CHANDLER – Lee Gundy moved up from competing in the 400 meters to the 800 less than two months ago.
At the time, he was just hoping to finish races.
Thursday, the Mountain View senior surprised himself by overtaking defending champion German Jimenez of Peoria Centennial in the final 10 meters for the Class 5A Division II title at Chandler High.
Gundy didn’t even win the 5A-II Southern Region championship last week at Tucson High in the 800. That went to Ironwood Ridge’s Anthony Li, son of University of Arizona distance track coach James Li.
It was a fight to the finish between Gundy, Jimenez and Li.
Jimenez said he felt contact in the back in the last 10 meters by a flailing Gundy, but, despite a protest from Centennial coaches, Gundy’s first 800 victory was upheld by officials.
Ironwood Ridge junior Steve Magnuson, who won the boys 1,600 earlier Thursday, had the best time coming into the meet after running one minute, 55 seconds in Tucson early in the season.
But Magnuson was forced to run in the slower heat Thursday because he was ill with the flu for last week’s regional. He finished eighth.
“I didn’t know he was out of the (fast heat),” Gundy said.
Gundy won in 1:56.26 with Jimenez second (1:56.75).
“I love the race now,” Gundy said about moving from the 400 to 800. “It feels good when I finish.”
The Ironwood Ridge boys team was favored to win the state championship, but it will take a huge effort in Saturday’s finals after Magnuson’s finish and a dropped a handoff in the 4×100 preliminary-heat relay led to disqualification.
The Ironwood Ridge girls, however, have a shot at winning a title behind distance runner Sarah Miville, who won the 3,200 in 11:21, a personal best by 10 seconds. Miville will also compete in Saturday’s 1,600. She is the defending state champion in both events.
Rincon/University sprinter Tamara Pridgett had the fastest times in the preliminaries for the 100 and 200.
For more on high school sports, check out the Grammer School sports blog.