SPARKS - It took a year, but Caitlin Prunty finally got her chance to run the 800 meters at the NIAA/U.S. Bank State Track and Field Championships. And the Carson High School junior made the best of her opportunity, surging off the final turn and into the lead on her way to victory in the 4A girls 800-meter run early Friday evening at Reed High School.
Prunty ran 2 minutes,16.94 seconds, just ahead of teammate Shanna Sparks in 2:18.84, giving Carson a 1-2 sweep of the two-lap race. Coupled with a second-place finish by Amy Sanchez in the 300-meter low hurdles, the Senators scored 26 points to move into fifth place in the team standings. Mojave held a 49-40 lead over Reed for the team lead in the meet, which concludes today.
For Prunty, who earned her state ticket with a third-place finish at zone the week before, the gold medal performance supplied a measure of consolation from her final 800 race of the 1999 season, when she appeared to place fourth at zone on Reed's track to qualify for state - only to be disqualified in the final 200 on a judge's controversial ruling. The memory still lingers, too.
"No, I haven't forgotten," Prunty admitted. "It was kind of an inspiration. I wanted to show what I could do."
Prunty ran a patient race, setting back off a fast early pace and running off the shoulder of Sparks. She finished with a school record time and only .44 second off Reed's stadium record.
"My plan was to stay with Shanna and then when I got to the 200 mark, just sprint," Prunty said. "Normally, I go with about 300 or 250 to go, but this time I decided I would wait until the 200 just in case somebody else had a big kick too."
The plan was nearly foiled when the leaders passed the halfway mark in 1:06.
"When I heard that, I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh.' I wasn't sure how much I would have left at the end," Prunty said.
There was more than plenty, as she charged from fourth place on the final turn and took the lead at the top of the home stretch.
"When she gets to the 200 mark, I think she feels comfortable starting her sprint," Carson coach Todd Ackerman said. "She's run the 200, so she knows the distance. And if you watch her run, you can really see the gears shift at the 200."
Sanchez ran a similar race when she emerged from out of the pack at the top of the home stretch and held on to capture the silver medal in a personal- and school-record time of 45.51. The time knocked a full second off her previous best.
Reed's Cherokee Osborne won the race in a time of 44.59.
"I was running a comfortable pace that I felt like I could hold," Sanchez said. "Being in lane 2, I couldn't really tell where everybody was. Then when I hit the straightaway, I didn't see anybody ahead of me except for Cherokee."
Other Carson Country athletes sparkled on the opening day of the meet, which is showcasing athletes in the 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A divisions.
- Dayton's Tasha Thompson and Kristyn Jacobson went 1-2 in the 3A girls shot put, Shayna Hamner took third in the pole vault and Kim Wilson fourth in the girls 100 to help the Dust Devils move into third place as a team behind Spring Creek and North Tahoe.
- Fernley junior Joe Fennessey, who came in with only the fourth-fastest qualifying time, sped to a gold medal in the 3A boys 400 in a personal best time of 51.23.
- Douglas junior Gabe Hatchett, who qualified with the sixth-fastest mark in the 4A boys 110-meter high hurdles, earned a third-place medal as he ran a personal- and school-record time of 14.74.
"I came out feeling pretty good," said Hatchett, who runs the 300 intermediates today. "I was mentally prepared. I wasn't intimidated by these Vegas guys."
Fennessey, a breakaway running back for Fernley's football team last fall, lost to Tahoe-Truckee's Juan Aguilar at the Division I meet last week but came back to win the rematch at state. Aguilar was second in 51.66.
"I was really nervous before the race, but once the gun went off, I was OK," Fennessey said. "I just tried my hardest."
Dayton's Thompson staged a comeback of her own in the girls shot put when she heaved the shot put 37-6 to win gold, followed by Jacobson with a personal best throw of 34-11-1/2. Thompson's mark was a foot better than her own school record, which she set at the Reed Invitational on April 7.
"Tasha had been throwing well in practice, but not in the meets," Dayton assistant coach Mike Paul said of of the senior, who finished second behind Jacobson at the Division II meet one week before. "We kept expecting a big throw from her, and it finally came today.
"Tasha had two throws over 37 feet, and Kristyn broke her own record three times, so they had a good day overall," the coach added. "And with Rebecca (Edie) in the discus, we have a good chance to win another one tomorrow."
Thompson became only the third Dayton girl to win a state individual track and field title - the other two were Kelly Nolan in the discus and Hamner in the pole vault.
Hamner was unable to defend her pole vault title, as she placed third by clearing 9 feet and Wilson ran 13.20 to place fourth in the 100.
Brandon Essman and Genaro Coronado ran solid legs to bring Dayton from fourth to second at the wire in the 3A boys 4x200 relay. Jose Marquez and Shaun Merrill joined Essman and Coronado on the relay, which ran a season-best time of 1:33.96 to finish second behind Rite of Passage.