NORWALK — Jaycee Olsen and Jake Taylor qualified for the CIF State track and field finals on their third throws Friday. One of the local high school throwers still might not make the trip to Clovis next week.
Olsen's fourth-place finish in the discus event at the CIF Southern Section Masters meet at Cerritos College might signal the end of her high school athletic career. The Corona del Mar senior said she might skip the state meet after she heaved the disc 139 feet.
"The thing is, [next] Saturday I have my prom," Olsen said. "It's my last prom and I'd really like to go to that. I already have a date."
The only date Taylor is worried about is next Friday. The state preliminaries at Buchanan High are on that day.
The Newport Harbor senior earned his ticket after taking fifth in the boys' shot put with a personal-best 56-7 effort. If Taylor advances out of the state prelims to the finale on Saturday, you won't see him at Newport Harbor's prom later that night.
"This is more important than prom," Taylor said.
Taylor wouldn't trade his first state appearance for anything.
Taylor was one of five Back Bay track and field athletes advancing to the state meet for the first time. CdM seniors Marisa Cummings and Melanie Powers each made it in the 3,200-meter girls' event. Cummings finished fifth in 10 minutes, 25.67 seconds, and Powers earned an at-large entry after her time of 10:37.34 was a qualifying mark.
Mater Dei senior Scott Cook, a Newport Beach resident, moved on in the boys' pole vault after winning Masters with a leap of 16 feet. Newport Harbor pole vaulters Mark Sakioka and Max Van Bergh did not qualify for the state meet.
Taylor is following in his older brother Bo's footsteps. Newport Harbor Coach Tony Ciarelli took Bo to the big stage in 2006, the last time a Newport-Mesa athlete reached the state meet in the shot put.
The second Taylor isn't expected to place at state in the event like Bo, who finished second in the shot put as a senior.
Getting to the state meet is an accomplishment in itself for Taylor.
Taylor was in a rut in the middle of the season before coming on strong the last couple of weeks. He topped his previous best of 55-10, which he recorded last week at the section divisional finals at Cerritos College.
"It's awesome," Taylor said. "I've been working toward going to state all year. I just continued to work and believed that I had it in me."
Taylor's reward for making state was a prime-rib dinner at Captain Jack's in Sunset Beach.
Taylor said he has heard of the restaurant, but has never dined there. He knows it's a tradition for Newport Harbor athletes to stop there after the Masters meet.
"[I can] order whatever I want on the menu," Taylor said.
The 6-foot, 255-pound Taylor earned the right to chow down.
Ciarelli was a little worried at first. After a good week of practice, Ciarelli said Taylor didn't warm up so great.
"I think he was a little nervous," Ciarelli said.
Being the lone thrower from Newport Harbor at the meet played a role to Taylor's slow start. The first throw didn't count, leaving him with five more tries.
On the third attempt, Taylor knew he was state bound after the at-large qualifying mark was 55-4. He easily passed it by 2 feet, 3 inches.
"It definitely brings some comfort to have a teammate around," Taylor said. "It's a little easier to relax when you have people that you're comfortable with around you."
Olsen felt right at home after her third toss in the discus.
When she heard how far her disc traveled, Olsen leaped and hugged anyone she knew, her best friend, coaches and family members.
"Hey! Hey! Calm down!" CdM Coach Bill Sumner told Olsen, who still had three throws left.
Olsen's mind began drifting elsewhere.
"I think state's good enough for me," Olsen said. "It's a huge accomplishment."
Isaias Morales, one of Olsen's throwing coaches, understood why Olsen began looking forward to prom.
"It's her life, not our life," Morales said. "It's her choice. My thing was, 'Come out here. Do your best. Get your marks. Try and qualify. Try and win. Then next week, we'll worry about next week.' "
As for next week, Olsen is torn. Morales said the state discus final is expected to start at 4:30 p.m. on June 5. He said CdM's prom begins at 9.
Clovis is 271 miles away from CdM.
"I'm still thinking about it," Olsen said whether she plans to travel to Clovis and compete on the first day and not the second because of prom that night.
"It will be so hard [to leave after the first day if I get past the prelims]. My mom said she would fly me back home if I [qualify for the second day]."