The pitter patter of Kellie Gratigny’s feet echo across Oakdale High’s all-weather track like a drum solo as her track spikes propel her down the long jump runway with fast but lengthy strides that seem to magically thunder from her elfin five-foot, four-inch frame.
She lifts off into the sky on the drive of a plant foot just a centimeter from the fault line, arches her body awkwardly backwards and reaches forward just as her body drops into a pit of sand.
“How far was that jump?” a snoopy journalist inquires.
“Well that was her personal record, 16 feet,” Gratigny’s coach, Dave Bacigalupi answers with a grin.
Not bad for a do-it-all junior in her first serious season in the long jump.
Gratigny was a big reason Oakdale won an eighth consecutive conference title and was one of 20 Oakdale High students to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships, which compete Thursday, May 17 at Modesto Junior College.
Gratigny qualified for the D-IV tourney in all four of her events, and could be seen alongside sophomore standout Deziree Pennington (also a four-event qualifier) during a low-stress individual practice at The Corral on May 11. The practice offered some last moments for both to prepare for a gauntlet of events against elite competition throughout the section representing an incredible 13 different leagues across the medium and small school divisions. Oakdale tackled the Division IV-V field for trials on Tuesday, and will complete the meet with Thursday’s finals. Only six placers in each event and those that reach elite at-large standards will move on to the Masters Championships on May 24 and 25 in Elk Grove.
Gratigny, who made noise as the setter on Oakdale’s varsity volleyball team in the fall, used her athleticism to win the triple jump (Pennington was second) at the Valley Oak League meet. She was also third in the 400, third in the long jump and ran the first leg of Oakdale’s blistering fast 1600 relay team that landed the second fastest time in school history. The time was good enough for Oakdale to enter Tuesday’s trials as the fourth fastest team in the Division.
“It’s been an amazing year and I never knew it would turn out like this,” Gratigny said. “It felt good to be able to score so many points for the team during league.”
After winning league, the Stanislaus County Meet and Modesto JC Invitational, the Oakdale girls would normally be considered a favorite to win the Division IV title. That’s not the case in 2012, thanks to an elite group of athletes from Vista del Lago who have emerged as some of the best in the section in any division.
The Eagles sport multiple runners in the top tier of 400, 1600, 3200 races and expect to fight returning SJS D-IV champion, Cosumnes Oaks, for top honors.
Oakdale senior Manny Hernandez is considered one of the top jumpers in the state after clearing the 6-9 mark in the high jump this season. He will have his hands full will fellow senior and 6-9-jumper Londeen McCovery of Cosumnes. Mustang sophomore Kyle Peterson is the top discus thrower to make a Divisional appearance while Carly Rodgers is expected to defend her position as the second-ranked pole vaulter. Me’che Brown has been strong in the 100, 200 and will join the 400 league champ (Kim Linder), Pennington and Gratigny on the 1600 relay.
“I think we will do all right,” Bacigalupi said. “The girls have had an amazing year and I know they will do well. Some of the boys have a chance to go really far this year as well.”