By PETE SIMONCINI
Seniors Dax Daley and Caleb Cavanaugh have been mainstays of the incredible Oakdale Mustang distance running program for four years. Both have now earned a trip to the 2023 California State Track and Field Meet on the strength of second place finishes in the 3,200-meter run and the 1,600-meter run respectively at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet on Saturday, May 20 in Davis. Several other Mustangs also performed exceptionally well at the Masters, which included athletes from each of the divisions in the section. The top three placers in each event qualified for the state meet, which will take place this weekend at Buchanan High School in Clovis.
Daley ran the 3,200 meters in a new Oakdale High School record time of 9 minutes, 8.84 seconds to finish second in a field that featured 25 of the top distance runners in the Sac-Joaquin Section. The school record he broke by .67 seconds was his own, set earlier this season. Head distance coach Guy Fowler said about Daley’s performance: “His plan was to keep the pace fast and not turn the race into a sprint to the finish. He pushed the pace by taking the lead on the fifth lap and finished strong against a very strong field of runners.” Daley led a monumental Mustang effort in the race as junior Omar Alsaidi finished fifth in 9 minutes, 12.89 seconds, sophomore Ismael Dominguez finished 12th in 9:29:03, and junior Jackson Oliveira finished 15th in 9:36.43 to place four Mustangs in the top 15.
Cavanaugh has emerged as the team’s true distance virtuoso. Last week, in a preliminary heat, the senior eclipsed a 50-year-old school record by running the 800-meters in 1 minute, 55.67 seconds. Two days later, he finished third in the 800-meter finals in 1 minute, 59.96. A few hours prior to that race he had barely qualified for the 1,600-meters. He failed to finish among the top six runners, who automatically moved on to the Masters, but his time of 4:26.36 bettered the established at large standard for the race qualifying him to move on. Coaches Guy Fowler and Vic Moreno decided that, due to the high level of competition at the Masters and the limited time between events, each of the distance runners would focus on just one event. Cavanaugh interestingly opted out of the 800 in favor of the 1,600. The senior gave it his all on Saturday afternoon and covered the four laps in an overall time of 4:15 for a second-place finish.
“(Cavanaugh) was in a group of five and moved up to second with a closing lap of 60 seconds,” said Fowler. “We knew if he was in the lead group, Caleb had enough speed to close fast and that is exactly what he did.”
Other Mustangs performed admirably as well. Senior Kylie Nunes competed in three events: the 300-meter hurdles, the 4-by-100-meter relay, and the 4-by-400-meter relay. She finished fifth in the finals of the hurdle event with a time of 45.35 seconds.
The Masters’ meet signaled the end of Nunes’ storied career as a Mustang track star who performed and emerged victorious in numerous different events over four years. Another senior who achieved legendary status over four years, distance runner Kassidy Fmura, finished 12th in the girls’ 3,200-meters with a personal record time of 11 minutes, 15.00 seconds.
Senior Tyler Cooley competed in the high jump but failed to clear the mandated opening height of 5 feet, 11 inches.
Indicative of a bright future for Mustang track and field, six juniors, four sophomores, and a freshman, competed for the Mustangs in the meet gaining valuable experience.
Distance runners Alsaidi and Oliveira are juniors while Dominguez is a sophomore. Freshman Grant Gardner competed in the pole vault but failed to clear the mandated opening height of 12 feet, 9 inches. Sophomore Memphis Carr finished eighth in the shot put with a toss of 36 feet even. Sophomore Lynsey McPhee competed in both the 4-by-100-meter relay and the 4-by-400-meter relay while fellow sophomore Rylee Harris competed as a member of the 4-by-400-meter relay team. Junior Cameron Guthrie performed well in both the 110-meter-high hurdles (17th in 15.80 seconds) and the 300-meter-low hurdles (19th in 41.95 seconds). Fellow juniors Gabriel Carranza and Kylee O’Neal were on the 4-by-100-meter relay team while junior Brady Wylie was on the 4-by-400-meter relay team.
With two athletes headed to the big stage, Fowler noted that the California state meet is “the toughest high school state championship in the country.”
Cavanaugh is slated to run on Friday evening at 5:45 p.m., which will cause him to miss his graduation exercises at Oakdale High School.
“He is okay with that because it is not every day that you qualify for the state championships,” noted Fowler.
Daley is scheduled to run on Saturday night at 9:35 p.m.