CLOVIS, CA:  “Take the Next Step” was Coach John Corona’s mantra when he met with the team on the eve of official practice in February. This statement, based on the tremendous accomplishments of 2015, was meant to inspire team members NOT to settle, that there was still more out there to accomplish and that 2016 could be even better.

Taking the next step was exactly what this team did, starting with a great performance by the distance team at the Meet of Champions back in March, then running the (at the time) second fastest mark in the country in the Distance Medley Relay (1200, 400, 800, 1600 meters) at the Arcadia Invitational in April and topped off with the boys winning and the girls just losing (by 1 point!)  the Big VIII Championship againstRoosevelt.

The incredible display of depth and balance at Big VIII Finals seemed to give birth to the historic run into CIF the CIF rounds of Prelims, Finals and Masters.  It all climaxed with the finest performance ever seen by a King Track team at the State Track and Field Championships June 3 and 4.

Prior to 2016, the most athletes King Track had ever earn a berth in the State meet was two. This year, six athletes traveled to the stunningly beautiful track and field complex at Buchanan High School in Clovis, CA.   And what a mighty six it was.  The boys 4×100 team of Saadiq Jennings, Korey Parsons, Jaylen Moore and Jonathan Essien spent most of the season toiling along in the craft of quickly moving a baton around a track.  Their times were respectable, but not great.  Then, after winning the league title in early May, “greatness” seemed to click into place and the foursome began a month-long assent that landed them at the Final of the State Championships.

There on Saturday, in front of 8000 spectators, they took their spot in the 9th lane (indicating that they were the 8th fastest of 9 squads from the previous evening’s preliminary rounds).  Against the finest in the state, the foursome carried that “stick” smoothly with Essien taking it to the line crossing in 41.67, the second-fastest time they’ve run this season.  Their 6th place finish gave them “All State” honors. It was a remarkable ending to a story that went from “good to great” in a span of two months.

Ryan Laudermilk found himself in one of the toughest groups of high jumpers assembled in some time. In fact, it would take a leap of 7 feet to finish in the top 3 of the Final. Laudermilk, who just missed a State meet berth in 2015, not only made the meet, but with a leap of 6-6 on Friday night qualified for the Saturday final. There he cleared 6-6 again but struggled at 6-8 and settled for a very respectable 10th place in the State. He’ll be enrolling at Brown University in Rhode Island next Fall and intends to continue improving his craft in the Ivy League.

Tyler Janes has made his final season in the King uniform one for the history books.  With his future UCLA coach in the stadium looking on, Janes ran one of the fastest 1600-3200 combo races in the history of the State meet.  The 1600 should be considered his “specialty” of the two distances, and it came first of the two in one of the deepest fields ever assembled at the State meet.  No less than 5 of the top 1600 runners in the entire country were spiked up and ready to roll. (Tyler’s 4:04.33 was the #10 time in the US, and he wasn’t the favorite!).  A tactical start took the field through the 800 in 2:06 and then the race was on!  The group splintered with Janes in the lead pack as they dropped their pace down to a 62 second third lap then kicked at the bell.  Janes’ put down a 57.8 last circuit to cross in 4:05.86 but it was only fast enough to get him to third overall.  Still, it was the highest finish of any King athlete at the State meet in our 17 years.

Three hours later he took to his “secondary race” and even with a sixth-place finish, it may well have been his best race of the night.  Again, side by side with many of the fastest two-milers in the land, he matched the moves and found himself in the top five (of 32 in the field) with a lap to go.  There, the burn of the 1600 required its toll and a 61-second close wasn’t enough to catch those who were on the track for the first time that night.  Remarkably, he finished with an 8:56.93 time, the King All Time #2 behind Lane Werley’s 8:53.21 set five years ago in the same State Final on the same track.

Historically, the double Tyler put together was of elite status.  Only two guys in the 98 year history of the State Championships have run that same double with faster times.  In 2008, German Fernandez of Riverbank HS did the almost unthinkable, by going 4:00.29 and then 8:34.23, setting a national record in the process. In 1974 Rich Kimball ran 4:06.6 and 8:46 for the full mile and two mile. A few others have gotten close to the marks Tyler set down, but only two have eclipsed them.  The fireworks exploding in the night sky after the final event, and hardly before Tyler could catch his breath, seemed to be a fitting way to end the season King Track and Field had put together in 2016.

Collectively, the points scored by the relay squad and Janes in two events put King as a team in 13th place.

“This weekend was an incredible finish to an incredible season” said Coach John Corona.  “I have no words for what our kids did today.  I’m humbled by what they accomplished.  Getting to State and then doing what they did here?  Incredible. What they did is a tribute to them and to our coaching staff.  It is all beyond anything I thought we could do previous to this year. Just amazing.”

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