<b>GENERATIONAL ATHLETE:</b> San Marcos High’s Erica Schroeder was raised by UCSB swimming stars Richard and Dawn (Price) Schroeder, so while it may be surprising that she’s setting school records on the track, it’s clear that racing runs in her veins.
Paul Wellman (file)

For reasons both salutary and pecuniary, I missed out on two of the most hyped events of the year: the NFL Draft and the Fight of the Century. The former was a tediously speculative exercise; the latter, by most accounts, was a disappointingly impotent encounter between the aging yet extravagantly rewarded boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Who would have thought that the L.A. Clippers would provide the most stirring action of the weekend, their Game 7 triumph against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs? Then there was the Kentucky Derby, a classic in which decrepitude is never an issue — all the contestants are 3 years old — which had three California-based horses, led by American Pharoah, battling down the homestretch.

The Derby is billed as “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” which brings me to track and field, a favorite sport of mine that also has an oval as its setting. A very exciting two minutes transpired last month when San Marcos High sophomore Erica Schroeder competed in the girls’ 800-meter run at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational.

Schroeder was seeded last in the field of 14 — the equivalent of a 60-1 long shot in the Derby — and she was dead last after 400 meters. On the backstretch of the second lap, she made a strong move to the middle of the pack. She came flying around the final turn, picking off several more tiring runners, and down the stretch, she briefly tasted third place. She finished fifth in a startling time of 2:10:11, a new school record. Cassie Durgy, a junior from Huntington Beach, edged her out of fourth by .01. The top three were Mikaela Smith, a two-time California state champion from Clovis, and elite half-milers from Canada and Colorado.

Schroeder seemed destined by her breeding to be an exceptional athlete, but more likely in swimming rather than running. He parents, UCSB graduates Richard and Dawn (Price) Schroeder, were outstanding breaststrokers. Richard Schroeder won gold medals at both the 1984 and ’88 Olympic Games on U.S. relay teams. Dawn Schroeder, a San Marcos alum, twice qualified for the Olympic Trials.

“I tried every sport possible,” Erica Schroeder said. “I swam, but I didn’t have a passion for it. I did sprints and long jump and shot put in [Kellogg] elementary school. I played basketball and soccer — running was a big part of it. I ran in [La Colina] junior high PE.” She and her parents tried triathlons, which end with a run. “I ran the State Street Mile several times,” she said, “and I did Nite Moves [the waterfront swim-run event which takes place weekly from May-August].”

Erica was primed to go fast when she began her high school track career last year in the high-octane San Marcos program. Head coach Marilyn Hantgin and her staff of 13 assistants have instilled pride and enthusiasm in all of the Royals’ runners, jumpers and throwers. “The coaches are super supportive,” Schroeder said, “and the team, too. Everybody stays for the 4×4 [the last race of a dual meet] and lines the track. It’s definitely a team thing.” Erica scored many varsity points as a 9th grader, finishing her season as CIF Division 3 champ in the 800. Her best time was 2:15.3.

Strengthened by weight lifting and quickened by running a brisk 400, Schroeder was ready for a breakthrough in last month’s Arcadia 800. When she made her late move, teammate Adilene Aldapa said, “Everybody was into it. Coach Hantgin was holding onto me. She was squeezing me. ‘She’s running! She’s running!’ It was really intense.”

Aldapa, a senior distance runner, is another San Marcos success story. Unlike Schroeder, she did not have a strong sports background. “I wasn’t good at [running] at first,” she said. “I had to suck it up and get through it.” She found her stride as a junior. She captured the Channel League cross-country title last fall and two first-place finishes — in the 1600 and 3200 — at the recent County Track & Field Championships. “Adeline has transformed from a shy girl to a confident woman who loves competition,” Hantgin said. “She’s going to be the first in her family to go to college.” Aldapa will run track at San Jose State.

Schroeder easily won the county 800 at the windswept Carpinteria track. She finished second to Aldapa in the 1600 and tested her speed against mercurial Santa Ynez senior Jackie Chandler in the 400. Chandler, a UC Berkeley recruit whose best so far this year is a blazing 55.23, won by two seconds.

Up next for the San Marcos, Santa Barbara, and Dos Pueblos track-and-field teams are the Channel League Finals at Ventura on Friday, May 8. The CIF Southern Section Prelims, Finals, and Masters meets (state qualifying) on following weekends will lead up to the State Meet on June 5-6 at Clovis.

MAKING TRACKS: Elysia (Hodges) Mitchell had a stellar career at San Marcos, and during the past four years, she has rewritten the record book at Westmont College. She owns or shares records in six individual races (60, 100, 200, 400, 400 hurdles, and 600 meters), and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. She is a 10-time NAIA All-American and winner of back-to-back national titles in the indoor 600. Mitchell may take a shot at the 800 in her last college meet, the NAIA Championships at Gulf Shores, Alabama, on May 21-23. Her clocking of 2:11.94 this year is a fraction (.18) off another school record. “I knew it would hurt,” Mitchell said of the two-lap race. “I dealt with that just fine.” … Westmont’s men and women both won Golden State Athletic Conference team championships. It was a first for the women. San Marcos grad Shane Rowan took the men’s long jump (22’3½”) and triple jump (47’1”). … UCSB got two big marks (23’11” and 47’10”) from its horizontal jumper Oscar Pearson in a dual-meet victory over Cal Poly. The Big West Championships will take place May 15-16 at UC Riverside. … SBCC, featuring an elite 400 hurdler in Bas van Leersum, won the Western State Conference men’s championship for the first time in anyone’s memory.


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