CLOVIS — Jake Taylor recorded a foul on his first attempt of the shot put in the preliminaries of the CIF State Track and Field Championships Friday.
He tried not to fall in a funk. All around him, it seemed as if most of the highly touted competitors started to crumble under the pressure of competing against the state's elite. Yet Taylor found a way to stay calm and eventually broke through.
The Newport Harbor High senior took the ninth spot, the final seed into today's finals with a shot of 54 feet, 9 1/4 inches.
Corona del Mar High senior Jaycee Olsen just missed on qualifying for the finals, as she was 10th in the preliminaries for the discus event.
She traveled back to Orange County Friday night.
Taylor went out for a steak dinner in Fresno with coaches Tony Ciarelli and Eric Tweit.
"I couldn't believe it," Taylor said during a phone interview at Fleming's restaurant. "I was ecstatic. I thought for sure I was going to be out. I needed three guys to choke in the flight. I thought there was no way that was going to happen.
"I was able to stay calm and just not self destruct, with all these people around me who are such great athletes."
Taylor, bound for Princeton, finished fifth at the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet last week at Cerritos College. He recorded a personal-best mark, 56-7.
He wants to earn a medal today and needs to place in the top six for that.
"I think it would be around 58 feet for sixth," he said. "But it's great. I can just be relaxed now. There's a lot less pressure. I'm seeded ninth right now and the worst I could do is ninth."
He said the foul on his first attempt was "nerve-wracking." But he gained confidence after his final warm-up. He had his best mark of the day and he felt he would be able to surpass his personal best.
The ninth-best mark in the preliminaries was enough.
"I just continued to believe that I could come through," he said.
Taylor will miss his school prom tonight. Olsen won't, and she left Clovis with few regrets. Her main thought: she wished she had started to compete as a thrower earlier in her track and field career.
"I just wished I qualified [for today's finals]," she said. "For a first-year thrower making it to state, that's not seen very often."
Olsen was 10th at 136-8. The ninth seed had a mark of 139-2. Olsen's personal record is 139-7.
CdM seniors Marisa Cummings and Melanie Powers will compete today, in the 3,200-meter race.
— From staff reports