Somewhere between uncertainty and faith is where Crescenta Valley High sophomore Megan Melnyk finds herself.
The La Crescenta resident is one of three local athletes who qualified to Friday night’s prestigious CIF Southern Section Track and Field Masters Meet at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
Melnyk is slated to participate in the girls’ 800-meter run at 7:22 p.m., either hoping to garner a top-six finish or hit the at-large qualifying mark of 2 minutes, 12.10 seconds to advance to the following week’s season-ending CIF State Track and Field Championships at Clovis Buchanan High on May 31 and June 1.
Ask Melnyk how she punched her ticket to the Masters Meet and her answer is part fact, part fable.
“I ran the best race I could have ever imagined,” Melnyk said. “I don’t really know how I did it. I still can’t believe it, but I thank God I was able to do it. I prayed before the race and my prayer came true.”
By her previous standards, Melnyk was amazing at Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Division I Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.
Melnyk entered the 800 with a personal-best time of 2:16 and a seeded mark of 2:16.63, which was good for fifth at the Division I prelims May 11 at Trabuco Hills High.
“When I looked at her marks before the preliminaries, I thought she was in the middle of the pack and had a chance to advance,” Falcons Coach Mark Evans said. “Her goal was to get to the divisional championships, which she did.
“Once she got there, I thought it was going to take a little bit more. She was kind of in the middle and was going to have to do better. I just told her to try as best as she could to stay with the pack.”
Melnyk’s mark of 2:16.63 was the 17th-best of any divisional competitor who advanced to the finals and well outside the top-12 position needed to move onto Masters.
Heading into the event, both Melnyk and Evans speculated that the 15-year-old sophomore would need to be near the No. 12-seeded time of 2:15.93, held by Mater Dei's Ashlyn Rambo.
“I thought that I would have to get 2:15, but I was really hoping for 2:14. I didn’t know what I would need,” Melnyk said. “I wanted to advance, sure, but more important was to get a PR, just in case it was my last race.”
Melnyk’s prospects looked grim midway through the race as she was in seventh after the first lap and appeared to be affected by the sun and light tail wind.
Then, with 300 meters left, the long-distance runner morphed into a sprinter.
Melnyk kicked into her final gear and began to pass up competitors, first getting around Mission Viejo’s Mackensie Pierce, then West Rancho’s Marisa Magsarili before eventually catching and passing divisional foe Olivia Pear of Valencia with 30 meters to go. Melnyk eventually finished fourth in both the Division I race and overall in a new personal record of 2:13.34.
“I just felt this tingling all over my arms and my legs like I was getting poked all over,” Melnyk said. “It hurt, it really hurt at the end, but I couldn’t stop. I had to finish.”
After crossing the finish line and briefly taking a peak at the scoreboard, Melnyk grabbed a cup of water and collapsed on the grass just off the Mt. SAC track.
“Honestly, I don’t even remember seeing the scoreboard or really knowing my time or anything,” Melnyk said. “I just remember laying on the floor, trying to rest enough to get up and leave.”
When Melnyk did eventually regain her balance, she was mobbed by both her father and Evans just outside the competitor’s gate.
“It was special to see them and that’s when they told me about my time,” Melnyk said. “I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how I did it.”
Either from a timing or positioning standpoint, Melnyk’s effort was remarkable, if not unprecedented, in shaving more than three seconds off her prelims mark and moving up 13 spots.
“I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen that done,” Evans said. “I’m not really sure she understands what’s she accomplished or where she’s going and maybe that’s a good thing.”
Melnyk is the first Falcons athlete to advance to the Masters Meet since Zack Torres in 2009 and first female since Claire Collison and Rachel Lange in 2008, which puts the youngster in rarefied company.
Melnyk is also second all-time in the school’s record book in the 800 behind the all-time top mark of 2:12.40 set by Evans’ daughter-in-law Janelle Del Soldato (now Crescenta Valley High counselor Janelle Evans) on May 22, 2000 at Cerritos College.
“Those are some special names that were mentioned of some great, experienced runners,” Evans said. “For Megan to have reached Masters as a sophomore is beyond our expectations. I think the thing to do right now is not play this up and just let her go out and compete and see what happens.”
As for Melnyk, who began running the 800 as a member of the Los Angeles Falcons running club, she’s not necessarily thinking about topping what she accomplished last Saturday.
“I’m just going to try to stay with the pack,” Melnyk said. “I don’t know what’s in store for me on Friday. I don’t know what to expect and I’m not sure how I’m going to do better. All I know is that I’m going to do my best and say a little prayer.”