Bri Villanueva, Eddie Chagoya throw in slow mo
Atascadero’s Bri Villanueva and Paso Robles’ Kristen Thompson know each other well. The cross-county rival throwers have been competing against each other all season on the Central Coast. On Friday, they will square off again, this time more than 200 miles south of the North County.
Villanueva and Thompson will be joined by four more San Luis Obispo County athletes at Cerritos College in Norwalk, just outside of Los Angeles, on Friday at the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet to compete for a spot in the CIF State Meet next week.
The Tribune caught up with each athlete this week as they prepared for the event.
Kristen Thompson, Paso Robles, Discus
Last week, before the CIF-Southern Section Divison 3 Finals, Thompson stopped and pivoted her foot as she walked through the store aisles of Target. It’s a key move for the discus thrower that helps her generate speed on a turn. Her mom took notice.
“I haven’t seen you do that in a long time. It’s going to be a good weekend,” she said.
Like most moms, she was right. The senior Bearcat set a personal record with a throw of 131-09 and finished in third place to earn a spot in the Masters on Friday. Kristen thinks she can do even better. At practice on Tuesday, Thompson said she hit 138.
So what’s the key to duplicating her practice throws so she can advance to the state meet?
“Honestly, it’s my mom,” Kristen said. “Whenever I feel like I’m doing terrible in a competition I say, ‘Mom, come talk to me.’ I think it just soothes me. I don’t know how, but she knows what to say.”
Thompson will depart for Southern California with fellow Bearcat Codie Wilshusen, another athlete who received a lot of help from one of her parents on the way to the Masters.
Codie Wilshusen, Paso Robles, Pole Vault
Wilshusen captured lightning in a bottle at the PAC 8 Championships in early May. The diminutive pole-vaulting junior cleared 12 feet, a personal best. The resulting celebration with her father and coach, Jim, created one of the meet’s more memorable moments.
To advance to the state meet, Wilshusen, who says she has been hitting 12 feet and 12-6 in practice this week, only needs to clear 11-7.
“Hopefully, that will be not too difficult to do, and then PR from there is the goal,” Wilshusen said. “I went to Masters last year, but I missed the state mark by one bar. So that is the big goal this year, to make it all the way to state.”
Wilshusen cleared 11-9 at sectionals last week to qualify for Masters.
“Physically, I feel really good,” Wilshusen said. “Mentally, I don’t feel too bad. I’m a little nervous. But I’m excited at the same time, so they kind of even each other out.”
Bri Villenueva, Atascadero, Discus
For Villenueva, throwing a discus is like a dance. And just like a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars,” she has been working on her footwork and spins this week in Atascadero to prepare for the Masters.
“I try to be loose,” Villenueva said. “Mainly my goal (for Masters) is just to relax and kind of be smooth with it in the back (of the ring), and when I move forward, accelerate so I have some more pop.”
Since discus is like a dance, it’s only right that the senior listens to music before she throws.
“It’s kind of weird,” she said. “I like listening to slower songs, something calming to relax. It helps me relax and think of how I’m throwing and just go with it.”
It’s also a mental dance.
“Last week, when I was in the hotel before we were about to leave, I was like, ‘Oh gosh, I feel it. I’m getting nervous!’ ” Villenueva said.
Villenueva overcame her nerves and waltzed her way into the Masters with a personal record throw of 135-1.
Callum Bolger, SLO, 3,200m
Callum Bolger has been turning heads all year with his performances in cross country and track. Last week, he broke necks.
Bolger smoked the competition in the 3,200 meter race at the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 Finals and beat his personal record in the 1,600 meter race with a second-place finish.
“In the higher competition races, it’s easier to run faster because there are so many people running fast,” Bolger said.
With 500 meters left in the 3,200 meter race, Bolger turned it on to win by 11 seconds with a time of 8:57.22.
This week, the goal for the junior is to finish in the top six or run faster than a 9:07. Either will earn him a spot in the state meet.
“I probably won’t try to go all out for the win,” Bolger said. “I will just stick with the pack and stay as relaxed as possible.”
Despite qualifying, Bolger won’t run in the 1,600 meter race at Masters. Bolger feels his best chance to go far will be in the event’s longest race.
“Last week was a little bit hard,” said Bolger, who ran the 1,600 before the 3,200 last week. “In this meet, it will be nice to put everything out there for just one race.”
Anneke Moersdorf, SLO, High Jump
SLO High freshman Anneke Moersdorf has finished in the top three of four different events this season: shot put, long jump, high jump and the 200-meter race. But it is the jumping events in which Moersdorf has excelled.
Her personal record last week at the Division 3 Finals in the long jump (18-1.25w) didn’t qualify for the Masters, but her mark of 5-3 in the high jump earned her a spot.
“I have a chance of making it to state, but I have to have a good meet,” Moersdorf said. “I think I can. But I’m nervous.”
Moersdorf said she cleared 5-3 this week and 5-5 last week.
Her approach this week has been simple.
“I just stay focused and think about flying,” she said.
Eddie Chagoya, Arroyo Grande, Shot Put
Eddie Chagoya thought he would be heading to Masters for discus. Instead, the Arroyo Grande junior finished first at the PAC 8 Championships in shot put and 14th in discus. He followed it up with a personal record shot put throw of 55-9.25 at the Division 2 Finals to finish fourth last week and qualify for Masters.
“When I would practice discus, there was always the thought of doing the best in the county,” Chagoya said. “Whereas with shot put, I was there to have fun and throw shot put. I think inevitably that’s what helped me get a little bit better.”
On Friday, Chagoya expects to be the smallest competitor, but he’s used to it. In a sport dominated by burly athletes, at 6-foot-1 and about 190 pounds, Chagoya is downright tiny.
“It makes it better for me because it puts a chip on my shoulder,” Chagoya said. “People are like, ‘Oh, this guy isn’t going to do well,’ So I have to go out there and prove them wrong.”