The pressure experienced by a defending champion is quite unique. An extremely high standard of excellence is hard to maintain two years in a row.
But Castro Valley High track and field star Sasha Wallace not only found a way but also added to her workload with a new event.
The Oregon-bound Wallace became the first East Bay high school girl to successfully defend two individual titles at the California Interscholastic Federation state championships.
Her winning time of 13.43 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles final led the state and was ranked No. 2 in the nation this season, according to DyeStat.com. Wallace also soared 41 feet, 91/2 inches in the triple jump final to win by 18 inches. Her season-best mark of 42-4, set at the Sacramento Meet of Champions, was the best wind-legal mark in the nation during the California high school season.
Wallace has also defended another title. She has been named the Bay Area News Group East Bay Female Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row.
"Sasha's one of those rare types where she not only has plenty of talent but has those skills highly polished and comes to compete with the maturity and focus quite rare at the prep level," Rich Gonzalez, editor of PrepCalTrack.com, wrote in an e-mail to this newspaper. "In terms of her overall approach, she's light-years ahead of her competition, and that makes all the difference in the world come the big meets."
Wallace also competed in the long jump for the first time in April. In less than two months, she tied a North Coast Section Meet of Champions record in the long jump (20 feet, 2 inches) and placed sixth in the event at the state championships.
Some athletes may view a challenge to defend state titles as pressure-filled. Wallace didn't look at it that way.
"I didn't really feel pressure, because it's something I really want to do. It's something I love doing," Wallace said. "I think the whole basis of track is individual growth."
Wallace improved by nearly two feet from her first long jump competition to her fourth before the state championships.
"I've always wanted to try it. A lot of people go into long jump before triple," Wallace said. "I like to try new things to see if I like it or not. I love (the long jump)."
Wallace, who was undefeated this high school season in both the 100 hurdles and the triple jump, was dominant in both events at the state championships.
In the finals, she not only won the triple jump with her first attempt, which was her best mark of the competition, but her second- and third-best jumps of the competition (41-3, 41-1) also would have won the event.
In the 100 hurdles final, she was first at the first hurdle and won by a huge .31 seconds. In the preliminaries, she was the top finals qualifier in the 100 hurdles by an even bigger margin (.45) and was the top triple jump finals qualifier by 171/2 inches.
Here were the nominees for Bay Area News Group East Bay Female Athlete of the Year, along with results of the readers poll.
Annie Shurtz, Campolindo, 40 percent
RaeAnn Garza, James Logan, 33 percent
Johanna Grauer, Amador Valley, 8 percent
Chelsea Chenault, Carondelet, 7 percent
Sasha Wallace, Castro Valley, 7 percent
Oderah Chidom, Bishop O'Dowd, 4 percent
Alexa Vandevanter, San Ramon Valley, 1 percent