MESA — No state championship was on the line but that didn't make the 4x100 relay Division II preliminaries at the AIA State Track and Field Championships any less special for Casa Grande Union's Dariana James.

It was 38 years ago that James' grandmother, Shena Craddock, was on the school-record-setting 4x 00 relay team at CG Union. That mark barely stood a couple of years ago and James was determined that she and her teammates would be the ones to beat the record.

They did that during the regular season and did one better Saturday at Mesa Community College where their sizzling 49.10 not only was the quartet's best. It won their heat, was the fourth-best overall time posted and qualified them for the finals this Saturday at MCC.

"We ran with a lot of confidence," James said. "This means a lot because we thought we should have qualified last year (in the 4x100) except that Jaycie (Spencer) was injured so we couldn't run."

The Cougars are a team not only with speed but with youth as well. James is the only senior. Junior Ja'Lyn White ran the leadoff leg followed by sophomore Lilly Calderon, James and junior Spencer.

"We all ran with heart," White said. "The most important thing was qualifying (for the finals)."

"It was more competitive for us running with so many good teams," added Calderon. "It helped push us harder. I think we can do even better and the competition will certainly be better (Saturday)."

The school record before this season was 49.93. It was lowered to 49.92 and 49.49 before the quartet's best effort on a warm, windy Saturday. Now, the girls have yet another goal.

"We'd like to do a sub-49," Spencer said.

CG Union coach Kurt Kieser was pleased with the demeanor and competitiveness showed by his runners.

"They obviously ran well," Kieser said. "The object was to run well enough to get to return and they did that. Nothing seems to faze them. They're a pretty solid group."

The CG Union boys qualified for the 4x100 finals as well, nabbing the ninth and final spot, despite limited time running together as a team. D.J. Walker, Erik Nelson, Robbie Campbell and Mehki Hibbler ran a personal-best 43.01 to earn a second visit to Mesa CC.

"We had a hard time running this year," Kieser said. "They ran together three times because of injuries or church. In their last meet, we dropped the baton. We had to wait and see if we even got in, and we qualified 16th. So, I thought the boys ran well all things considered."

The Vista Grande boys placed 12th in the 4x800 relay. The quartet of senior Kenny Hernandez, junior Jordan Verduzco and freshmen Eddy Aviles and Julien Villescaz turned in a time of 8:28.


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