Most of the success Harold Tabora has enjoyed this year as a member of the Hoover High track and field team has come in 400-meter bursts.
Tabora has specialized in that distance, both as an individual and as the anchor of the Tornadoes’ surprising 4x400 relay team, winning a Pacific League title in the 400 and leading the relay squad to an unbeaten league dual-meet season.
And, he’s not done yet, chasing a personal-best time and hoping to extend his season even farther to the Masters Meet on Friday with a top-nine finish in the 400 at today’s CIF Southern Section Division II finals at Cerritos College.
“It’s something I’ve been meaning to do since I was a freshman and I feel like there’s a lot at stake, you’re so close and yet so far,” Tabora says of making it to the CIF Finals, which he did with a third-place finish in the Division II prelims at Moorpark High on May 16. “I think I can pull through and hopefully make it to Masters or to state.”
That such aspirations are even within reach is a sign of how far Tabora has come this year. After working what he thought was his hardest as a junior and finding it still wasn’t enough to accomplish his goals, Tabora rededicated himself and joined the cross-country team in the summer to get an early start on his training.
“His performance this year has been spectacular, we couldn’t ask for anything better than what he’s accomplished,” Hoover track and cross-country Coach Jack Sallakian says. “I never thought I could get Harold to come out and run for us in cross-country, but that was the first step that showed me how committed and how dedicated he was this year.
“His goal in the summer and the fall was to build his endurance and he just kept training. He didn’t want to take any time off even after cross-country was over.”
Tabora never stopped running this year, or lifting weights or improving his conditioning. He was focused on a goal.
“I think what happened this year was just I wanted it more,” Tabora says. “I really wanted to show everybody that knows me and show my competitors what I have and what I’m capable of doing.”
Seniors Joseph Roach and Brian Trejo, two of Tabora’s teammates on the 4x400 relay, which also included sophomore Alex Mikhailpoor, credit Tabora as the engine that made the squad run, both for his strong closing speed and his desire and intensity as a competitor.
“He made our team,” says Roach, who also praised Tabora’s efforts as anchor of the Tornadoes’ 4x100 relay team. “We wouldn’t have been nearly as fast without him.
“He’s a fast guy, so it helps all of us as a confidence builder and he also went out and showed us what we were doing wrong and gave us pointers, so he helps the team a lot.”
The 4x400 team never lost a race in the seven regular-season league dual meets. The streak began to pick up steam with an unexpected win over sprinting powerhouse Muir in the second dual meet of the year that inspired a ‘Why not us?’ mantra.
But whenever the team faced an intimidating race against a league heavyweight, Tabora provided the leadership to make sure it never lost its edge.
“He was definitely a good leader, he was the anchor, he was basically the guy,” Trejo says. “Before every race, he would give a little motivational speech and it would definitely help us run throughout the race.”
The 4x400 relay never lost a step right up until the end of the year, turning in a personal-best time of 3 minutes 26.62 seconds at the league finals at Arcadia High on May 8, but the rest of the league finally caught up.
“Unfortunately, Arcadia and Burroughs just outran us,” said Tabora of the Apaches, who won the league title in 3:24.67, and the Indians, who were runners-up in 3:25.30. “I guess we had kind of bragged about it a little bit, 7-0 and everything, and they just wanted to show they had it in them to beat us, as well.”
But on the day that Tabora’s relay team suffered its only loss of the league season, Tabora would come away with his biggest individual win of the year.
Tabora was probably just one of many who didn’t expect he had a great chance of upsetting Chris Morris in the 400 at the Pacific League finals.
The three-sport Burroughs standout was the two-time defending champion in the event and a strong contender to repeat as a senior.
But Tabora had something extra working that day and beat Morris by .64 seconds in a personal-best 48.88. Tabora says it was his best time by about two seconds.
“I wasn’t expecting to beat [Morris], I was expecting the race to come down to a very close margin,” Tabora says. “I was a little more excited about my time than about winning the race.
“My hands were all clenched and I was excited, I had the chills and everything. I think it was the time that got me all riled up.”
Tabora returned to run a 49.8 in the Division II prelims. He’ll be looking to get back into the 48s today and make a run at his personal best.
Part of his plan for keeping on course is to treat the CIF meet like its any other race.
“As far as pressure goes, this season, I’ve tried not to think about it,” Tabora says. “I don’t see the rankings or the other runners’ times.
“When I get on the line, I just try to relax. ...But my goal is to win the Division II finals for the 400.”