Two out three isn’t bad, admits CB Richards, South Pasadena High’s track and field coach, but the athlete who didn’t qualify was the one everyone thought was a shoe-in to compete in this weekend’s CIF State Track & Field Championships at Buchanan High School’s Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis.
While TH Wei makes a return trip in the triple jump, joining fellow qualifier Lucas Tailin in the pole vault, Richards was banking on Kai Dettman to earn a spot in the 800 meters.
Wei, Tailin and Dettman were the lone South Pasadena High competitors seeking a state berth at last weekend’s Masters Meet – the final step to state – at El Camino College in Torrance.
“We just missed going three for three,” noted Richards, recognized for building one of the strongest track and field programs in the San Gabriel Valley. “We were really confident about his chances. It was just a weird thing that he didn’t make it.”
He missed going by a simple snap of the fingers.
Dettman, a senior, was bottled up in the middle of the pack, and, according to Richards, was in lane three the entire race. The pack was slow during the first lap, going 58 seconds, before picking up the pace the second, but Dettman missed the 6th state qualifying spot by a mere 0.13 second, finishing 9th overall in Division 3, clocking 2:56.10.
“It was a really tough race for him,” said Richards. “He only got to the top of lane two once. He never ran in lane one the entire way. The pack pretty much ran together. He had a great season, but I feel bad for him. He was hoping to make it, but that’s the 800 meters sometimes. It’s a contact race. It looked like roller derby out there.”
The distance between first place and 12th place in the race was only a second and a half.
“It looked almost like the end of a 100-meter sprint,” said Richards. “Fifty eight seconds was really slow for the first lap. They’re usually at 54 seconds. He was bunched up and unable to get into lane two. He probably ran 815 meters.”
Dettman is going to the state, joining Wei and Tailin, not as a competitor, but to support his teammates.
“He deserves to go, experience it and be a part of our team,” Richards said. “I really feel for him. It was one of those weird things that happened in the 800.”
Wei, a 5th place finisher at the state a year ago as a sophomore, makes a second visit to the prestigious meet with eyes on going 50 feet. He qualified at Masters last Saturday finishing 5th overall out of 12 competitors with a triple jump leap of 46’-04.50”. His personal best is 47’-11″, just shy of 48 feet.
“I’m going to give it a try,” said the low-key Wei, of his ambitious effort to jump 50.
A nagging injury held him back last week in Masters competition, but with the final meet of the season on the line, there’s nothing getting in his way of soaring to new lengths this weekend.
“His hamstring was tight but we taped it up at Masters,” said Richards, noting that assistant SPHS track coach Michael Parkinson, who is a professional physical therapist, “got him loosened up” enough for him to go 45’10” and 46’02” before he leaped 46′-04.50.”
“We really didn’t attack it,” said Richards, sounding like a coach preparing a prizefighter. “So he should get even better jumps at state.”
Tailin, new to the event, qualified in the pole vault with the state at large clearance of 14’9″ on his second attempt at that height.
Most athletes going over the bar when it’s that high take about 14 strides before bending the pole for liftoff to clear it. Not Tailin. He takes about six or seven, said his coach, “because the further you go back, the greater the chance you have for error. He hasn’t been around the sport that long, but has really improved very quickly. He’s going to continue to be a force”
Richards knows Tailin has a bright future.
“It’s fantastic,” said Richards, about his junior pole vaulter headed to Clovis this weekend. “We’re expecting big things out of him.”
Two out of three SPHS competitors at Masters reaching the state championships isn’t a bad day’s work, unless you hear it from the Tigers’ coach, agonizing over the thought: “It should have been three, it should have been three. Oh, we were so close.”