No matter what happens this Friday at the CIF California State Track and Field Championships preliminaries, Yosemite High School freshman Sayda Taylor and the YHS girls track program have had another good season.
Sayda competes at state Friday evening, June 3, in the 200 meter sprint, and has worked hard to earn this.
I had a chance to catch up with Sayda and head coach Walker Vaughn at practice last week. Sayda is coming off a second place finish in the 200 meter dash at the CIF Central Section Masters Meet held at Buchanan High on May 21 that earned her a trip to state.
After winning the small school Sierra Sequoia meet on May 14, she got to run with the best in the section. She proved she belonged by taking second place and running a blistering all-time best 24.87 200m (wind-aided). Sayda is performing her best in the most critical time of the year.
“Sayda is improving every week,” Vaughn said. “Her Master’s performance was her best of the year. She has been working on technique. We break down the race segment by segment. Sayda is still learning but she is such a great student.”
For someone who last year at this time was preparing to graduate from eighth grade, going to the state meet is an amazing moment. Sayda isn’t new to track having run in middle school. Until this year, she hadn’t run in a while, focusing on soccer and volleyball.
“I came out for track just to get in shape,” Sayda said. “There’s no way I thought I would have this type of year.”
Besides natural ability, she has a solid work ethic.
“Sayda works hard at practice every day,” Vaughn said. “She is also so willing to learn no matter what event. She is a pleasure to coach.”
It isn’t always easy. “I have my days where practice is tough,” Sayda said. “I know and see what hard work can do.”
The results have been historic. I’m just blown away. Sayda, 14 years old, owns the 100 and 200 records at YHS and her 4x100 relay team is No. 2 all-time. She jumps too - now No. 2 all-time at YHS in high jump (5-4) and No. 3 in the long jump (17-2).
She helped the YHS girls win the 2016 North Sequoia League title winning four individual events at the championships.
One of her best qualities is humility. Sayda takes all her success in stride (pun intended).
“I just love to run ... it really gets me focused,” Sayda said. “Sometimes I get nervous before a race, butterflies I guess, but I channel that energy during the race. It keeps me going. I still try to have fun though.”
So Sayda went out and ran her best race. It’s phenomenal that a freshman competes in the California State Track and Field championships. YHS now has two athletes who have done so - 15 years ago a Badger freshman sprinter named Fred Worstein also went to state, and he is thrilled for Sayda.
“I am so happy for her ... I would just say to run your race,” Worstein said. “Coach Vaughn will make sure you are totally prepared. I got better every year thanks to him and our coaches. ”
Now it’s the best of the best. It’s the California State Meet. It’s at Buchanan, so the track will be very familiar. Sayda will go out and run her race and do her best to incorporate Vaughn’s strategies.
Yosemite has sent nine athletes to state in its 40-year history, including Vaughn who competed in the high jump in 1991.
The girls team league title this year is title No. 16 (10 boys / six girls) since Vaughn took over the program 19 years ago. His assistant coaches this year are Ron Cox, Sonya Mazaira, and Kellie Vaughn.
Along with Sayda’s success, other teammates helped the team win the NSL title this season.
Most athletes compete in multiple events, many with four, the max allowed in track. Badger track does more with less. Most teams outnumber the Badgers.
The YHS girls are young and fast. Many are now top all-time performers in a storied Badger track history. Overall, 18 girls had all-time top 10 times/marks this season.
Sophomore soccer star turned sprinter Peyton Garner is now No. 6 all-time in the 100 (13.02), and 200 (27.14). Freshman Chloe Duke is now No. 8 all-time in the 100 meter hurdles and sophomore Alli Ruiz is No. 9 in the 300 low hurdles.
Junior Lauren Peterson is No. 6 in the 100 low hurdles (17.33). Along with sophomore Daytona Tuso, the group of six sprinters is one of the fastest sprint corps in the Valley. The team of Peterson, Garner, Duke, and Sayda Taylor ran 50.88 in the 4x100 relay at the Masters. It’s now No. 2 all-time at YHS.
Elyse Espe moved to No. 4 all-time in the 300 hurdles at 47.14, and No. 6 in the triple jump (32-8). Espe anchored the now No. 8 all-time 4x400 relay (4:25.40) along with Peterson, Ruiz, and junior Riley Ashton. Ashton is now No. 9 in the 800 (2:37.54).
In the field events three all-time marks were set in the long jump. Duke is No. 6 at 15-5. Freshman Linnea Leinau is No. 9 (15-1), and sophomore distance specialist Gabrielle Stegge is No. 10 at 14-11.
Senior Ashlee Harrell, off a terrific basketball season, high jumped 4-10 good for No. 7 all-time at YHS.
Like the long jump, three historic jumps occurred in the triple jump. Garner leaped 33-9 (No. 5 all-time), Espe went 32-8 (No. 6 all-time), and Leinau went 31-11 (No. 7).
In track’s most technical event, the pole vault, three Badgers made their all-time mark: Riley Ashton tied for No. 4 at 8-0. Tied at No. 10 are sophomores Shania Costella and Amy Young both vaulting 7-6.
There were top performances for the boys as well. Junior Kevin Bulawsky, in just his first year running track becomes one of the greatest hurdlers in Yosemite history. Bulawsky ran 16.35 for No. 7 all-time.
In the field, sophomore Peter Martinez threw 134-10 in the discus for No. 5 best all-time. Bulawsky threw 122-7 and is now No. 10. Martinez had a 41-9 in the shot put and is now No. 9 all-time.