Long Beach Poly 39
Vashti Thomas (Mt. Pleasant) 30
St. Elizabeth 26
St. Mary's Academy 20
Thomas' Winning Marks
100 hurdles: 13.44 (-2.7 wind)
Triple jump: 42-0½ (-2.7 wind).
Long jump: 20-0¼ (+1.7 wind)
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By Mitch Stephens
NORWALK, Calif. – Vashti Thomas couldn’t stop smiling. And what a smile she has.
The Mt. Pleasant (San Jose) senior, already out of uniform and sporting faded jeans and a t-shirt, posed right near the top of the podium at Cerritos College on Saturday night.
In the previous three hours, in her red, black and white uniform, she had climbed to the very top of the same podium, waved to the more than 10,000 fans, and accepted gold medals three different times for wins in the 100 meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump.
She became just the fourth girl ever to win three events at a single CIF California State Track and Field Meet.
Now, the giddy 17-year-old, was holding up a giant second place team trophy – one she earned all by herself. She finished with 30 points, nine points back of champion Long Beach Poly.
“I think this just solidifies what we already knew,” Mt. Pleasant coach Steve Nelson said. “Vashti Thomas is the best athlete in the United States. Yes, I’m her coach and I’m prejudice. But winning three golds here is awfully special.”
The others to do it were Chino’s Angela Williams (1998), Thousand Oaks’ Marion Jones (1993) and Woodside’s Wendy Brown (1984), who did win the state meet by herself with 38 points.
“It really couldn’t have gone any better,” Thomas said. “This is like a dream. I’m so happy.”
It was in direct contrast to her last memory of Cerritos College.
As a sophomore she sprained her ankle during the 400 relay, forcing her to withdraw from her individual events.
“That was pretty depressing,” Thomas said. “This feels the exact opposite.”
Thomas broke through as a junior, setting a nation federated (NFHS) record (13.03) while winning the state 100 hurdles at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium.
She also finished second in the triple jump and third in the long jump, and with teammate Jenaba Tarmoh winning both sprints, Mt. Pleasant claimed its first state crown.
“That was very special,” Thomas said.
After winning four events at the Central Coast Section finals last week and moving to the top of the national charts in the long jump and triple jump, Thomas broke through on Saturday with winning marks of 13.44, 20-0¼ and 42-0½.
Her triple jump and hurdles times were particularly impressive considering she faced 2.7-meters-per-second winds in both.
“That hurdles times is probably in the low 13s without any wind,” Nelson said. “Who knows how far she would have gone in the triple.”
He believes she’s capable of 44 feet without much trouble and possibly 22-0 in the long jump. Thomas was just happy to get to 20 feet on Saturday because her aching left knee was acting up.
“I was about 80 or 90 percent,” she said.
That’s kind of scary.
She needed to be 100 percent in the hurdles to beat 2006 state champion Julian Purvis, who finished second to Thomas last year.
It was vital for Thomas to get out quickly and she did, blowing out of the gates and holding an 5-meter lead before the second hurdle.
“Julian is so good once she gets going,” Thomas said. “I had to get an edge. I got out good and just cranked through.”
Purvis gained slightly the rest of the way but the margin was too great to make up. The Michigan-bound standout finished at 13.55 followed by Logan (Union City) senior Briana Stewart (13.89).
“I felt like I got out OK,” Purvis said. “I felt like I did what I could. But she got out at the start and I couldn’t catch her. I’m glad it’s over but I wish I could do it over.”
Thomas has no regrets. She plans to attend Junior Nationals in Ohio June 20-21 and then participate in the Olympic Trials the following week in Eugene, Ore.
She earned a spot in the Trials with here 13.03 time last year, but might not attend if she can’t raise enough money to make both trips.
Though rubbing spikes with the nation’s best might be a good experience, Nelson thinks Thomas will make an immediate impact at Texas A&M.
Until then, with her three wins, California track fans will debate just where Thomas ranks among the greats.
Vashti (pronounced Vash-Tie) wants nothing to do with that conversation. She’s having too much fun and flashing a big wide smile.
“I really haven’t followed the history of track and field,” she said. “I just like to run and jump.”
Those interested in helping to raise money for Thomas’ summer trips should call Nelson at 408-505-7847. E-mail Mitch Stephens at email@example.com