When it comes to putting relays together, injuries kept Jesuit sprint coach Rod Jett on edge all season.
He lost key relay sprint standouts Thomas Sperbeck (ankle) and Kaba Alkebulan (broken wrist) during the season, though Sperbeck continued to compete in other events.
Then on the eve of Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section Masters track and field championships at Elk Grove High School, Jett thought star junior Austin Mitsch might also be done.
Mitsch, the section leader in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, re-strained his groin running a blazing anchor leg in the 4x100 relay at Thursday's trials. He later qualified in the 100 meters but decided to scratch the 200, even though he's ranked No. 11 in California.
Uncertain how he'd hold up, Mitsch fought through the pain Friday to anchor the 4x100 relay team to a winning time of 42.18 to qualify for the CIF State Championships on Friday and Saturday in Clovis.
Mitsch and fellow relay member Loren Pilorin then teamed to also qualify for state in the 100, placing first (11.08) and third (11.32), respectively.
"Now I can finally breathe a little," Jett said.
Mitsch spent Friday icing his groin and wearing an electrical stimulation device to aid blood flow. He also received a chiropractic massage from Peter Grimes, a friend of Jett's, before the start of the meet.
"He worked some magic," Mitsch said.
Mitsch said he strained his groin at the May 18 D-I section championships, but had been feeling OK in practice.
"It tightened up even more after the 100," Mitsch said of his second event in the trials. "That's when I figured I had to drop the 200, that it was best for my health."
Quipped Pilorin: "Good decision."
Pilorin, who will run track at Stanford in the fall, knows all about a troublesome groin. He missed nearly two years of track because of injury, returning to competion in mid-April.
"I had a really bad groin that I kept running on, and I eventually split my pelvis," Pilorin said. "So to come back without doing any sprinting whatsoever and do this well is really surprising."
Pilorin ran the second leg on Friday, taking the baton from Jacy Neczypor, a sophomore who was running on the relay for only the second time. He replaced Aklebulan just before the D-I section meet. Senior Zane Westmoreland ran the third leg, with Mitsch finishing up in what is a section best time.
"If we can get under 42 at state, we have a good chance of getting to the finals," Jett said.
In other area highlights:
Monterey Trail suffered a huge setback when girls section 100 and 200 leader Esther Higgwe collapsed with a leg injury 40 yards from the finish line of the 200. Higgwe earlier had won the girls 100 (12.32) and anchored the 4x100 girls relay team (47.56) to victories. Higgwe's teammate, A'Jah Love, won the 200 in 25.40.
Fairfield's Daje Pugh goes down in the books as the section's greatest girls hurdler in winning the girls 100 hurdles (13.95) and 300 hurdles (42.02). She finishes with seven Masters titles.
McClatchy's Jordan Monteiro-Williams (22 feet, 10.25 inches) finished first in the long jump and placed second in the boys 200 (22.41).
Del Oro's Casey Wheeler won the boys 300 hurdles (38.17), placed third in the boys 110 high hurdles (14.50) and was a member of the winning 4x400 (3:19.71).
Rosemont's Nia Dorner, ranked No. 2 in California, repeated as the girls 400 champion (55.07).
Antelope's Robert Ellis won the boys 200 meters (22.01).
Ponderosa's Brittany Anselmo won the girls 800 (2:14.29) and teammate Sydney Blakely the girls pole vault (11-8).
In the distance races, Del Campo's Jordan Rushing won his second consecutive boys 1600 (4:17.47); Vista del Lago's Madeleine Ankhelyi won the girls 3200 (10:40.54); and Monterey Trail's William Reyes won the boys 3200 (9:19.77).
Davis won the girls 4x400 relay (3:57.28)