COSTA MESA — About a year ago, Robert Blackwell left Jim Scott Stadium humbled, yet wanting more out of competing in the 800 meters at the CIF Southern Section Division 3 preliminaries.
This year, the Costa Mesa High senior came back to the track at Estancia with more confidence and more speed. He left as a qualifier for next week's CIF finals at Mt. San Antonio College and as one of the big surprises at the prelims Saturday.
Blackwell ran well, winning his heat in 1 minute 55.66 seconds, lowering his personal record by three seconds from two weeks ago when he won the Orange Coast League title also at Jim Scott Stadium. His time was No. 2 overall at the meet, less than a step behind Woodbridge's Dragan Simic's 1:55.62.
During Blackwell's heat, he ran down four runners in front of him over the final 200 meters, wowing the big crowd.
"Last year at [the CIF prelims] for the 800 I wasn't even close to going to the finals," Blackwell said. "Now I pretty much dominated my heat."
The 800 usually demands a challenging game-plan, yet Blackwell went at it with simplicity. He said he just wanted to win his heat. He remained confident even when he was behind before the final 200. His kick proved too much for his heat.
Corona del Mar senior Ryan Rodrigues finished second in his heat in the 800 and grabbed the ninth and final qualifying spot with 1:56.87.
CdM had two qualifiers from the girls' team and four for the boys, plus both boys' relay teams qualified.
Karlèh Wilson led the girls, qualifying second in the shot put and fourth in the discus. Her mark in the shot put, 42-1, broke the school record by four inches that she set earlier this month against Irvine.
Alemany freshman phenom Nia Britt qualified first in the shot (46-7¼).
Wilson threw 134-8 in the discus. She says she spent more time in the weight room earlier in the season than she did last year. She has also used most meets as practice before unleashing her full effort in the postseason meets.
The CdM boys' 4x400 relay team of Ryan Rodrigues, John Swigert, Troy Hardy and Kyle Iverson qualified second, nearly lowering its school record. The quartet finished in 3:20.58. The CdM record is 3:20.2. Rio Mesa grabbed the top qualifying spot in 3:20.19.
Estancia sophomore Persis Williams qualified fourth in the 100 in 12:48.
CdM junior Alex Imani, the Pacific Coast League discus champion, qualified fifth in the event at 155-8.
CdM senior Ashlee Powers qualified fifth in the girls' 3,200 in 10:55.48.
CdM sophomore Braden Brahs qualified sixth in the boys' high jump, clearing 6-3.
The CdM quartet of Cole Cottrell, Nick Willard, Lance Seger and Thomas Testini qualified sixth in the boys' 4x100 relay in 42.71.
Testini also qualified for the CIF finals in the 200, grabbing the seventh spot in 22.04, breaking the school record.