First, the elbows flew. Then, Marcel Espinoza did.
The Santa Monica High School junior jostled his way to the front of a talented pack and never relinquished his position, speeding his way to a landmark accomplishment.
Not only did Espinoza win an individual title in the boys 300-meter dash Feb. 16 during the indoor track and field state championships at Save Mart Center in Fresno, but he did it with a meet-record time of 36.29 seconds.
Even a restart couldn’t shake his concentration.
“The first time the gun was shot there was pushing at the line, and someone fell off, so they restarted the race,” he said. “I just kind of refocused and remained calm. … There’s a lot of pushing and elbows and shoving, but I’ve been working really hard. I really believed I deserved it.”
It was just the latest triumph in what is becoming an outstanding prep career for Espinoza.
Last year, he clocked a personal-best time of 10.55 seconds during the 100-meter prelims at the CIF outdoor state track championships –an “extraordinarily fast time for a sophomore,” Vikings coach Tania Fischer said. He ended up taking sixth in the finals with a 10.57.
This winter, Fischer had to figure out where to maximize Espinoza’s talents. There’s no 100-meter event on the indoor circuit, so he had to focus on either the 55-meter dash or the 300.
The latter turned out to be fitting territory for the junior, whose meet record is also a new school standard.
“We knew he could do it, but to see everything play out — running well, going through the qualifiers and winning the final — that was pretty amazing,” Fischer said.
It was particularly noteworthy considering Espinoza went into the season with little experience running on a banked track — an obstacle he won’t face this spring.
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “Every step, it’s unstable. Coming around the curve, you kind of hear the track rumbling, and it’s not a secure sound. You just have to try to keep your balance. It’s totally different than on the flat track. The turn is much shorter and tighter. Coming down from that, you have to get your momentum going, lift the knees and accelerate.”
Espinoza was one of six Samohi athletes to compete at the indoor state finals.
Vikings junior Lucas Jackson placed seventh in the boys mile with a time of 4 minutes 28.25 seconds, while senior Ariel Silverman nabbed eighth in the girls 600-yard run with a mark of 1:30.97.
Oliver Peake (1:19.29) and Brighton Mills (1:21.62) both participated in the boys 600-yard run. Halimat Adeyemi clocked a 45.23 in the girls 300-meter dash.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.