The 400-meter event at high school track and field meets is often overshadowed by the 100 meters, which directly follows it.
But the boys invitational 400-meter race at the Sacramento Meet of Champions on Saturday will be an event not to be missed. Of the state's top eight performers in the event this season, according to PrepCalTrack.com, four will be competing in this invitational at American River College.
That list includes Heritage junior Frank Kurtz, who leads the state with a time of 47.32 seconds, and San Leandro's Christian Carter, whose time of 47.53 this season ranks second in the state. Kurtz's time also ranks seventh in the nation, according to DyeStat.com.
"If the conditions are right this weekend, I think he will get in the 46's," said Heritage coach Kevin Bain about Kurtz. "I'm excited to see what he will do on Saturday."
Carter won the Mt. SAC Relays high school boys invitational division 400 last week. Joe Herrera of Tulare Western, who ranks seventh on the PrepCalTrack.com list with a time of 48.33, and Sheldon-Sacramento's Cameron Stone (eighth, 48.64) are also entered in Saturday's meet.
The girls 100 hurdles field is also loaded with talent. Castro Valley's Sasha Wallace, whose time of 13.43 at the Mt. SAC Relays leads the nation in the event, will be in the field.
Other competitors in Saturday's field who are ranked in the top six in the state include San Leandro's Kortni Smyers-Jones (fourth, 13.94), Vacaville's Pattriana Perry (fifth, 13.98) and Newark Memorial's Taylor Craft (sixth, 14.06).
At last year's state championships, Wallace won the 100 hurdles final, with Perry and Smyers-Jones placing fourth and sixth, respectively. Wallace also won the girls triple jump final at that meet and will be competing in that event Saturday.
The boys triple jump will be another event to watch. Castro Valley's Nate Moore has a wind-legal mark of 48 feet, 111/2 inches that leads the state, according to PrepCalTrack.com. But James Logan's Jeffrey Prothro Jr. leaped a wind-aided 49-0 at the Bay Area Top 8 Meet last week. Teammate Karsten Wethington ranks fourth in the state with a wind-legal leap of 47-103/4. All three are entered in the event Saturday.
Restarting a program is never easy. But in just its second season after its program was suspended because of a lack of participation, Castro Valley is ahead of schedule.
After Tuesday's West Alameda County Conference loss to Alameda, the Trojans are 11-7 overall, 8-2 in league play and likely to be eligible for the North Coast Section Division I playoffs.
"It would be a huge accomplishment for the program to make NCS," said Castro Valley coach Matt Williams, who is in his first season with the team. "For the boys I think it will be a big party, and a huge boost of confidence for them after a mission conquered."
A trip to the NCS playoffs would help a Trojans program still trying to earn enough respect to schedule quality nonleague games and tournaments.
Should it make the postseason, Castro Valley likely would play a well-established team in the first round.
"I think we will ride in to NCS on teamwork, dedication and strength," Williams said. "We have strong hitters and two really good setters that help control the tempo of the game."
-- Matt Smith, correspondent