WALNUT – Seemingly around every corner and over each high jump bar, the Glendale Community College track and field program was making history at Saturday’s California Community College Track and Field State Championships at Mount San Antonio College.
The Vaqueros finished sixth in the women’s competition, were 23rd in the men’s standings, had every single competitor earn All-American honors on Saturday and boasted two individual women’s champions at the state finals for the first time in program history.
“I really don’t think we’ve ever had two winners,” Glendale Coach Eddie Lopez said. “We’ve had one person win multiple events, but that’s a new one for me. We do that and finish top six, so that’s a pretty good day.”
Sophomores reigned for Glendale on Saturday, as distance runner Elizabeth Nelson and high jumper Justice Shank took home titles. Nelson would also double as an All-American, earned by a top-six finish, with Shank, Aisiah Tuiasosopo, Lizette Gonzalez, Glindyll Mancia and Marcus Streeter also notching honors.
Nelson showed off her strong kick in both her events, first in the 1,500-meter run and then in the 5,000.
In the 1,500, Nelson was in a three-person battle with Sequoias freshman Yesenia Silva and Mt. SAC freshman Sierra Ungerman.
While Ungerman fell off the pace with about 500 meters left, Silva was in first and began to build a three-second gap over Nelson with 300 meters remaining.
At that point, Nelson kicked into her final gear and caught Silva over the final 100 meters before galloping to victory in a time of 4 minutes, 33.86, which bested Silva’s 4:34.58.
“Today was a good way to end the season and a good day to finish my college running with Glendale,” said Nelson, who will be attending Cal State Northridge next season. “My goal was to win and, if I couldn’t win, to at least be an All-American.”
Nelson’s time tied for third best in the nation with Jessica Mildes of Spokane Community College and just missed the Vaqueros’ own seasonal-best mark of 4:33.56.
Later in the afternoon, Nelson fell out of contention about 10 laps into her 5,000-meter run and was in sixth.
Yet, again, the sophomore surged over her final 300 meters and passed up Los Angeles Trade Tech’s Evelyn De La Luz (sixth, 18:18.66) and Hartnell’s Brandi Hobson (fifth, 18:14.30) to take fourth in 18:12.42.
As for championships, Shank, a sophomore alumnae from Burroughs High, etched her name into GCC lore when she captured the women’s high jump title with a mark of 5 feet, 8 3/4 inches (1.75 meters).
The victory was the first for a Glendale women’s field athlete since Marji Giles won the state triple jump title in 1980, was Glendale’s first-ever women’s high jump crown and the program’s third-ever women’s field championship.
Shank tied her own personal-best mark set a week earlier on her first attempt at 5-8 3/4, which proved invaluable as her No. 1 challenger, Chaffey freshman Rachel McCoy, needed two attempts to clear the same height.
Both leapers then faulted on three attempts at 5-10 3/4 (1.80 meters), which led to one conclusion from Shank.
“I really thought we were going to go to a jump-off,” Shank said. “Then I was told I won the championship and I couldn’t believe it.”
There was no tiebreaker, as Shank was awarded the crown since she finished with three total faults, which was one less than McCoy.
With her title, Shank also tied for the fourth-best mark in the nation this year.
“I was focused and I tried to keep my adrenaline level down,” Shank said. “I just tried to zone out [McCoy] and do my thing.”
As for the men’s high jump, Streeter, a freshman, also enjoyed a special day, taking third overall with a new personal-best mark of 6-9 1/2.
“I’m glad I brought my best effort to this meet,” said Streeter, who just bested his previous top mark of 6-9 and earned All-American honors. “I’ve never been to state in high school or college, so it’s cool.”
Streeter tied SoCal Regional champion Adam Aguirre of Cerritos College, but Aguirre took second place as the Ole Miss-bound sophomore had five faults versus seven for Streeter.
The meteoric rise of Tuiasosopo, a freshman, continued in the discus finals.
Tuiasosopo blasted her personal record in consecutive weeks, this time earning fourth in the event with a 135-11 (41.44 meters).
“Honestly, I’ve done my best the last few weeks because I’ve cleared my mind,” Tuiasosopo said. “I haven’t focused on negative things or pressure, I just went out and tried to clear my head and focus on my event and it’s worked.”
It was only a week earlier at the SoCal Regional Finals that Tuiasosopo finished third with a personal-best toss of 134-10 (41.11 meters), which smashed her previous top mark of 126-6.
The All-American march continued for the Vaqueros in the women’s 800-meter run as sophomore Gonzalez and freshman Mancia earned the distinction.
Gonzalez finished fourth in 2:16.14, just ahead of fifth-place Mancia, who finished with a mark of 2:16.63.
The duo was in third and fourth up until the final 200 meters before Orange Coast College’s Raeanna Cortez sneaked ahead to third in 2:13.40.
Points-wise, Glendale finished with 42 points and sixth place in the women’s competition as host Mt. SAC won the title with 88 points.
On the men’s side, the Vaqueros merited eight points and took 23rd despite only having two competitors. Riverside captured the championship with 111 points.
Over the course of the two-day event, GCC had seven athletes claim eight All-American honors, with Ana Tonga finishing sixth in the women’s javelin on Friday.
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.