NCS Meet of Champions: Scranton, Bertsch bound for state

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

BERKELEY — Santa Rosa jumps coach Jim Veilleux set the bar moderately high for Morgan Bertsch heading into the North Coast Section Meet of Champions: at 5 feet, 5 inches, to be exact.

That was the at-large qualification standard for high jumps at this year’s state meet, meaning that if Bertsch could clear 5-5, she’d be headed to the CIF meet in Clovis next week, no matter where she ranked among the NCS competition. Bertsch had topped 5-9 as a sophomore two years ago, but lately had been maxing out at 5 feet or 5-2.

Winning the NCS meet, or even finishing in the top three, seemed like a long shot.

Sure enough, Bertsch succeeded at 5-5 on Friday at UC Berkeley’s historic Edwards Stadium.

“Then we were in,” Veilleux explained. “Then I said, hell, let’s go for the win.”

Bertsch did that, too. She eventually cleared 5-7 on her third attempt as two other jumpers failed, and was crowned the champion.

“When I made 5-5 it was a like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” said Bertsch, the 2014 All-Empire Large School Girls’ Scholar-Athlete of the Year. “Then you’re just jumping to satisfy yourself. It was a nice graduation present.”

Only six field events were settled Friday. The other six will be conducted today, along with all of the running finals.

But we already know that Bertsch will be joined at the state meet by a pair of local discus throwers, junior Allison Scranton of Petaluma and senior Allyson Milone of Ukiah.

Both girls wanted to set personal records at the NCS meet and both did.

Scranton’s second-place toss was 133 feet, 4 inches. Milone’s 124 feet, 10 inches. They would have ranked one-two were it not for a clutch throw of 135 feet by Washington sophomore Vai Lousi, which was well above her previous PR.

“I would have loved to have won,” Scranton said.

“I’m not like stoked about second place. But I’m just more super-excited that I met both the goals I had set for myself. And that was the biggest thing. An I PR’d twice. … You know what? (Lousi) had a great day, and that’s awesome for her.”

The results were sweet relief for Scranton and Milone, both of whom came oh-so-close to making the Clovis meet in the past.

The top three finishers qualify for state, and Scranton was fourth in the discus last year, by 6 inches.

When she was a freshman, four kids qualified from NCS in each event — and she finished fifth in the shot put. Milone was fourth in the shot put last year.

After a series of hot days in the Redwood Empire, the athletes were subjected to a chilly, breezy morning in Berkeley.

The wind came across the faces of the discus throwers, but Scranton and Milone agreed that it didn’t affect their performances much.

Coming closest to joining the trio of ladies at state was Casa Grande senior shot putter Caleb Lundquist.

In fact, for a few minutes, Lundquist thought he had punched his ticket with a put of 52 feet, 1½ inches, which was 9 inches past his previous PR.

Then Heritage’s Griffin DeFlores hit 53-9 on his final heave.

“When I moved into third place, I was excited. I’d finally gotten it,” Lundquist said. “But at the same time, I understood that there were still four other throwers to go, that I could be passed. When the kid from Heritage got it, I wasn’t disappointed in myself, because I had done very well. I had performed the best I could. It was more kind of a bittersweet moment.”

Another kid who finished ahead of Lundquist was De La Salle’s massive Kahlil McKenzie, son of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Windsor senior Taylor Tappin also medaled, finishing sixth with a throw of 50 feet, 10 inches.

Lundquist will throw the discus today, just as Scranton and Milone will compete in the shot put.

For Bertsch, winning her event was a mental triumph. Stuck around 5 feet, she and Veilleux tried a new approach.

They simplified her workouts and, taking the advice of Olympic gold-medal pole vaulter and motivation speaker Tim Mack, who suggests working on one thing at a time.

For Bertsch, that one thing was jumping high.

That sounds kind of obvious for a high jumper, but the lanky Bertsch’s technique is virtually flawless.

Looking at film with Veilleux, she really tried to improve her vertical explosion — what Veilleux referred to as knee drive and “the corkscrew.”

It clearly paid off, even though it took Bertsch 12 jumps to bring home the victory. She also hit 5-6 on her third try.

“My legs were definitely tired,” Bertsch said.

But it was a good kind of tired, the kind that comes with a section title.

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