Piedmont High School’s Parker Long finished sixth in his heat in the 800 meters at the California Interscholastic Federation championships on May 26. Competing against the best runners in California and some of the best in the nation at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis, Long failed to advance to the finals on May 27.
“It was an interesting race,” Long said. “My goal coming into it was to get top three and get to the final.”
It was not to be. Long finished in one minutes, 55.83 seconds. His personal-best of 1:53.25 would have been good enough to win the heat.
He said he didn’t feel his best as the race unfolded.
“I just didn’t feel like myself,” Long said. “The first lap it was 59 and it felt like a 55. I had so many thoughts in my head. I didn’t know what to expect. Last week, it was people I raced before. During the race, I remember we started and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go in front or go to the back and be patient.
“The race is so short and you can’t be thinking about what you’re doing.”
Long found himself without a game plan. With 200 meters to go, he tried to take off, a strategy that has worked well for him all season.
“I tried to make a kick to catch up,” he said. “I was slowly moving up. Then 100 to go they all were moving away from me. I felt tired.”
Jackson Hein of Pleasant Valley-Chico ended up winning the heat in 1:54.17. Joseph Lighthall of Hughson won the title the next night in 1:52.06.
Long became the first Piedmont athlete to win an event at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions since 2005 when Mark Ceraldi (boys 1,600) and Kera Bartlett (girls pole vault) each won titles. He also is the first Highlander to win the boys 800 since Gordon Johnson won back-to-back championships in 1988-89.
Piedmont’s 1,600 relay team, which included Long along with Christian Taylor, Jack Zirkelbach-Ngai and Sam Shelby, ran at the end of the night on May 26. Piedmont finished seventh in its heat in 3:23.84, which was a little faster than their qualifying time from the Meet of Champions on May 20 (3:24.58).
“After the 800, I knew I wouldn’t be coming back for the finals,” Long said. “I tried to have fun with (the relay). Because it was going to be the last race of my high school career. I think everyone on our team ran as well as we can. The 4×4 is super competitive in California. There are teams that are so fast.”
Indeed there are. The relays at the state meet are traditionally the event that gets the crowd going, and the Southern California teams tend to dominate. But not always. Los Gatos won Piedmont’s heat in 3:15.88 and then came in second (3:13.97) the next night to Poly-Long Beach (3:12.99) and ahead of a strong Granada Hills team (3:15.14).
“We wanted to break our school record so we were disappointed in that,” Long said. “But it’s hard to be disappointed with going to the state meet.”
Photos by Pouyan Assadi