Soma Vainuku and other man-among-boys moments

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
Witnessing Eureka’s 245-pound running back Soma Vainuku run over and around Petaluma’s defense for 308 yards and six touchdowns Friday night was quite a sight.
In fact, as Vainuku continued to bulldoze defensive linemen, juke linebackers and stiff-arm cornerbacks into Marin County, I was struck by the thought that I was witnessing a-man-among-boys moment.
Such moments have been rare since I became a sportswriter in 1997. In the past 12 years, I’ve worked at five newspapers and at four of those papers I’ve covered a fair amount of high school sports.
For what it’s worth, here are some other moments that left me shaking my head as some teenager toyed with the competition:
Jrue Holiday against Cardinal Newman in the 2007 Division IV state basketball finals: Holiday didn’t score 50 points. He didn’t need to as Campbell Hall blasted Newman, 70-34. But he could have scored 50. Or 100. Or 232. You get the point. Holiday, then a high school junior, was so clearly playing in a different stratosphere that I remembering wondering how he’d do in the NBA right at that moment. Two years later, after a pit stop at UCLA, he’s with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Allyson Felix at the 2003 CIF State Track and Field Championships: Felix, a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 200 meters, won the state title in the 200 in a performance that literally – no exaggeration – took my breath away. In the final 100 meters, Felix found a different gear – seventh, eighth, 22nd? – and it looked she had just been fast-forwarded. You know, like we were watching her on film and someone had the hit the fast-forward button on Felix, but no one else. Awesome. Beautiful. I just got goose bumps again.
Aaron Heilman at Logansport (Ind.) High: The 6-foot-5 Heilman, a right-hander the Cubs recently traded to the Diamondbacks, was – big surprise – kind of good in high school. Before he starred at Notre Dame and made the bigs, he was pitching against Kokomo and New Castle and Muncie Central. Those names may not mean much to you, but trust me: Not fair.