COSTA MESA — Karlèh Wilson did her best to stay calm throughout Saturday morning at Jim Scott Stadium.
As the Corona del Mar High junior prepared to compete in the shot put at the CIF Southern Section Division III track and field preliminaries, she listened to reggae to soothe her spirits.
As the meet approached she stayed calm. She competed in the girls' 4x100 relay then went to warm up for the shot put.
The reggae beats continued to flow, but when she went up for her first throw, there was nothing calm or peaceful about it.
Wilson's personal record of 41 feet, 3 inches earned her the top qualifying spot to the CIF Southern Section finals Saturday at Cerritos College. Several local athletes from CdM, Costa Mesa and Estancia competed at Jim Scott Stadium vying to qualify for next week's meet. Wilson qualified second in the discus. CdM junior Ashlee Powers also qualified in two events, grabbing the sixth spot in the 1,600 meters in 5 minutes, 6.16 seconds and sixth in the 3,200 in 11:10.31.
Last week, Wilson won the Pacific Coast League title in the shot put with a mark of 39-2 1/2, her previous best. She also won the PCL title in the discus. She improved two feet on her personal best in the discus to grab the second qualifying spot Saturday after a 124-8 throw. Heather Hawes of Nipomo qualified first at 126-1.
"I just calmed myself down the whole morning and [Friday] I was very calm," Wilson said of competing in the shot put. "I didn't let the other girls psyche me out. When they were warming up they were going 40 [feet], but they were scratching. My very first throw was 41-3 and it was a relief. It felt like I was done and I could relax."
Isaias Morales, a CdM throws coach, said the calm approach has helped Wilson. But there are other aspects benefitting her, he said.
"Her speed helps," Morales said. "She's so fast and she's so powerful. We've been working in the weight room on her lifts. She's gotten to that point that she's not worrying about how far she can throw but just making sure she's doing it right."
Wilson said she's in her second year of competing in the shot put. She tried it a bit while in middle school when she went in Louisana, but got serious when she came to CdM last year. Her mother still lives in Louisana, in Hammond, near the flooding that has recently taken place. Wilson said her mother is fine. She spoke with her Friday and plans to share the good news about next week's meet soon.
Some good news also came for CdM senior Devon Hoppe, who is also new to her event: the 800 meters. Last week, she helped CdM to a third-place finish by winning the PCL title in the 800, which she just began running this year. Last year, she qualified for the CIF preliminaries in the 400 and reached the CIF Southern Section finals on the 4x400 relay team. But this year she broke through by reaching the CIF finals for the first time in an individual event.
She qualified sixth with a personal-record time of 2:17.42.
"For the first few meets, I was getting the hang of it," Hoppe said of the 800. "I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I'm definitely getting better."
Orange Lutheran senior Ava Kent, a Costa Mesa resident, qualfiied seventh in the 1,600 in 5:07.62 and is headed to next week's meet.
The CdM boys' 4x400 relay team qualified eighth in 3:24.81. Last week, the CdM quartet of John Swigert, Alex Turney, Ryan Rodrigues and Kyle Iverson went 3:26.38 to take third at the PCL finals, where the Sea Kings finished third as a team.
CdM junior Blake Myers is the first alternate in the 1,600 as he finished 10th in 2:26.82. The top nine in each event qualified for the finals.