2017-04-21 / Sports

Vera’s very, very fast

Sophomore sprinter dazzles in fast line for Spartan track and field team
Jonathan Andrade

READY, SET . . .—Ariana Vera, a sophomore with a 4.0 GPA at Rio Mesa High, is the fastest sprinter on the girls’ track and field team. Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers READY, SET . . .—Ariana Vera, a sophomore with a 4.0 GPA at Rio Mesa High, is the fastest sprinter on the girls’ track and field team. Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers GIRLS’ TRACK & FIELD /// Rio Mesa Spartans

It’s the beginning of a new era for Rio Mesa High’s track and field team.

Longtime track and field head coach Brian FitzGerald, who guided the Spartans for 36 years, might be lounging around sipping freshly squeezed lemonade on his front porch, but the beat goes on for Rio Mesa.

Blake Selig, who ran sprints and competed in the long jump at UCLA after graduating from Rio Mesa in 2012, has taken over as coach of the Spartan sprinters and relay teams, which have gained notoriety the past few decades for their success at the state level.

“It’s been way more stressful than I could have imagined,” Selig said of replacing a legend of the sport. “The expectations for Rio Mesa are so high. Our kids have really stepped up.”


. . . GO—Rio Mesa’s Ariana Vera runs the anchor leg in the 4x100 relay against Camarillo on April 18. . . . GO—Rio Mesa’s Ariana Vera runs the anchor leg in the 4x100 relay against Camarillo on April 18. Ariana Vera, a soft-spoken sophomore, has emerged as the team’s top sprinter.

“She makes my job a lot easier,” Selig said of Vera. “She does everything we ask of her. I can’t pick a better student-athlete.”

Vera, who joined the Oxnard Stars youth team in sixth grade, focused on the 400-meter and dabbled in the 200 last season.

This spring, she’s fine-tuning the 100 and 200. The versatile sophomore also runs the anchor legs of the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. She helped the 4x400 relay team take first place at Pacific View League finals last season.

The 15-year-old said running shorter distances this season is vastly different than the 400.

“The hardest part was transitioning a little to get faster,” she said. “The stride was the hardest part because I had to shorten it.”

Vera’s clocked personal bests in the 100 (12.54 seconds) and 200 (25.48). Her mark in the 200 is the ninth-fastest time from any runner in Ventura County this season. She’s crossed the finish line first in every 200 race except at the Ventura Invitational on March 11, notching second behind Camarillo’s McKenna Meaney.

Vera said she’s hoping to drop her 100 time below 12 seconds and her 200 time under 25 seconds by season’s end.

Selig said his young star’s done well completing the transition to a new role.

“I keep forgetting she’s a sophomore,” the coach said of Vera. “She carries herself like a senior, which is awesome for the other girls to look up to.”

Vera, the daughter of Briana Davis and Ruben Vera, is the youngest of four children. Ariana Vera’s older brothers are Jaz, Cameron and Devin.

Ariana Vera, who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, hopes to run in college, where she’ll pursue a degree in sports medicine or physical therapy.

Vera said she gained invaluable experience competing at the CIF prelims last season as a rookie.

“Last year was really hard to make it,” she said. “This year, I’m hoping to make it in my other events. . . . I also want to keep my 4.0 GPA while I’m running track.”

Selig said he has high hopes for Vera.

“It’s nice to know we have her for a couple more years,” he said. “She’s running fast, and that’s all that matters.

“I can’t imagine where she’ll be her senior year.”

CATCH UP WITH THE SPARTANS

Rio Mesa High’s boys’ and girls’ track and field athletes captured another pair of Pacific View League championships by going undefeated in league meets this season.

“We don’t have the depth we’ve had in previous years,” said first-year boys’ head coach Jeff Wrout, who also guides the boys’ cross country team, “but we have solid kids that score a lot of points for us in areas.”

Vincent Perillo, a senior, runs the middle and long distance races for the boys’ squad.

Juniors Donte Martin (100, 200 and 4x100), Ky’Jeric Nicholson (100, 200, 400 and 4x100), Brandon Sarmiento (100, 200 and 4x100) and sophomore Moses Marsico (200 and 400) excel in sprints and relays.

Mychael Holliday, a senior, thrives in the 110 and 300 hurdles.

Jaedon Rogers, a junior, competes in the triple and long jump.

Dondre Baker, a senior who played linebacker for the football team in the fall, throws the shot put and discus.

Devyn Weisenberger, a senior, leads the girls’ team in the high jump, 400 and relays.

Amira Bates, a sophomore, is the team’s top hurdler. Denaya Wickett (400 and 800) and Catalina Escobal, a long jumper, are talented juniors.

Elisse Weinerth (1,600 and 3,200) and Courtney Atwater (triple and long jump) are promising freshmen.

Wrout said he’s still getting used to managing a large program with more than 100 boys and girls. Rick Torres, who’s coached the girls’ track and field team for the past 33 years, is showing Wrout the ropes.

“My hats off to Brian (FitzGerald) that he lasted as long as he did,” Wrout said with a smile.

Email Jonathan Andrade at jandrade@theacorn.com.

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