at Weston Ranch High School.
He took second in the 100 (11.09), fourth in the long jump (20-111/2) and seventh in the 200 (23.72) at Divisionals.
Smith set a personal record in the 100.
Smith finished first in the long jump (21-061/4) and 100 (11.13), and second in the 200 (23.21) at the Western Athletic Conference Championships on May 5 at Mountain House.
He set personal records in the long jump and 100.
Smith claimed individual titles in both the 100 (11.41) and 200 (22.97) at the Stanislaus County Championship Meet on March 18 at Riverbank High School. He set a personal record in the 200.
Smith was first in the 200 (23.59) at the Tiger Rustbuster Track Invitational on Feb. 25 at Patterson Community Stadium.
“This is what I expected from him. It didn’t surprise me at all.”Coach Brett Johnson on Verlis Smith
“This is what I expected from him,” Johnson said. “It didn’t surprise me at all.”
“I put high expectations on myself,” Smith said. “I took it personal every time I didn’t do my best.”
“It was fun coaching Verlis and watching him compete,” Johnson said. “He did everything in his power to win.”
A newcomer to track and field as a junior, Smith set personal records on his was to sweeping the 100 (11.25) and 200 (23.00) during the WAC Finals. He was seeded second in the 100 and fifth in the 200.
“I’m proud of myself,” Smith said. “I challenged myself in a new sport. I had fun. I surprised myself a lot. I didn’t know how fast I was until I did track.”
“I had to recruit like crazy to get him out there,” Johnson said.
Esparza, a senior, advanced to the Masters in the 200 while competing with a fractured right wrist.
“Running with a cast and having that extra weight is not fun,” Johnson said.
Esparza placed second in the 200 (22.90) and fourth in the 100 (11.17) at Divisionals.
He set personal records in both events.
Esparza took first in the 200 (23.20), second in the pole vault (10-6) and fourth in the 100 (11.48) at the WAC Championships. He set a personal record in the pole vault.
“I was impressed with Fermin’s work ethic and desire to improve,” Johnson said. “He’s a great kid, too.”
Smith and Esparza helped lead Ceres High boys track and field team to a third-place finish at the WAC Finals.
“Everybody knows about Verlis Smith,” Johnson said. “He’s one of the best, all-round athletes we’ve had. Fermin jumped on the scene in a dominant fashion this year. They were friends and supported each other. That helped them achieve what they accomplished.”
Smith earned a football scholarship to Colorado State-Pueblo.
Esparza plans to attend Sacramento State. He’s considering trying out for the college’s track and field program.
“Hopefully, Fermin gets a preferred walk-on deal,” Johnson said.