GILROY — Watsonville High sophomore Layla Ruiz is on her way to the Central Coast Section track and field finals after qualifying in a pair of long distance races during Saturday’s trials.
But the big news was she broke a school record that stood for nearly 30 years after she finished the 1,600-meter race in 5 minutes, 9.22 seconds — close to four seconds faster than the previous record.
“Today was really about taking down that mile record because I usually focus on the two mile and this was my chance,” Ruiz said. “I knew that I was gonna get to break the mile record and it’s something I’d been wanting to since I came in as a freshman. Being able to do that was so good.”
Martha Luna set the record in 1990 when she finished the 1,600 in 5:12.94.
“I have strategies and everything, but I just try to make sure that I was sticking through no matter how much pain, because I knew no matter what, there was going to be pain,” she said. “I was just gonna have to push myself through that.”
Ruiz said all the girls participating in the CCS Championships are extremely talented in their respective event but used that as fuel to get through the race.
Ruiz said she was able to see at what pace she was running at and it gave her an idea how far along she was to breaking the record.
“I knew that I was going to be able to use (the runners) to pull me and push me through,” she said. “I made sure to stick with them and just positive reinforcement throughout the entire time.”
Ruiz also qualified in the 3,200 after she finished in 11:30.96, which was good enough for the final qualifying spot.
“It’s not the best two mile (race) I’ve ever ran, but I’m not gonna say that it’s not gonna get better,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz participated in the 4x100 alongside freshmen Jasmine Navarro, Dominique Cervantes-Samudio and Mayra Peralta-Caledon, which finished 18th in 4:17.53 and was good for a new freshman-sophomore record.
Watsonville High coach Rob Cornett said this year they wanted to put all their eggs in one basket by allowing Ruiz to run in both long distance races plus the 4x400 relay.
Cornett said they wanted to use the 1,600 as a chance to break the school record and it turned out to be the best day to do it.
“(Ruiz) did it perfectly,” he said.
Cornett said they were a bit concerned about the 3,200 because of the warm temperatures, which got as high as 74 degrees. He said they might consider dropping out of the 1,600 but will talk things through with Ruiz over as the week progresses.
“Her race is the two mile,” he said. “That’s her bread and butter race and we’ve been working all year to get to that two mile.”
Watsonville High sophomore Jonathan Arroyo set a personal record in the pole vault by leaping 11-feet, 6-inches, which placed him tied for 19th at the Central Coast Section track and field championships on Friday at Gilroy High. (Juan Reyes — Register-Pajaronian)
Senior Rodrigo Hernandez recorded a throw in the shot put that went 48-feet, 8 and 1/2 inches, which was good enough for eighth and a spot in next week’s CCS finals. However, the throw is still under review by CCS officials.
“He was doing the best that he could and we know it,” Cornett said. “It’s better to try and fail, or foul in this case, and give it your all.”
Other finishers of Watsonville High’s team include senior Jesse Mandujano, who placed 23rd (51.78) in the 400, while sophomore Jorge Guerrero placed 27th (17.25) in the 110 meter high hurdles.
Sophomore Jonathan Arroyo set a personal record in the pole vault by leaping 11 feet, 6 inches, which placed him tied for 19th.
“It actually means a lot because I’ve been practicing five days a week and really putting in the effort,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo said there was a bit of pressure going into the event, especially because a lot of his classmates made it a big deal about him going to the CCS trials as a sophomore.
“Qualifying for CCS is a big deal, we let them know that,” Cornett said.
Cornett also added they let the athletes know the reality is they’re at the even trying to set a new personal record.
“It’s an outside shot you might make it but really you’re just trying to PR here,” he said. “If you belong here, it’s kind of nice.”
Editor's Note: This article will be published in the May 17 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.