The California Collegiate Athletic Association Track and Field Championships are fast approaching for the Warriors of California State University, Stanislaus with both the Men’s and Women’s teams preparing for the April 30 competition at San Francisco State University.
The meet will be a culmination of a long CCAA season for most and a chance to qualify for this year’s NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships for others. Such is the case for local athletes Cierra Booz and Aman Hundel who will be respectively chasing a personal record and a trip to Michigan for the National Championships.
Hundel, a 2011 Pitman High graduate, is currently ranked 20th in the nation in the 800m with a time of 2:11.98, putting her on the bubble of provisional qualifiers for the National Championships since only the top 20 athletes of each event are selected to compete.
“We’re going in with the mindset of, ‘Hey, we need to run a second faster or even half a second faster to secure that spot,’” Coach Diljeet Dosanhjh Taylor said of the upcoming CCAA Championships.
Hundel is no stranger to the national scene, having qualified for the National Outdoor Championships as a sophomore in 2013 and the National Indoor Championships in both 2013 and 2014. But after redshirting last season, Hundel knows that this weekend calls for a do-or-die performance if she is to move on and delay the end of her collegiate track career as a senior.
“I’m glad that I took that redshirt year because I feel that it helped me get more confident and be able to get more races under my belt and get a good feel of how to run the 800,” Hundel said.
“I redshirted her last season just to get her stronger,” Taylor said. “She just got her time down to what she ran two years ago, but she is in phenomenal shape. Her strength has increased tremendously and she’s able to handle workouts a lot better, and that’s definitely going to transfer into this conference championship next weekend.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum of Hundel, Booz will enter the CCAA Championships as a freshman in the field, competing in the long jump. A 2014 Tulock High graduate, Booz recently hit a season best jump of 17 feet 4 ¼ inch and is chasing an 18 foot jump in San Francisco.
“I’m really just trying to do my best and get a personal PR,” Booz said. “This is the last chance of the season so I’m going to do my best.”
Booz also competes in the high jump, but her long jump has been her bread and butter this season.
“When she puts it all together, she’s definitely going to PR at the end of the season. I’m hoping it happens here at conference,” coach Troy Johnson said. “We’ve had days where we’ve been good technically in the air but our velocity hasn’t been up on the runway, and then we’ve had days where we’ve had great velocity on the runway and not as technical getting off the board. So when those two things come together, which I know for her and myself, she’s a very diligent and hard worker, when they come together I think she’s going to surprise herself at how far she goes.”
While she has only competed in the high jump and long jump events this season, Johnson is expecting Booz to branch out into the triple jump and hurdles in the coming seasons. He’s also expecting her to eventually reach the national level, though he isn’t ruling out a qualifying jump this season.
“I consider Cierra as somebody who can develop to be in that pool of athletes later on the down the road, but I haven’t given up on that happening this year. We’re just looking for a breakthrough of us putting it all together,” Johnson said.
But while Booz and Hundel will be competing on April 30, one local athlete, 2014 Pitman graduate Chance Hagar, will be forced to sit and watch. Hagar, who competes in the pole vault, was having a promising freshman season for the Warriors before tragedy struck in the form of a broken femur and ankle as he attempted a vault of 16 feet 2 ¾ inches.
“He would have qualified for Nationals. It had just clicked in his head when it happened,” Johnson said. “It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before and I hope I never see it again. But I think with Chance, his determination to get back is just so tremendous, that the whole team has rallied behind him. We do things because of Chance.”
So for now at least, Hagar will be relegated to cheering on his teammates before focusing on therapy and rehabilitation. There is no timeline for his return.
“It’s a very serious injury,” Johnson said. “This is not about Chance next year, this is about what Chance is going to be like in ten years… his safety and well-being is first and foremost and we’ll worry about competing after.”
“It gave our athletes a very front row seat to know that this is not a right, it’s a privilege,” he added.