Falcons flourish at finals

Courtesy of Steve Kane
Twenty-nine students from Blach Intermediate School qualified for the county track and field championships by placing in the top five at last month’s league meet. Front row, from left: Nolan Pham, Audrey Zhang, Ashley Smith, Mikayla Kim, Chloe Chan, Natalie Mark and Grace Hanson. Middle: Garrett Tran, Amanda Huang, Alex Anderson, Olivia Backholm, Ava Shahiar, Andrew Chang, Toki Morimoto, Hannah Meng and Maya Narang. Back: Grace Strode, Kate Stone, Zach Romero, Billy Peir, Devan Melwani, Ethan Choe, Manu Gupta, Kyle Deng, Jackson Kim, Joshua Byun, Evan Murdock, Tanay Doppalapudi and Spencer Straw.

Although it goes against tradition, it might be fitting for Maya Narang, Grace Strode, Audrey Zhang and Natalie Mark to graduate from Blach Intermediate School in that order this afternoon.

After all, that’s the order the four girls ran the 4x400-meter relay in seventh and eighth grade – and they never lost a race.

The formidable foursome capped this season with a come-from-behind victory in the eighth-grade girls division of the Santa Clara County track and field championships May 21 at Leland High in San Jose. The Falcons trailed Rolling Hills by approximately 15 feet when Natalie took the baton.

“We were behind a little bit and made it up at the end,” Natalie said. “On the second curve, I took the lead.”

The Falcons finished in 4 minutes, 23.79 seconds; runner-up Rolling Hills crossed the line more than 4 seconds behind them.

While Blach’s time was just shy of last year’s record-breaking run (4:23.18), the relay team did improve on its effort from the week before at the Valley Athletic League finals at Crittenden. The four girls combined for a 4:24.70, beating second-place Sunnyvale by more than 5 seconds.

Mark also won the 800 run at both meets after leading most of the way. She ran a 2:25.72 at league finals and a 2:26.09 at the county meet, claiming both races by approximately 4 seconds. The Los Altos resident placed second in the 100 dash at league finals (13.51) and was sixth in the event at the county meet (14.11).

“It was pretty tiring during the 100 because it was right after the 800,” Mark said.

And she began both meets by anchoring the 4x100 relay, a team that won league (54.15) and took third at county (53.98). Maya, Kate Stone and Toki Morimoto were part of the relay as well.

“I enjoy the relays the most,” Natalie said. “I like to compete with my teammates.”

Hannah Meng secured second place in the high jump (4 feet, 7 inches) and third in the 65-meter hurdles (11.21) at the league finals. She placed sixth in the latter at the county meet (11.63).

As a whole, Blach’s eighth-grade girls track team tied Miller for second at the county meet.

Grade 8 boys lead league

Led by strong runners and jumpers, Blach’s eighth-grade boys dominated the league finals – placing first by 24 points – and finished fourth at the county meet.

The Falcons’ 4x100 relay team of Manu Gupta, Kyle Deng, Andrew Chang and Jackson Kim won the league (48.59) and placed third in the county (48.95).

Additionally, Kyle placed second in three events at the league meet: the long jump (17-11.5), triple jump (36-9) and high jump (5-4).

“He was really strong,” said Steve Kane, Blach’s co-head coach and athletic director.

Teammate Zach Romero won the high jump at league finals (5-5) and was third at the county meet (5-4). Kyle cleared the same height, but in more attempts, for fourth and was second in the long jump (18-5).

Joshua Byun placed second in the 1,600 (5:02.32) and 800 (2:13.19) runs at league finals and also anchored the fourth-place 4x400 relay team (4:03.54).

“He’s an outstanding runner,” Kane said. “He did a great job.”

Billy Peir added a third-place finish in the discus (98-5) at league finals.

7th-grade girls surprise

While Kane expected the eighth-grade boys to excel this year, he said “the seventh-grade girls were a surprise.” The squad edged Egan for first place at league finals and placed fifth in the county.

Alex Anderson paced the Falcons by not only winning the 100 dash at league finals (13.36) and the county championships (14.10), but also anchoring the 4x100 relay team that finished first at both meets. Grace Hanson, Amanda Huang and Mikayla Kim joined forces with Alex to run a 54.96 at the league meet and 55.15 at the county meet.

Olivia Backholm captured the league title in the 1,600 (5:59.46) and was sixth at the county meet (5:51.83), one spot ahead of teammate Chloe Chan (5:53.55).

Ava Shahiar placed second in the shot put (26-11.5) and Ashley Smith took third in the 65-meter hurdles (11.87) at league finals.

Solid 7th-grade boys

None of Blach’s seventh-grade boys won an event at league finals, though several of them placed.

Evan Murdoch placed third in the mile (5:26.09) and Chase Caringella finished fourth in the 65 hurdles (10.54). Chase was also on the 4x100 relay team that came in third (52.50). At the county meet, Chase claimed fourth in the 65 hurdles (10.94).

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