NORWALK — Ethan Cochran called Friday the worst competitive day of a stellar three-year run he's had while throwing for Newport Harbor High.
He was in a funk competing in the discus at the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet at Cerritos College. Cochran never appeared nervous with two throws remaining and without a qualifying mark for the State Meet.
The Newport senior qualified on his fifth throw and unleashed a mark of 197 feet, 10 inches on his final throw to become the Masters champion. It was his first Masters title.
He led a group of four Newport Harbor athletes who qualified for next week's CIF State Championships at Buchanan High in Clovis. Senior Steve Michaelsen (discus), junior Marty Taylor (shotput) and junior Paige Tennison (3,200 meters) also advanced to the State Meet.
When Cochran won the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title in the discus last week he said he was looking forward to competing at Cerritos College because he liked the ring there. But he struggled early on when it was time to throw.
"It's good to get it out of the way now," Cochran said. "It's good that I could come back from it and qualify and win. But it's bad that I had a day like that. I was pretty tight. My whole body was pretty tight. I just didn't have good technique."
Cochran, bound for Cal, will try to repeat as state champ starting Friday in Clovis. Last year he became the first Newport Harbor male thrower to win a state title in the discus. Now he wants to become the first one in school history to win both the shotput and discus at the State Meet. It would be a great accomplishment, he said, right up there with winning the silver medal in the discus at the World Youth Championships in France last year.
Tony Ciarelli believes Cochran can win two state titles.
"It's not going to be easy," Ciarelli said. "But it's like I've told him, if he can throw his best there's not anyone in the state that can beat him."
Cochran finished second in the shotput (61-71/4), behind Arroyo Grande's Garrett Weinreich (61-8).
Michaelsen, who said he has felt congested the past few days, finished fifth in the discus (177-9) to make a return trip to the state meet. He battled back from a rough showing in the shotput that saw him finish 12th (54-21/2).
"It feels really good to be going back," said Michaelsen, who is bound for Wake Forest. "Just being at the State Meet is great, to be among all those great athletes."
Taylor finished ninth in the shotput (57-9) and ninth in the discus (167-9). The top five or standard marks qualify for the State Meet. Taylor reached a qualifying mark in the shotput to advance for the first time.
Ciarelli has made a tradition of dining at Fleming's Steakhouse during the weekend of the State Meet. The shotput takes place late on Friday, so the Newport Harbor trio and their coach will go up a day early to take in some steak.
"I've been hungry for those dinners," Taylor said of the tradition.
Tennison said she plans to travel to Clovis on Friday. She finished fifth in the 3,200 in 10 minutes, 31.15 seconds, a personal best. She advanced to the state finals June 2. Simi Valley's Sarah Baxter won in 10:08.71.
"I'm really excited about it," Tennison said of qualifying for her first State Meet. "It's so exciting to run this fast and to have gotten this far. I have improved so much."
Earlier this season, Tennison came down with a bad case of the flu and missed two weeks, including the Arcadia Invitational. She said she had not ever felt that sick. It wasn't until just last week she finally felt 100%, she said.
She said she had to rebuild her strength and stamina slowly.
"When I got sick I felt I got sick at the right time if I'm going to get sick," Tennison said. "I've gotten back completely and it feels good to be back finally."
Corona del Mar High's school record-holders Karleh Wilson and the 4x400-relay team of Ryan Rodrigues, John Swigert, Troy Hardy and Kyle Iverson did not move on.
Wilson finished seventh in the shotput (40-101/2) and sixth in the discus (135-5, a personal best). She finished second in Division 3 last week when she broke her own school record with a mark of 42-7. She needed to surpass the state qualifying mark this week of 41-5.
The CdM 1,600 relay team finished eighth in 3:20.47. They set the school record last week when they ran a 3:17.80.