Behind distance runner Brian Gastelum’s three victories, Birmingham High moved a step closer to its third consecutive Mid-Valley League track and field title with a 70-56 win over previously unbeaten Van Nuys on Friday at Van Nuys.
Van Nuys (4-1, 3-1 in league meets) fell to the Braves (5-0) despite three wins each by Matthew Roderick and Russell Hester. Roderick won the 110-meter high hurdles (15.6 seconds), high jump (6 feet 2 inches) and triple jump (43-0 1/2), but it was his fall in the 330-yard intermediate hurdles that turned the tide in Birmingham’s favor.
Roderick tripped over the final barrier while leading the race and watched from the dirt as Birmingham’s Darrell Moore won in 43.1 seconds.
Birmingham clinched victory when Moore placed second in the triple jump with a 41-9 1/2 mark. Moore’s runner-up effort to Roderick gave the Braves a 65-56 advantage with one event remaining. Sixty-four points are needed to seal a dual-meet victory.
However, a loss in the 440 relay hurt Van Nuys’ chances more than Roderick’s mishap, Wolves Coach Frank Asman said.
“I think that the sprint relay is a real step in getting the kids up,” he said, “but we had a kid missing and that hurt.
“I think that was the key, losing one of the relays and Roderick falling were the difference. That’s seven points.”
Hester added wins in the 100 (11.0), 220 (23.1) and long jump (20-8 1/2).
Gastelum, the Valley leader at 800 meters, took the 880 (2:08.0), mile (4:48.0) and two mile (10:43.0).
Coach Scott King compared Friday’s meet to a similar victory two years ago. Gastelum’s distance triple mirrored the performance of Sabino Miranda in 1988 when the Braves edged Kennedy, 64-63, in a meet in which the league championship hinged on the mile relay.
“They we’re copying what they had to do two years ago,” he said.
Heather Ballard won an unlikely triple to help move Birmingham’s girls’ team one step closer to a second consecutive league title, 74-43.
The sophomore won the high jump (4-10), mile (5:44.8) and shotput (30-11) to help negate four wins by Van Nuys’ Feltina Means.
Means, who qualified for last year’s state meet in two events, won the 100 low hurdles (16.8), long jump (14-11), 330 low hurdles (49.5) and triple jump (32-0).
Birmingham improved to 5-0; Van Nuys dropped to 1-3 in league meets.