I have no problem saying that I am a track junkie. While I have the privilege to write about football and basketball, my real passion will always be track and field. I competed in high school and college (Sacramento State) in the sprints and throws.
I know I am part of the fervent few, but my passion for track and field was reconfirmed attending the CIF California High School Track and Field Championships held at Buchanan High’s magnificent Veteran’s Memorial Stadium June 3 and 4.
Despite the heat over 8,000 attended each day. It was an amazing weekend showcasing the best high school track and field athletes in the state. A state that has produced 17 current high school national record holders compared to 15 by the rest of the country.
Sierra Star editor Brian Wilkinson and former Badger track great Fred Worstein (class of 2004) were with me to watch Badger freshman Sayda Taylor run in the 200 meter dash. We were not disappointed.
Competing against the best of the best, Sayda had a great night.
Despite running in the third heat at 10 p.m. (events were pushed back due to excessive heat), and drawing a difficult outside lane assignment, Sayda improved on her previous school record with a time of 25.25 (her previous record was 25.64).
Taylor’s time did not allow her to advance to the finals but it was a great experience for the freshman who was attending Wasuma Elementary School in Ahwahnee last year. Twenty-six girls from throughout the state qualified for the 200.ril
On hand to cheer Sayda were her mother, Stacy Duncan, 1-year-old brother Rowe (rumor has it he slept through the race), and grandparents Margo and Roger Tharp, along with Badger teammates Peyton Garner and Chloe Duke. Assistant track coach Kellie Vaughn was there for Sayda as head coach Walker Vaughn was ill and could not attend.
“Sayda went out and ran a strong race,” Kellie Vaughn said. “Sayda had a strong start and ran a very good race. Her time really shows that. Remember, she is just a freshman. This is an amazing field of athletes and she did very well.”
In Sayda’s heat was Buchanan’s Hannah Waller, who won the event last year as a junior.
“Overall I was happy with my race,” Taylor said. “It was tough running on the outside lane and I was a little nervous, but overall it was a good race. Coach Vaughn and I worked a lot on all parts of it. I felt pretty good. I didn’t want to finish last (Taylor was 7th in her heat of eight runners) and I was happy with my time.”
“Running track isn’t easy,” Worstein said. “Coach Vaughn’s workouts are tough, but it’s amazing how much I improved. He taught me about hard work. The coaching staff will make you better as an athlete. I became better athletically because I competed in multiple events. I had a blast competing in track. I totally recommend it.”
It’s no easy task to make the California State Meet. It is unusual that YHS has had two freshmen to participate at State. Worstein did it as a freshman in 2001 in both the 100 meter and 200.
Worstein was there to offer encouragement to Sayda. Worstein graduated as the greatest male track athlete in YHS history. He owns the 100 and 200 records, anchored the fastest 4x100 relay team in school history and owns nine individual times or marks in all events, a school record.
“Sayda is going to get better and better, especially as her technique improves,” Worstein said. “She drew the outside lane assignment. It’s the toughest lane to run, especially around the curve. I drew the same lane assignment as a freshman. Still, Sayda ran her best time in the biggest high school meet there is in the state. Coach Vaughn and staff do a great job in preparing you. I have no doubt Sayda will be back here again.”
The freshman had one of the greatest individual seasons in YHS track history in just her freshman season. Taylor ends her season ranked No. 1 all-time in the 100m (12.54) and 200 (25.25). Taylor, along with freshman Chloe Duke, sophomore Peyton Garner, and junior Lauren Peterson now own the second best all-time mark in the 4x100 relay at 50.88.
Her long jump of 17-2 is third all-time and her high jump of 5-4 is now tied for No. 2. Taylor won four individual events at the North Sequoia League championships on May 4 leading Yosemite to their second straight NSL track title.
Taylor, Duke, and Garner are all multi-sport athletes that basically went out for track to get in shape for other sports. They found out that track may be their best sport.
Taylor said track will help her in her other sports. She was a member of the YHS (undefeated in league) JV volleyball team.
“I will definitely be quicker and faster in my other sports,” Taylor said. “I have learned that running has a lot of technique.”
For athletes who want to get faster and stronger - run track. My son Jake (class of 2004) is a prime example. Only running track one year at YHS, Jake still is No. 3 all-time in the 100m at 10.9.
Jake went out to improve his 40-yard dash time in football. It made a huge difference. Under Coach Vaughn’s tutelage Jake improved his 40 time from 4.6 to 4.49, which is close to elite speed. Jake went on to compete two years as a wide receiver at College of Sequoias.
For me, what I loved about track was there were no politics involved. If you put in the hard work you will see the results, whether it’s a faster time or a longer throw. Although track is a team sport you really compete against yourself, against your time or mark, trying to achieve your personal best. I dreamed and worked hard to get to the state meet. It didn’t happen, but it was fun trying and my experience helped shape my work ethic to this day. Can’t wait to see what Sayda will do over the next three years.