For the majority of the season, Pitman High senior Caitlin O’Connell faced a reality she couldn‘t ignore.
She was better than most of her competitors.
During the Central California Conference meets this season not too many athletes threatened her marks. For the most part, she was battling with herself.
Not at last week’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championships, however.
There, she was surrounded by challengers. And she enjoyed the competition, as O’Connell managed to become the first Pitman athlete to qualify for the Masters in three individual events: long jump, triple jump and high jump. In the process, she achieved marks that she didn’t before.
“I think having people who you were competing with who were at your level,” O’Connell said, pinpointing a reason why she was able to qualify in three events. “At league meets, I usually compete higher above everybody else. At the division meet, I was competing against people who can jump around the same distance as me. It was that competitive energy going on.”
There was also another factor: Fresno State was looking for certain marks in order for the track and field coaching staff to move forward with offering O’Connell a scholarship. These set marks help the Bulldogs figure out how many points a prospect can produce at the college level.
Her first assignment: Reach 36 feet in the triple jump.
She did that four times last week.
Her other assignment: Clear 5 feet, 5 inches in the high jump.
She’s close, as her personal best is 5-4. Her last chance to achieve that goal is at this week’s Masters Meet, which takes place Thursday and Friday at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium.
O’Connell’s high jump event is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday. And if she completes Fresno State’s assignment, it’ll also be enough to automatically qualify for the CIF State Championships on June 3 and 4 in Clovis. If that isn’t enough pressure, she wants to wrap up the event fast enough to make it to her high school graduation in Turlock at 7 p.m.
For the latter to happen, O’Connell will have to skip out on the triple jump, which is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m.
“Fresno State is looking for certain marks and she’s running out of time to hit those marks,” said her jumps coach, Eren Fisher. “She’s very close in a lot of them. Now, she doesn’t have a lot of distractions. She’s going to get down and get after them.”
At the Section meet, O’Connell won’t be alone. Erica Sickert is the other multi-event Section qualifier, as she will throw in the shot put and discus. Kyndel Fletcher will participate in the pole vault, while Kelsee Derr is in the 100-meter hurdle to go along with her role in the 4x100-meter team, which consists of Aman Hundal, Hailey Stroud and Jasmine Roberson.
Sean Donnelly is the lone Pitman boys qualifier, as he will compete in the discus.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.