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Hollander prepared for another battle at state meet
With one final 3,200 race left in one of the most impressive distance-running seasons in county history, Marina senior Laura Hollander will look to finish the season at the top of the state-meet podium at the CIF State Track and Field Championships on Friday and Saturday at Buchanan High in Clovis.
Hollander’s remarkable 2012 campaign has included a lifetime best 10:10.51 at the Arcadia Invitational in April. That time is the second fastest in the nation this spring behind Simi Valley star sophomore Sarah Baxter, who held off a determined challenge from Hollander to win the Arcadia race with a time of 10:08.11.
Baxter once again held off a strong effort from Hollander to win the CIF-SS Masters title last week, setting the stage for perhaps another classic confrontation at the state meet.
Hollander admitted that the battle between her and Baxter would be on her mind heading into the race, but that success ultimately comes down to her executing the things that have made her one of the nation’s premier runners this spring.
“It will play into the race at the state meet,” Hollander said. “The goal of racing is to win if you have the opportunity and I would love to be able to do that. My goal is to focus on my race and the stick to my game plan.
“If she (Baxter) can stick with that and I get beat, there is nothing I can do about that.”
Hollander’s time at Arcadia moved her into second place on the county’s all-time list, trailing only former Woodbridge star Christine Babcock’s time of 10:04.03 set at the 2008 Arcadia Invitational.
“I know that all the work has been worth and know I hope it all pays off at the state meet,” Hollander said.
Newport Harbor junior Paige Tennison qualified for the state meet with a lifetime best 10:31.15 at the Masters Meet.
“It’s so exciting to have improved this much and to have made it this far,” Tennison said.
Also competing in the 3,200 final is Aliso Niguel senior Danica Wyson, who ran a lifetime best 10:39.99 at the Masters Meet.
Two of the county’s top pole vaulters will square off on the state’s big stage. Santa Margarita freshman Kaitlyn Merritt enters as the state leader and the national high school federation freshman record holder with a clearance of 13-3 at the CIF-SS Division 3 finals. That clearance also has her No. 2 in county history, trailing only a 13-7 clearance from former Newport Harbor standout Allison Stokke in 2007.
“I love the sport and to be a part of the state meet in my first year is a big honor,” Merritt said. “The preparation heading into the meet will be the same. The state meet is big, but my coaches have helped me put things into perspective.”
Foothill senior Victoria Rische, the state meet runner-up last season, vaulted a lifetime best 12-11 to beat Merritt in a jump-off at the Masters Meet and moved into fifth place on the county’s all-time list.
"We competed against each other in gymnastics, and though she is younger than me, I got introduced to pole vaulting partially through her,” Rische said. “Having her as a competitor this season has been amazing."
Rische is anticipating experience being a key factor in her quest to win a state title.
“Being my fourth time, I feel blessed to have the opportunity and I hope the experience will definitely pay off,” Rische said.
Mater Dei senior Sara Greene and Edison senior Karen Snapper will join Merritt and Rische in the competition.
Woodbridge senior Molly Babcock will be making her first appearance at the state meet in the 1,600. Babcock ran to a personal best of 4:52.99 at the Masters Meet and says that she is fulfilling a dream she set while watching her sister, Christine, who is the national high school federation record holder.
“This is the farthest that I’ve made it, but growing up with my sister always going, I’ve always looked at this meet as a place where I wanted to be,” Babcock said.
She will be joined by two other first-time qualifiers in Northwood sophomore Bethan Knights and Marina junior Kylie Nishisaka.
San Juan Hills senior Chelsea Kruthers will compete in the 800, after a third-place finish at the Masters Meet in a lifetime best 2:10.41. She enters the meet ranked No. 7 in the state.
“To be successful, I need to keep the first lap split the same as the second one,” Kruthers said. “The state meet was my goal at the beginning of the season and I’ve been dedicated to ending my senior season there.”
Mater Dei senior Kara Caskey will be the county’s lone representative in the discus. The county leader finished second in the Masters Meet and will be making her first appearance.
“It’s a good feeling to get to the state meet because we haven’t had a lot of throwers from my school get there,” Caskey said. “I’m going to work hard to get into a competitive zone and do my best to try and place.”
Also making her first appearance at the state meet will be Irvine junior Sheba Terry, who finished fourth at the Masters Meet in the 300 hurdles with a lifetime best of 43.24.
“It feels great to have made it to the state meet in new event for me,” Terry said.
Two other county athletes will compete in their first state-meet competition. Dana Hills junior and CIF-SS Division 1 champion Brenna Barker will compete in the triple jump, while Orange Lutheran sophomore and CIF-SS Division 3 champion Taylor Saline will compete in the high jump.
Friday’s qualifying meet begins at 3 p.m. for field events and 5 p.m. for running events. The state championship finals takes place Saturday at 4:30 p.m. for field events and 6 p.m. for running events.