By Jeremy McDonald
EUGENE, Ore.– It was no surprised to see the McKay 4×100 team in the State Championships in 2017, having been there for since at least Israel Garza’s freshman year two years ago.
But, it wasn’t until 2017’s version of the 4×1 team that they cracked the Top 5 in the relay race, winning their heat with a 42.78.
Shaton Daniels and Avori Miranda got it going, but it wasn’t until the Karate Kid Damian Rios took over when they started to build a lead and well, when Garza took over in the final 100, Garza sealed the deal to put them in good contention for a great podium spot.
“I felt like we started off really good. I mean once I got the baton, no one was close to us and of course no one was going to catch Izzy,” said Rios. “But, I felt like if we were in the second heat, we could’ve done a little better and catching some people, we were definitely up there with those guys, we could’ve got at least Top 3.
“I mean we’re happy with fifth, but I’m pretty sure we could’ve performed better in the second heat.”
With that hunger and with three-quarters of the team coming back in 2018 as seniors with him, Miranda and Garza, confidence is there for them to get higher than fifth next season.
“It’s fantastic because us three, we’ve been together since eighth-grade year and since eighth-grade, we’ve been really fast, always the best. So it feels really good but we’re going to come back next year and it’s going to be fun coming back with three-times-in-a-row.
Daniels, the lone senior on the squad and the lead-off man for the Scots, knows how amazing it is to finish his senior-year as strongly as they did as the normally sterned-face Daniels flashed a smile talking about the fifth-place finish.
“It feels good in fifth,” Daniels said with a smile. “I joined the 4×1 team kind of late in the season, but to place fifth at State, it’s a big accomplishment for me as a senior.”
As for starting the team off strongly for to finish as high as they did, it all started with his strong start out of the blocks.
“I felt like I got a really good start, and it gave us a little advantage for Avori,” Daniels said of his strong start.
On the girls side with the 4×100 team had nerves going out for the race being the third race of the day in front of the crowd at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon minutes before the guys team took to the track.
“When we were all lined up, it was pretty-nerve racking like everyone were pretty serious about their race and were like praying,” said senior Cecillia Munoz. “We just told all the girls on our team, ‘just run your hardest and whatever happens, happens’.
“I was pretty nervous, when I was in my my lane, I was like, ‘Oh my god this is happening in my freshman year’,” smiled and laughed Steffani Rodriguez-Aqunio.
Ready-or-not, they performed when it was go-time, PR-ing in their heat at 50.09, good enough for 14th-best in the State of Oregon in 6A.
Munoz, one of the two seniors on the relay team along with Esmeralda Arrellano, pointed to them achieving a goal of PR-ing at the State Meet this year.
“I’m proud with what we did, I think we could’ve fixed one of our handoffs but other than that it went pretty good,” said Munoz. “We PR’d and that’s all we wanted was a PR.”
As for the nerves for Rodriguez-Aqunio on that final leg, the frosh was just trying to stay positive out there as it came to her turn for the final 100 meters of the race.
“I was pretty nervous, I was scared, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, let’s me positive and say ‘I’m going to win’,” said Rodriguez-Aqunio. “I think I did good.”
But hey, it’s just a taste of what is certainly is to come for the freshman as it’s no question that she’ll be back at the State in some form or another in the years to come.
Garza would finish eighth in the 100 (10.99) and sixth in the 200 meter dash (22.15).
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald