Beavers repeat as Big 8 track champs

Give an inch, beat ‘em by a mile.

A slight twist on the old cliché was the theme in the Big 8 Conference Finals in track and field at Beaver Stadium on April 27.

Highlighted by an impressive come-from-behind victory for the men’s 4×100 relay, the defending state champion American River College men’s track and field team won the conference title in impressive fashion with 215 total team points. Modesto finished second with 183.5. The women’s team finished second with 184 total team points.

In the fourth track event in the finals, the men’s 4×100 was behind Sacramento City College by at least 10-meters before sophomore Diondre Batson took a bobbled baton handoff from Walter Finney and exploded into a blazing sprint. Batson took the lead with about 50 meters to go in route to finishing by .32 of a second ahead of Sac City. The time of 40.39 seconds set the state-high mark.

“I didn’t expect to run that fast in the 4x(100) because of a bad handoff,” Batson said. “The fastest we had ran before was a 40.57. It felt easy. If we had a good handoff, we probably could have gone 39 (seconds). “

Batson went on to win both the 100 (10.23) and 200 (20.64) events in solid fashion. Neither times here a personal best for Batson, but still strong enough to break both conference championship and meet records in both events.

“In my 100, I had a bad block start,” Batson said. “It was easy, but it should have been faster.”

The men’s 4×100 concluded a four-race opening for the Beavers with three wins (4×100 in men’s and women’s and men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase) and a second, third and fourth in the women’s 3,000 steeple.

The men won eight of the 12 track finals on Friday.

Matt Airola won both the 800 and 1500. Airola set the conference record and tied a state-best (4:00.21)  in the preliminary race three days prior.

“I am still feeling it from Tuesday,” Airola said of his state-high mark where he finished 100-meters ahead of the second place finisher. “I didn’t think it would take that much out of me but it.”

Airola said despite his soreness, he and the rest of the Beavers weren’t  willing to give up on the chance to repeat as conference champions.

“That was the main concern,” Airola said. “Just trying to get as many points as we can for our team to get the conference championship.”

Garrett Seawell won the conference title in the 5,000 (15:36.79), and Josh Gruver won the 3,000 steeple (9:50.39).

On the women’s side Alexis Browner won both the 100 (12.06) and the 200 (24.70). Sara Howard also won two individual events in the 5,000 (18:57.10) and the 10K (40:16.25).

Each event first place gets 10 team points, while second received eight and third received six.

The top three finishers in each event will travel to NorCal finals in San Mateo on May 4 and 11. And the top qualifiers there will advance to the state finals on May 18 and 19 in Cerritos.

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