Associate Sports Editor
Track and field athletes excelled this weekend at the California-Nevada State Track and Field Championships held Saturday and Sunday at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps that featured teams from the NCAA Division I, II and III levels as well as the NAIA.
The meet was highlighted by junior sprinter Marcus Fortugno, who took home the state crown in the 400-meter dash and third in the 200-meter dash, and sophomore jumper Paul Turner, who finished fourth in the long jump and third in the triple jump.
“It’s pretty awesome, coming out and people not knowing what ULV is, asking if that means Las Vegas and then telling them it’s La Verne, and not being recruited by schools coming out of high school and then showing them what I got,” Fortugno said.
It was a challenge to be able to participate in the meet at all, as each competitor had to attain qualifying times or distances to be invited.
For the defending SCIAC champion in the 400 and 200 and an All-American, it took a comeback effort to win the crown as Fortugno passed Jordan Scott of UC Santa Barbara in the final stretch, finishing in 47.53 seconds.
“The only thing that popped in my head was that I was going to be the champion,” Fortugno said.
In the 200, Fortugno battled with David Reid of Cal State Northridge and Jordan Taylor of Cal State Bakersfield, crossing the finish line in a swift 21.43 seconds.
Turner, the top-ranked long and triple jumper in Division III, faced tough competition as he faced off against the overall national leader in the triple jump and saw a good preview for nationals, finishing with a 24 3/4 leap in the long jump and a 48-10 1/4 jump in the triple jump.
“I want to keep getting better and better as the year goes on,” Turner said. “I’m trying to get first. No prisoners. There are great competitors in Division III but with my coaching staff and all of the people I compete against I’m trying to get first, no less.”
Fortugno clocked in an NCAA automatic qualifying time in the 400 along with the championship and has already had a provisional time in the 200. Turner reached automatic qualifying distances as well.
Also representing the Leopards this weekend was junior Marcus Denerson, DeAntwann Johnson, Chancise Watkins, Michael Sacoto, A.J. Licon and Jared Manke.
On the women’s side was the 15th place 4×100-meter relay team of Lili Bolanos, Samantha Tucker, Ebony Williams and Nicole Crutchfield, who finished in 49.86 seconds.
The other women representatives for La Verne were Liz Gonzales and Clarissa Holz, who competed in the 400 hurdles.
“It’s an honor because we haven’t done this in a while. The women’s 4×100 hasn’t come to this meet in a while,” Bolanos said.
The men finished in ninth place with 36 points, whereas the women finished unranked with no points scored.
La Verne now looks to the SCIAC No. 2 meet against CMS, Redlands and Occidental at Redlands.
“It’s going to be really hard because Oxy and Redlands, we’re going to go against them. It’s going to be really close. It’ll probably come down to the 4×4 relays for the men and the women,” head coach Pat Widolff said.
“We probably have the best team in SCIAC,” Turner said. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I think we’re going to do some work on them.”
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.