Football stand-out Jalen Saunders hopes to revive the role of the two-sport collegiate athlete
The women’s track and field team kicked off the indoor track season with the Run for the Dream Invitational on the state’s only indoor track at the Save Mart Center on Friday.
Former Fresno State track and field coach Bob Fraley created the event six years ago to bring premiere talent to the Central Valley. The invitational has since grown with schools and individual athletes from across the nation, and even around the world, making the trip to compete.
USC, UCLA, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and Fresno State were some of the schools that competed in the invitational. Run for the Dream also had an open division for individual athletes who wanted to compete over the weekend.
Fresno State wide receiver Jalen Saunders, a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference football player, was among the male athletes who competed in the open division. Saunders, who led the WAC in receiving touchdowns with 12, returned to the track for the first time since his days at Pleasant Grove High School.
Saunders competed in the 55-meter dash against some most talented runners from across the state on Friday. Among them was former Fresno State track star Josh Norman, who has been training for indoor events for years. In his first heat run, Saunders nearly won, finishing a close second behind Norman. Off the blocks, he was faster than anyone, but near the end his speed topped off, giving Norman opportunity to pass.
“I have a tendency of doing that sometimes, and it’s a bad habit that I need to break,” Saunders said. “But I just need to try to come out and run faster next time.”
Saunders’ 55-meter dash time was 6.47 seconds, comparable to his 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds. Saunders said he wants to make a run at becoming a two-sport collegiate athlete this year, if new head football coach Tim DeRuyter lets him.
The women’s indoor track team was the only Fresno State-affiliated team that competed in Run for the Dream. In the women’s 55-yard dash university division, both sophomore Breeauna Thompson and freshman Tanea Turner finished first in their heats. Freshman Annette Washington and junior Shanelle Stephens finished second in their heats, giving Fresno State four sprinters in the top 16 overall in the university division. Stephens was the lone Bulldog to qualify for the finals, clocking a time of 7.08 seconds, good enough for a third-place finish.
But it was in the Livestock Pavilion where sophomores Meagan McKee and Caitlin Byrd stole the show in shot put and weight throw. McKee took the title in shot put, throwing a personal-best 51-feet 0.25-inches. McKee also finished fourth in the weight throw with a mark of 59-5.50. Byrd gave Fresno State a first-place finish in the hammer throw on her sixth-and-final attempt with a 61-8.50 throw, beating out UCLA’s Ida Storm by nine inches.
Run for the Dream is now the premiere indoor track and field event in Fresno. Fraley originally started the invitational to help teach high school students to not give up on their dreams and to strive for the highest level of competition.