Yosemite freshman Sayda Taylor excels at Rafer Johnson track meet

Someone must have told Yosemite High School’s Sayda Taylor that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression - because the freshman did just that, making school history in only her second high school track meet.

Competing at the 18-team Seventh Annual Rafer Johnson Invitational track meet in Kingsburg March 12, Taylor took the 100 meters (13.03), tied for first in the high jump (5-1), placed fourth in the long jump (16-2), and was part of the 4x100 meter relay team that placed fourth (53.70).

The meet included Valley track powers Clovis West, Central Valley Christian, and Sanger.

In each of her events, Taylor is now on in the top 10 all-time list at YHS.

The Yosemite record holders in those events are Riley Cooks in the 100 (12.65 in 2010), Kim Montag in the high jump (5-5 in 2004), Shelley Winchester in the long jump (17-7 in 1984), and 50.48 in 1983 for the 4X400m relay.

“Sayda is an amazing athlete,” assistant coach Kellie Vaughn said. “In addition to her raw talent, she also has a great work ethic and is just learning her events. She has a willingness to learn and she continues to improve. She competes every day in practice and pushes both the boys and girls to get better. She is a joy to coach.”

The meet is named after one of the all time greatest Central Valley athletes - Rafer Johnson from Kingsburg High, who won gold in the decathlon in the 1960 Olympic games in Tokyo.

Other top Badger performers included Elyse Espe, seventh in the 400m (1:06.63), and Lauren Peterson, 12th in the 100m hurdles (18.92). Peterson led off the fourth place 4x100 relay made up of Peterson, Kara Eckstein, Espe, and Taylor.

Ashlee Harrell, not long removed from basketball playoffs jumped 4-9 in the height jump, good for fifth place.

For the YHS boys, Larry Wood, a transfer from Kingsburg, took 13th in the 100m (12.09) and 14th in the 200m (24.06). Both were in crowded fields. Jesse De La Cruz was 12th in the triple jump (32-06) and 16th in the 200m (24.96).

Badgers follow up at Buchanan

As an encore, the Badgers competed in the Gateway to Track and Field Meet at Buchanan High. More school records were broken and personal bests abounded.

“We had a great meet at Buchanan,” coach Walker Vaughn said. “We ran even faster at the Rafer Johnson Invitational and virtually everyone set personal bests. The level of competition at this meet brought out our best. Our girls have a great ceiling. We are really strong in the sprints and field events. This will be an exciting season.”

The Gateway to Track and Field was full of elite teams and athletes. According to 33 elite track performers in the state participated, including two state leaders. Past section title winners Buchanan, Clovis, Clovis West, Clovis East, and Sanger were a few of the top programs competing.

The Badger girls picked up where they left off at Kingsburg. The girls 4x100 relay team (Chloe Duke, Peterson, Espe, and anchor Taylor) followed up Rafer Johnson with a 52.67 time good for the second best 4x100 of all time at YHS.

Peterson placed fifth in the 100m hurdles with a time of 18.02.

Taylor placed third in the 100m running 12.73, good for third all time at YHS. Taylor ran against section leaders and seniors Rhesa Foster of Clovis North (11.84) and Hannah Waller of Buchanan (11:86).

Taylor followed up with a sixth place finish in the 200m with a time of 26.38, now second all time at YHS. That record is held by Kim Eames (26.17) in 1999. Taylor placed sixth in the high jump.

Espe placed third in the 300m hurdles (50.03), with Riley Ashton (52.54) and Chloe Duke (52.56) placing eighth and ninth respectively.

For the boys, Larry Wood ran 23.80 in the 200m good for 13th place and now eighth all time at YHS. Wood also posted his best time of the season running 11.72 in the 100m good for 16th place.

“Larry had a huge improvement,” Vaughn said. “He ran with the best and is improving every week.”