This track and field season has been nothing close to what Watsonville High senior Jonathan Arroyo has experienced in years past. He described it as a short and stressful season chock full of surprises.
“It was unexpected,” he said.
The unexpected season took another surprising turn after he qualified for the pole vault finals at the Central Coast Section track and field preliminaries on June 12 at Soquel High.
Arroyo advanced to this weekend’s championship round with a jump of 12 feet. The finals are scheduled for Saturday starting at 10am at the same location.
Like many high school athletes around the state, Arroyo said he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to compete at all due to Covid-19 restrictions. When students returned to school, they had to pretend that things were somewhat back to normal, Arroyo said.
“This is a weird year, obviously,” Wildcatz track and field coach Rob Cornett said.
Cornett said that Arroyo has been a pleasant surprise this season after missing out on an entire season last year. Arroyo came in with a personal record of 11 feet, 6 inches. He set the bar even higher in practice and he’s been going over 13 feet, which could put him in medal contention.
“If he can get 13 on the first attempt, he could be a Top-3,” Cornett said. “There’s a great chance”
There was a time when Arroyo didn’t plan on returning to the track team due to the fact that Covid affected a majority of his family and some of his friends.
When high school athletics was given the green light he was still juggling multiple things such as schoolwork and two different jobs. He quit one job to dedicate more time to track. His plan was to improve during the season to get a chance to compete at Hartnell College, which he’ll be doing next year in the spring.
Cornett said that he watched Arroyo grow up these past four years after coming in with a chip on his shoulder.
“We try to make students into good people and he’s really turned into a great person,” Cornett said.
Arroyo said he’ll continue the same workout routine he’s been doing all year long. That includes practice Monday through Friday for up to four hours per day.
“Grinding it out and hopefully I can [reach a personal record] to hit 13 [feet] at finals,” he said. “I know I can hit 13 and I’m going to go for it.”
Arroyo believes that hitting 13 feet can lead to bigger things at Saturday’s finals. He said the only way he can win is if he pushes himself more than he has before.
“I have to not worry about where I’m at right now and just focus on hitting 13 [feet], and aiming for bigger goals,” he said.
Arroyo will compete against Ceiba College Prep junior Giovanny Melgoza, who made the cut after Mitty senior Joaquin Portugal and Willow Glen High senior Steven Trujillo dropped out of the finals.
Mount Madonna School senior Octavio Moreno qualified for the shot put final with a throw of 43-5 in the prelims. He’s also the second alternative in the discus throw.
Monte Vista Christian will bring an arsenal of runners to the CCS finals beginning with senior Jake Morris, who qualified for both the 100- and 200-meter runs in 11.34 and 22.84 seconds, respectively.
Justin Lomeli, a senior, qualified for the 400 in 50.86 seconds, while senior Andrew Bachman qualified for the 800 in 1:57.08.
Bachman will be racing against Scotts Valley High junior Austin George, who finished in 1:58.48.
Lomeli, Morris, Bachman and junior Sage Oliver qualified for the 4×400 relay after they finished with the third-fastest time at the prelims in 3:30.73.
Aptos High seniors Ben Laughlin and Aidan Tomasini both qualified for the 3,200 final. Laughlin finished with the fastest time in 9:21.45, while Tomasini finished in 9:27.66.
“Those are really high character people that their hard work is really paying off,” Mariners coach Zach Hewett said. “Their success is no surprise, really.”
They’ll be running alongside Scotts Valley junior Jeremey Kain, who also qualified in 9:26.54.
Kain won the SCCAL cross country championship and placed first in both the 1,600 and 3,200 at the track and field league final.
Hewett said he’s happy both Tomasini and Laughlin extended their senior season after last year was shut down due to the pandemic.
“They had their senior year cut short and they didn’t get to have these experiences that these kids are getting to have,” he said. “I’m happy and I’m grateful, I’m so glad for them that they get to have these moments.”