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Friday, February 28, 2014

Dan Gabor Meet Preview by Amador Valley Coach, Jason Oswalt

2014 Dan Gabor Invitational

Dan Gabor is an Amador Valley Track and Field’s folk hero. He was the man amongst boys who had it all, chanced throwing it all away, but always came out smelling like roses. Despite all of his questionable decisions and unpredictable behavior, Dan could do no wrong. With his determination to do things his own way and his determination to make it all work, he frustrated and amazed his coaches all at the same time. His crazy hairstyles and rebellious nature frequently pissed people off, but right or wrong, his blazing fast times prompted some level of forgiveness. But Dan Gabor was not an unpredictable jerk who used big his big talent to get away with things.  Dan was a guy who was so talented that he got bored and out of boredom, he tried crazy things just to see if he could pull them off and most of the time, he could. Where his coaches were both frustrated and amazed by his actions, Dan’s peers were mostly just amazed and rightly so. Because beyond the Mohawk and skateboard, which is the image burned into the minds of those who knew him and remember him, and beyond the 1:50.71 800m time and subsequent state championship, was an athlete born to lead. Dan had the rare ability to do all the things that he did and somehow bring the whole team with him. Dan Gabor didn’t just win the state championship with the whole school watching, he made the entire school feel like they won the state championship. Everyone who knew Dan, and even some who didn’t were along for the ride and Dan wanted it that way. Those who experienced life with Dan Gabor experienced a blast of both confidence and courage, and just like all folk heroes, success in situations where success shouldn’t necessarily be expected.

                And in 2014, the track meet that bears his name, also bears his aura. How else would you explain a well-established meet changing formats and moving to a new weekend? People have been asking for six months why we changed to a one day meet instead of two. Well, have you seen the weather report for Friday? That’s why. Maybe, in reality, in true Dan fashion, we just wanted to see if we could pull it off, and so far, maybe with a little help from above from Dan Gabor himself, things are looking rosy. With meets statewide being canceled left and right due to the weather, the Gabor Invitational is still standing and now looks to be the state’s premier event this weekend. With stellar fields assembled in the girls’ 400m, the boys’ 100m, the boys’ 1600m, the girls’ 800m, and the girls’ 3200m maybe this is just something that Dan wanted us all to see.

Despite a break in the weather on Saturday, we still may see some showers in the morning, but the real storming will start we reach the premier heat of the girls’ 400m. This race takes place on March 1st and the girls’ 400m features seven athletes holding sub 60 credentials. Chloe Jenkins of St. Mary’s comes in with the fastest seed time at 57.50, but she’ll have her work cut out for her as the #6 seed in the field has run 58.60. This one could be the race of the day if weather cooperates.

Although Livermore’s Bennie Lokula boasts the only sub 11 clocking in the 100m, coming in at 10.90, Clayton Valley’s Xavier Crawford will be hot on his trail. With an 11.02 to his credit, he’ll be chasing the win and trying to join that sub-11 club himself. Between Lokula and Crawford and the five other athletes who come in seeded under 11.30, this race promises to be a preview of bigger races that we will be seeing later on in May.

By the time the sprinters clear out and the distance runners check in, the rain is expected to have completely passed over, and the boys’ 1600m has the potential to give the girls’ 400m a run for its money for race of the day. Who ya got? De La Salle’s top cross country man (8th place at Footlocker Nationals) put down a 4:14 last year, but then again, so did Acalanes’ Michael Wang. San Ramon Valley’s Jason Intravaia was knocking on the door last year clocking in at 4:20 and made his own gains in the fall, and the leading man from D5 state champion St. Joseph’s High School, Gabe Arias, will look to play a part in this action as well.

State finalist Madison Ricks leads the way in the girls’ 800 as five girls’ come in with sub 2:20 credentials and all 12 have run 2:25 or better. Chloe Jenkins will be doubling back from her earlier 400m, but has plenty of time to recover and be at full strength. Miramonte’s Georgia Roden has some early racing under her belt after a successful trip to the California Indoor Meet in Fresno a couple weeks ago. Bishop O’Dowd’s Emily Fieberling looks to make a name for herself here, and Armijo’s Gabriella Nathan looks comes in from the Sac Joaquin Section to make sure that the NCS doesn’t have all the fun at the Dan Gabor Invitational. The race could be even faster than it looks on paper as Monte Vista’s Chloe Winn, San Ramon Valley’s Kaitlin Eklam, and Amador Valley’s Annaka Green and Melodie Leroudier all own PR’s significantly faster than their seed times.

The women’s 3200 figures to be a barn burner as well, with three athletes sporting PR’s under 10:50. Two-time cross country state champion and sub 10:30 3200m star, Julia Maxwell of Branson, returns to the Gabor Invitational to defend her title from last year, but will be chased by NCS San Ramon Valley’s cross country champion Christine Bayliss and Monte Vista’s Brooke Starne. St. Mary’s Spencer Moore will look to join the group and add a sub-11:00 clocking to her already impressive resume as well. All told, nine athletes come in seeded at 11:30 or faster and sixteen runners at 12:00 or faster.

But the Dan Gabor Meet is more than just an exhibition of elites. It’s about great racing. With nearly 3000 athletes racing and athletes entered into heats along with athletes who run similar times, there should be some great battles coming down the stretch. Take heat 8 in the boys’ 800m for example where twenty athletes are seeded between 2:20.0 and 2:22.1. Can Monte Vista’s William Jones hold serve as the favorite, or might Dublin’s Rafael Gamboa pull the “upset”? Not if Northgate’s Jesus Rivas has anything to say about it, as he is seeded tenth in the heat, just one second behind the top seed. That scenario is not going to be uncommon Saturday and the wild weather may turn even more athletes into contenders. Saturday promises to provide PR’s by the thousands and maybe some other teams will have their folk heroes reveal themselves. Day or night, rain or shine, the 2014 Dan Gabor Invitational will give every athlete a chance to run like Dan.

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