Correction: Updated with quotes from sports reporter Travis Guy
By Dan Engler
CHANDLER - Heather Calandra made the biggest splash in the biggest track and field pool the Mingus Union track and field team has been in this year.
"I think it was good for them, but I think as far as when you look at things we were able to do with personal bests and stuff like that, we saw a lot of positive things down there," said head coach Yancey DeVore. "It was another stepping stone for us to build upon and it was a really good meet and it was really good for our kids to see that higher level of competition out there. I think its overall good for us."
Calandra finished third in the shot put during Saturday's 74th edition of the Chandler Rotary Invitational, a two-day prep showcase that attracted 124 schools and thousands of athletes from several states.
Calandra's toss of 41-feet 9 1/2-inches was a season best for the Mingus senior and a scant 2-inches off the second-place finish by Chandler phenom Ky Westbook, who holds the state record in the event. Calandra came back later in the day to finish 9th in the discus with a throw of 102-5.
"The competition was definitely more because ... like in my division (Division-III), I'm way above what everyone else is, so going against the Division-I girls there's a lot more competition," Calandra said.
The first day of the Chandler meet was for non-seeded athletes, which allowed an excellent opportunity for several Mingus athletes to compete against runners, jumpers and throwers who are among the very best Mingus will see this year.
Senior Dakota Hanks took advantage of the opportunity and turned in the best performance of the day for the Marauders with a heat-winning 51.5-second clocking 400-meters, his best time of the year and the fourth best time of the day in the event.
Also on Day 1, freshman Brianna Epperson continues to impress with a 51.18-second clocking in the girls 300-meter hurdles, good enough for second in her heat and moves her into the No. 2 spot in the state in the event among division 3 schools.
Also noteworthy for Mingus was junior Levi Collins, who upped his PR in the shot put by 2-feet with a throw of 42-feet, 3-inches, good enough for 8th place in Friday's non-seeded session.
Mingus senior Justine Taylor ran 60.25 to easily win her heat in girls 400 seeded race. That was the fastest time of the morning session and advanced her to the evening elite race, where she clocked a 61.8.
Also in the morning session, Mingus junior Jordan Bramblett recorded the first sub-10 minute 3,200-meter race of his career with a 9:56.27 in boys seeded race, good enough for 6th place.
"I was pretty happy," Bramblett said. "It was my first under-10 two mile, so I was pretty happy."
In the boys 4X400, the Mingus team of Mike Gilboy, Jordan Bramblett, Dakota Hanks and Ryan Talbot tied Mingus' season-best performance with a 3:37 clocking, No. 6 overall in the seeded meet. In the boys' elite 400, Talbot was 9th overall in 50.5 seconds. In the boys 800, Sedona-Red Rock senior Travis Okie was 7th in 1:57.39.
"I didn't do my best on Saturday, but it definitely made me work harder so I can be stronger competition," Talbot said. "It was a great experience and I learned where I need to be midseason and work toward my goals that I set."
Sophomore Megan Goettl was 16th in the girls' elite 800 meters in 2:24.51 and also recorded a 5:24 in the 1600 meters. Senior Monica Soliz picked up a state-qualifying time in the girls 3200 meters with a 12:07.10 clocking in her first race of the season.
"It was a little nerve racking because I hadn't raced yet," Soliz said. "It was my first meet of the year. It was a little scary being in this huge meet with seven different states there and we saw people that we've never seen before. It was a great experience, it was just a little nerve racking for me, personally."
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