ELK GROVE — In the closest girls Sac-Joaquin Section Division I track and field championship on record, St. Francis’ heart-stopping victory over Davis High in the ever-so-close 4×400-meter relay gave the Troubadours a 77-76 decision over Vacaville on Friday night at Elk Grove Community Stadium.
The Blue Devils, competitive all night, finished third with 69.5 points.
The spectacular final event saw DHS’ Ellie Eaton run the anchor leg of her life — closing a large last-lap gap, but losing literally by an eye lash. St. Francis went 3:53.65 to Davis’ 3:53.66.
Eaton’s charge made nervous wrecks of the three schools’ faithful.
Another two inches forward, Eaton would have won and relegated St. Francis to two fewer points, giving Vacaville the crown. The Bulldogs finished third in the race.
“I am so proud of how everyone performed,” Devil head coach Spencer Elliott told The Enterprise. “Our girls competed as hard as the always do. Ellie, Laney Teaford, Sophie Meads … at this meet (coaches) ask so much of them. I’m really proud.”
Eaton — who ran in both relays, the 200- and 400-meter outings — was battling a sore throat and fever. Still the senior dynamo saved her best-equalling split for last. Eaton’s 56.2 duplicated her personal best for the leg.
With DHS running in third halfway through the race, Han-ah Sumner began to close the gap on the third leg. As Eaton took the baton, the Blue Devils were 15 meters in arrears. By the home stretch, the senior Eaton had engaged St. Francis sprinter Sydney Hunter and the two battled shoulder-to-shoulder for the final strides.
Timers looked at each other at the finish line and there was a long pause before the results were announced. Troubadours, one. Devils, two. Another few minutes passed before the crowd got the sense what it all meant … St. Francis’ second SJS title.
Then, once the times of the race sank in, Davis had some rejoicing to do. The local quartet of Eaton, Teaford, Sumner and Rose Stephens had erased a week-old school record in the event. Smashed it, actually, after lowering their own previous mark to 3:55.04 in the May 10 Delta Valley Conference meet.
Eaton’s third-place finish (56.62) in the 400 and her 25.54 (fifth) in the 200, combined with helping the Blue Devils to sixth-place standing in the 4×100, meant she had her hand in 21 DHS points.
Teaford, in her three events, went a couple better in helping post 23 points.
Her 2:15.46 held off Faith Makau of Enochs (2:15.56) in the 800. Teaford led most of the way, briefly relinquishing her lead late before sealing the deal.
The senior also went 5:02.86 for fourth place in the 1,600 — an event that saw Meads take second in 5:02.21.
Speaking of Meads, the junior also did triple duty on the night: taking eighth in the 800 (2:28.16) and finishing 11th in the late-night 3,200.
Stephens, meanwhile, found herself in both relays and taking seventh and 12th in the 300 and 100 hurdles, respectively.
Sumner’s fourth-place finish in the 800 (2:17.77) and her solid work in the relays helped keep Davis in the championship mix.
“Teaford was terrific for us. There were just so many good performances by the girls,” Elliott continued, noting Teaford’s 1,600 time was a personal best.
Freshman Fiona O’Keeffe’s brilliant 10:55.72 in the 3,200 gave her a third-place medal and her 5:03.75 in the 1,600 was good for sixth and more points.
Despite performances that would make most schools jump for joy, the Blue Devil girls already are looking at the Thursday and Friday SJS Masters meet as redemption.
“We left some points out there,” Elliott admitted. “As coaches, we’ll try to make some intelligent decisions on where everyone will race. The main thing is we all want to run as fast as we can.”
By rule, the eight top-tier qualifiers join the top four from the consolation heats to qualify for the all-divisions Masters. DHS has 11 girls who move on. Both relay teams go, Meads, Teaford and O’Keeffe (1,600), Eaton (400 and 200), Teaford, Sumner and seventh-place Jeanne-Marie McPherson (800) and Stephens (300 hurdles) advance, as do O’Keeffe and Meads from the 3,200.
In field events, Devil pole vaulters Courtney Meyer (10-11) and Lilly Wolfe (9-11) finished fourth and seventh, respectively, to earn Masters spots. High jumper Caitlin Mazzoleni went 4-11 and qualified as the event’s 10th-place finisher, while Zoe Hunt-Murray comes back Thursday after going 34-11 in the triple jump (ninth).
Notes: Finishers are awarded 10 points for a win, eight for second, six for third and down to one point for an eighth-place effort. … Elliott said the section’s season-ending meets will continue to be conducted at Elk Grove, which he said had a “good, fast track.” But he added the ambiance of Hughes Stadium always added to these meets. The newly refurbished facility at Sacramento City College “just costs too much (to host the prep finals) anymore,” Elliott explained. … Talk about competitive: Tokay’s Janell Hadnot was the girls’ only double winner at the D-I meet, taking the long jump (18-05.75) and the triple jump (41-02).
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.