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Placer's Crider soars to state meet

Simmons, Nielsen, Wheeler headed to state in multiple events
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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ELK GROVE ? Brie Simmons raced across the finish line in her fourth race of the day and looked like she was thirsty for more. Kendal Nielsen was already plotting her game plan for the final track and field meet of her incredible prep career. Shelby Crider was soaking in the moment with a smile for everyone near the pole vault pit Friday at Elk Grove High School. Crider added her name to the list of stars headed to the CIF State Track and Field Championships in Clovis this week. The Placer High junior was ecstatic after battling the tricky winds to finish third in the pole vault at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet. ?It feels amazing. It?s been a long time coming,? Crider said. ?It was awkward today with the wind, but you have to push through.? Del Oro freshman Melissa Maneatis turned in one of the surprises of the day, edging out Crider to place second in the pole vault. More than half of the field failed to clear the opening height in three tries, but Maneatis thrived, earning a trip to state with a vault of 11-5. Crider was four inches shy of her season best. As Placer pole vault coach Kent Rhodes paced nervously, Crider stayed poised, clearing 11-2 on her first attempt. ?The key was channeling my inner-beast,? said Crider, whose older brother Brett owns the boys triple jump record at Placer. ?I was just relaxing and focusing on doing exactly what my coach said. With the wind blowing, you?ve just got to take it on.? Simmons was sensational in her final Masters meet. The Del Oro senior did not win an event, but she was on the podium four times. Simmons started her busy day with a second place finish in the 100-meter hurdles, clocking in with a time of 14.25 seconds. In the 100, Simmons raced to a time of 12.43 to place second. In the 300 hurdles Simmons gutted out a third place finish in 42.90 as Fairfield?s Daje Pugh raced to the eighth Masters hurdles title of her career. In the final race of the day, Simmons ran the anchor leg in the 4x400 and nearly pulled off a huge comeback. The Eagles settled for second place with a time of 3:57.81. ?She?s truly amazing,? said fellow hurdler Casey Wheeler as he watched Simmons? final race of the day. Nielsen wasn?t thrilled with her fourth place finish in the long jump, but she is moving on to state, which was the ultimate goal. The Cal Poly-bound leaper placed second in the triple jump on Thursday and will compete in both events at the state meet. Nielsen?s jump of 18 feet, 2 inches was a half-inch over the automatic qualifying mark for state. ?It wasn?t as good as I had hoped,? Nielsen said of her long jump performance. ?I?m lucky to be going to state. At state I?m just focusing on doing my best. My goal is the finals, but I have to have a great day to make it.? Placer sophomore Meghan Tucker capped her phenomenal year by breaking her school record one more time. Tucker soared 17-9 and placed eighth among the 24 participants. Wheeler was one of the top male performers at the meet. The Del Oro senior won the 300 hurdles in a personal best 38.21. He was third in the 110 hurdles in 14.5 and ran the second leg of the Golden Eagles? winning 4x400 relay squad. Blake Covey ran the anchor leg while sophomores Austin Smith and Jonathan Tuttle more than held their own. ?After last year we had a target on us,? Covey said after Del Oro defended its 4x400 title with a winning time of 3:19.71. There are a lot of good teams here today and my teammates were great.? Covey took the baton and had an eight-meter cushion for the final lap. The Eagles won by nearly two seconds over runner-up Vacaville. ?I?ve only gotten the baton once or twice this year when we?ve been behind,? Covey said. Bear River?s 4x400 relay squad had a solid fifth place showing. Breanna Gatto, Erica Higley, Malone Pearson and Nielsen clocked in at 4:01.43. Del Oro senior Sam Baker had a strong finish in the 1,600, placing fifth with a time of 4:23.90.