WALNUT — While completing the final 250 meters of the 5,000-meter race, something spooked Karen Rosas.
Rosas had built a comfortable lead in the event during the Southern California Championships at Mount San Antonio College on Friday night. However, she saw a pair of shadows, one of which she recognized and the other she thought was that of her closest competitor.
It turned out that both shadows were indeed Rosas, herself, though they were reflected from separate stadium light fixtures.
And there was no competitor that Rosas had to worry about during her victorious run.
"That tricked me, because I thought somebody else was going to pass me," said Rosas, who clocked 17 minutes 36.43 seconds to finish first and qualify for the California Community College Athletic Assn. Track and Field Championships next Friday and Saturday at American River College in Sacramento. "I just didn't know the light.
"I'm just happy that I'm going to state. I had to make sure I stayed focused and showed that I could do it."
Rosas, who won the event at the Western State Conference final and who had also qualified May 6 for the 10K race at state, was one of several Vaqueros women's athletes to reach state.
Joining Rosas will be Cecilia Nicolas and Catlin Kelly in the 3,000 steeplechase and Alyssa Selve in the 1,500.
On the men's side, Glendale's Neil Jones was the lone Vaquero to move on to state. Jones qualified in the 800 and 1,500.
Jones, a Crescenta Valley High graduate, finished second in the 1,500 in 3:55.89 and fourth in the 800 in 1:53.59.
Jones, who finished behind El Camino's David Carmona (3:54.05), said he planned to stay near the top of the pack in his quest to qualify in the 1,500.
"I wanted to do my best and I didn't pace it out early," Jones said. "I made my move in the last 250 meters and held it through the last 100.
"In the 800, I started out in last place and then I made up ground. I'm totally happy and grateful to qualify for both events."
Selve clocked 4:40.65 to finish fifth in the 1,500 despite being bothered with a foot injury. Selve was later scratched from the 800, leaving her with mixed emotions.
"I felt really good going into the last lap in the 1,500," Selve said. "Then my heel was bothering me as I pushed off it.
"I went further than I thought I could by qualifying for state. The coaches didn't want me going through the pain in the 800."
Nicolas placed fifth in the steeplechase (11:37.99) and Kelly took sixth (11:38.75).
The Vaqueros finished sixth in the women's competition with 36 points, while the men had 14 points for 22nd.
Pasadena City College's Melanie Samvalian, a Crescenta Valley graduate, had an eighth-place finish in the shot put with a mark of 39 feet 2 1/4 inches.