The tenacity of Oakdale High junior Dezirae Pennington can be measured in feet and inches.
The standout athlete on the Mustang track and field team turned tragedy to fortune at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV-V Championships on May 16.
Pennington carried a dazzling lead with one obstacle remaining in the 300 hurdles, but stumbled on her final clearance and allowed five runners to overtake her for every qualification to the SJS Masters.
Before she could even mourn the disaster, Pennington was ushered to the triple jump pit, where her participation in the 300 hurdles had forced consecutive scratches from the event and left room for only one dash to make the event finals.
With pressure mounting, Pennington short-hopped off each foot, leaped, arched and beach-landed for the ninth and final position in the event finals. Minutes later, she soared to a third-place mark in the event to avoid postseason catastrophe and join a cast of eight teammates who also punched tickets to the final spectacle before the state meet.
“When she fell I didn’t think there was much room for her to pull herself together for the triple jump,” Oakdale coach Dave Bacigalupi said. “For her to end up third in that event was quite amazing.”
Athletes who emerge from the May 24 and 25 competition at Masters with top-three medals will earn coveted participation to the California Interscholastic Federation Track and Field Championships, the pinnacle event of prep track and field.
Pennington qualified for the triple jump at Masters last year, and sits eighth in the section with her 37-1 personal best (athletic.net). Her senior teammate, Kellie Gratigny, was 10th at Masters last year, and soared to a 36-2.25 mark to win the triple jump at Divisionals.
“Kellie did what Kellie does, and ended up winning that event,” Bacigalupi said. “It’s fun watching both (Gratigny and Pennington), because they are two of the best athletes I have ever had.”
Gratigny and Pennington also joined Me’che Brown and Jennifer Guzman on a spectacular 400 relay team that broke their own school record (49.10 seconds) and ended runner-up in the event. The foursome will compete in that event at Masters, while Brown also takes on the 100 (she was third at 12.81).
Oakdale throwers Kyle Peterson and Hannah Chappell further propelled their own prestige with comfortable victories in the discus. Peterson launched a 167-04 to best the next closest competitor by over 13 feet and nab the third-best throw by any SJS athlete this year. According to athletic.net, he also owns the best throw with his 170-5 toss to win the Valley Oak League on May 4.
Chappell is listed second in the discus for the SJS with her 138-11 school record from April 20. She needed a throw of only 127-2 to win Divisionals, and is one of only three SJS throwers to eclipse the 133-foot mark this year (she’s done it three times).
The throwing tandem are Oakdale’s best shot for state meet qualification and potential state hardware. Peterson is listed at 19th in the state as the eighth-best non-senior while Chappell sits 13th overall as the top freshman and second-best underclassman.
Peterson also qualified for the Masters shot put with a 47-05 in third place while Chris Davis (fifth in the 400 at 50.82) and Brock Whiting (fourth in the long jump at 21-01) stunned competition with heroic personal best marks to qualify for the next level. As only No. 3 seeds from the VOL, both were only a longshot to reach Masters.
Brooke Wong also soared to a third place mark in the pole vault at 9-02 to reach Masters as well.