SACRAMENTO — Mark Mastalir of Sacramento's Jesuit High School had the strategy for winning the 3,000 meters of the Golden West Invitational track and field meet here Saturday mapped out in the palm of his hand.
In his left palm, Mastalir had written three times--for himself, his twin brother Eric and Mark Dani of Valhalla High. The three runners had been training together for the meet and Dani had been staying with the Mastalir family while in Sacramento. Together, they hoped to keep a certain pace, with the winner challenging the nation prep record of 8:05.8.
The strategy unfolded perfectly until the fifth lap, when Dani slipped from third place to sixth. Eric Mastalir eventually won in 8:07.60, with Mark second in 8:10.34.
Dani finished sixth with a time of 8:43.03. Brian Boggess of El Capitan High, the only other San Diego County athlete at the meet, was third in the shotput with his toss of 61-feet 10-inches, a personal best.
The nation's eight best high school senior athletes in 15 events competed at Cal State Sacramento.
"We had a game plan. . . . I wanted one of us to get that record. I just blew up," said Dani, who said he was suffering from a minor cold before the event. "I dropped off really bad about the third lap, but I wanted to at least stick it out because that was my lap to lead."
Said Eric Mastalir: "The three of us had planned to go out and stay on a record pace together. If things dropped off, I knew that I would have to go out on my own.
"I thought (Dani) would be up there for at least six laps."
Dani and the Mastalir brothers became friends after the Kinney meet in San Diego last December. When Dani found out Thursday that he would be running in the Golden West meet, the Mastalirs immediately invited him to stay at their home during the meet.
"I picked up some new aspects of running just being around them," said Dani, who will compete in cross-country and track for the University of Wisconsin in the fall on a scholarship. "I watch them and we talk about what they do and I take that in. We learn from each other."
Boggess, who will try to make the Stanford track team next year as a walk-on, usually competes in the discus as well, but he did not qualify for Saturday's meet. Hiawatha Berry of Winder, Ga., won the shotput with his toss of 64-3 1/2.
"I figured this might be the last time I was going to be competing in the shot," Boggess said. "It was different for me to be competing in only one event, but it at least gave me a chance to concentrate solely on the shot."