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Molina, Barnett punch tickets to state finals

Molina, Barnett punch tickets to state finals
St. Francis High athlete Matthew Molina, here at CIF-SS Track & Field Division Championships, tied for seventh at the CIF State Preliminaries high jump competition with a mark of 6 feet, 3 inches in Clovis. The junior will compete in the finals Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Two local competitors are moving on and one said goodbye after a first day of close calls Friday at the CIF State Track and Field Championships at Clovis Buchanan High.

St. Francis High junior Matthew Molina and La Cresenta resident Mia Barnett earned berths to Saturday’s final day, joining Crescenta Valley’s Artin Allahverdian, while Falcons senior Colin FitzGerald came up short.

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Molina, also a basketball player, just survived and advanced by tying for seventh in the high jump with a mark of 6 feet, 3 inches.

“It was not the best day in the world, but we’ll take it,” St. Francis coach Mike Russell said. “Obviously he has to jump better tomorrow, but at least we got there.”

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Molina entered the state preliminaries competition off back-to-back efforts of 6-6, which netted the youngster a CIF Southern Section Division III championship and a fifth-place finish at the Masters Meet.

On Friday, Molina blew past the opening standard of 6-3, but missed on three tries at 6-5 and was left in limbo as the rest of the competition continued.

About an hour after Molina was done, he and his coach were informed of their place and qualification to the finals at 7:30 p.m.

“I’m really, really happy that he’s moving forward,” Russell said of Molina, whose personal best is 6-8 1/4. “You know we know what he’s capable of. He can easily get better than 6-3 and 6-5, which he tells me he jumps in his sleep. He’s a little fatigued, I know, but it’s the last day of the season and he has to push.”

Friday provided a difficult end to a breakthrough season for FitzGerald.

The senior hadn’t progressed beyond the division preliminary round his previous two seasons on varsity, but found himself competing in the state preliminaries.

Needing to finish in the top 12 to move on to Saturday, FitzGerald just missed the cut as he finished seventh in his heat and 13th overall in the boys' 1,600-meter run in 4 minutes, 15.77 seconds. Though FitzGerald is a first alternate, his coach is conceding that a productive season has ended.

“He finished 14th and then moved to 13th because of a disqualification,” Crescenta Valley coach Mark Evans said. “I don’t think he’ll make it to the finals. He tried, but it was a tough race. He was a little bit too far off the guys and was charging hard, but had too many people to get through.”

Evans will have one athlete active Saturday as senior Artin Allahverdian will compete in the 3,200 championship race at 9:25 p.m. All 3,200 runners automatically advanced to the finals.

What has turned into a showcase freshman season for Barnett will continue into Saturday’s championship round.

The Village Christian athlete finished sixth in her heat of the girls’ 1,600-meter run and was 10th overall in a time of 4:51.08, which qualified her to Saturday’s finals at 6:20 p.m.

Barnett is one of only three freshmen to advance to Saturday and will look to improve upon her personal-best of 4:46.77, which she accomplished in winning the Division IV title on May 19.

Oak Ridge’s Maddy Denner posted the fastest time Friday of 4:47.48.

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