Percival makes last race count

The only words Jack Percival heard were "Go! Go!"

Those words he recognized, they came from his father, Jim. He screamed those words over and over, almost as fast as Percival pumped those legs of his down the stretch.

This was going to be Percival's last high school race as a Sage Hill School track and field athlete.

Those words he heard pushed him to finish the 800-meter race in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 finals last week. Percival just didn't want to finish, he wanted to go out with a bang.

He went into the meet more banged up, though.

His left knee bothered him. His hamstrings bothered him. His right quad bothered him.

All of those aches and pains went away in the final 100 meters. How was that possible?

He just ignored them.

He almost thought he would never finish his senior year standing upright. Crossing the finish line first was the best way for Percival to end his high school athletic career.

Percival capped it on a high note, winning the Division 4 title in 1 minute, 55.85 seconds. In his last chance to win his first section title, he ran faster than ever before.

It took him 20 minutes to feel normal again. He threw up a couple of times at Mt. San Antonio College. He was exhausted.

One man who has been at his side at Sage Hill congratulated him. Percival said very little to him, Coach Nate Miller.

The look on his Miller's beaming face said it all.

"I want to thank my coach for everything he has done for me all four years," said Percival, who is bound for Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

The fourth year Miller worked with Percival played out much different than the previous three.

There was a whole lot less training this season.

Injuries slowed down Percival. When you're a three-sport standout like Percival, you don't have time to recuperate.

Percival ran cross country for Miller during the fall, and then in the winter, he played soccer.

One day during a soccer practice, Miller ran into Percival. Miller was doing a preseason run with the track and field team and he noticed Percival was on the sideline.

"He asked me what happened," said Percival, who didn't know what was wrong at the time.

He just knew he couldn't practice or play. Percival then found out he tore his quad, forcing him out of action for seven weeks.

He already had a knee issue, now a problem with his quad. The setbacks didn't keep him away from the field for good. He returned, helping the soccer team make the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs.

Playing through the latest injury cost Percival time in his next sport in the spring.

"He missed a whole month of training for track because he had to treat his quad, which took about eight weeks to heal," Miller said. "The injury definitely put a hamper on his training. He couldn't do any hard running. Then when he came back, he had hamstring issues."

For 11/2 weeks, very little time, Percival worked on his speed.

Six weeks is how much time Miller and Percival spent on speed work in previous seasons. Not being able to train affected Percival. In no way did he allow it to stop him from pursuing the race he wanted to claim: the Division 4 title in the 800.

He surprised his coach, his dad, even himself, when he placed first. This was his fourth trip to the section finals. His previous best result was last season, when he finished third.

"He's one of the best in the history of the school," Miller said of Percival, who became Sage Hill's first individual section champion in track since Zach Chandy won the 200 and 400 events six years ago.

"Jack had a better time, a full second better, than at last season's race. It was a near perfect race. It was all determination by him."

Percival missed the cut to the next meet, the CIF Southern Section Masters meet.

Even if he had qualified to the precursor to state, he might not have competed.

Earlier this week, he was packing for Sage Hill's senior trip to Kern River. Rafting with a bunch of friends sounded a lot better to Percival than sprinting again.

*

Jack Percival

Born: May 24, 1994

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 150 pounds

Sport: Boys' track and field

Year: Senior

Coach: Nate Miller

Favorite food: Chicken kebab

Favorite movie: "The Avengers"

Favorite athletic moment: "Winning CIF in the 800."

Week in review: Percival won the 800-meter race with a personal-best time of 1 minute, 55.85 seconds at the CIF Southern Section Division 4 finals.

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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