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Turlock track stars impress at state meet
track athletes at invite state
LEFT: Turlock High track athlete Ian Strode earned fifth place in the pole vaulting event at the state meet held this past weekend; RIGHT: Turlock High track and field coach Bergann Hernandez and sprinter Kylee Redman were all smiles after her race at the state meet in Arcadia (Photos contributed).

Despite a track and field season unlike any they had competed in before, Turlock High athletes Kylee Redman and Ian Strode smashed their goals and then some by competing alongside the best runners, jumpers and throwers in the state this past weekend. 

With the CIF-sanctioned state track and field championships cancelled for the second straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic, both Redman and Strode qualified to take part in the Arcadia Invitational on Friday and Saturday — an event which served as an unofficial state tournament featuring the best of the best high school track athletes in California. 

Redman, a sprinter, said she’s had the goal of competing at the state level since she first began running track as a freshman. During this year’s COVID-shortened season, she broke her own personal records for both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash as a junior and was a key component of the Bulldogs’ 4x1 relay team. And, she did all of this while also playing on the Turlock High girls soccer team.

“Even though we only had three meets and a couple of summer meets, I’m just glad that we got in a track season. It was really great to run again and do my events, as well as play soccer. I’m grateful that my coaches let me do both,” Redman said. “It was really tiring, but I’m glad I did it.”

Redman competed in the 100-meter dash at the Arcadia Invitational and earned a time of 12.3 seconds, just two days after playing in a soccer showcase in Oceanside. Though she finished last out of the 21 state competitors, she knows it was quite the accomplishment to be at the meet in the first place.

“I’ve always wanted to be able to say I made it to state, and when I got there, I knew I instantly had to put my game face on because the girls I’d be running against had put in the work. I’d been putting in the work, too, and it was quite a rollercoaster of emotions,” Redman said. “I was so happy and proud of myself because a lot of those girls are very fast and I held my own. It pushed me and made me realize I’m a lot faster than I think I am.”

Plenty of preparation went into Strode’s effort at the meet, he said, where he competed in the pole vault event as the lowest-ranked seed. Throughout his junior season he had previously been vaulting with a 14-foot pole, but made the switch to a 15-foot pole in the weeks leading up to the Arcadia Invitational so that he’d be able to get more air and compete with the others.

“A lot of people there are jumping on 15-, 16-foot poles and I was over here jumping on a 14-foot pole barely qualifying, and that’s because it is a struggle to move up a foot...Getting that extra length of the pole is a big change which is difficult to work through, but it’s also very good because it allows you that extra height,” Strode said. 

“I had to make that conscious decision: Do I stay on the 14 and just hope I can manage something, or do I move up to a 15-foot pole that I really haven’t worked on that much? I moved up to the 15-foot pole and thankfully it worked out.”

His hard work and diligence paid off as he cleared a 15 foot-3-inch vault over the weekend, which earned him a fifth-place medal at the state meet. It was a huge accomplishment, Strode said, as he came into the meet seeded last, and also a massive relief after all the time that he, his coaches and his teammates had put into preparing for his state showing. 

Both Strode and Redman credited their coach Bergann Hernandez for much of their success; Strode has been participating in her pole vaulting camp since the season ended, and she was the first person Redman ran to after finishing her 100-meter dash at the state meet. Hernandez has plenty to look forward to as the two athletes still have one final season of high school track ahead of them, and both are eager to begin their senior years with plenty more goals in mind. 

“Next track season I’m hoping to break my records and get back to state, and even get past sections and masters since we weren’t able to do that this year,” Redman said. “I’m really glad I got the qualifying time to make to state, and the new goal is to make it to state again.”

Redman also hopes to inspire the next class of track athletes and help them with sprinting events, she said. For Strode, he hopes he can open his vaulting season with a height of 16 feet and continue to dominate the event.

“I was looking at the roster for the top 15 in the state, and only four of us are juniors going into our senior years next year. If you take out all the seniors, that will put me in fourth and that’s just huge for me seeing that number,” Strode said. “Everything is motivating me towards that number 16 opening height for senior year. That would be huge for me and open a lot of doors for colleges, too.”