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Valencia track's Olivia Pear: On a different stage

Posted: May 29, 2013 8:45 p.m.
Updated: May 29, 2013 8:45 p.m.

Valencia's Olivia Pear looks to continue a history of success for the Santa Clarita Valley in the 800-meter race when she competes in the CIF state meet this weekend at Buchanan High School in Clovis.

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It was Olivia Pear’s goal all along to miss her high school graduation.

Last fall, when it came time for seniors at Valencia High to order their caps, gowns and tassels for the ceremony, Pear astutely noticed that her school’s graduation date fell on the same night as the CIF-Southern Section Track and Field Masters Meet.

Pear decided to purchase the cap and gown anyway.

But while 694 of her Valencia classmates walked across the stage at College of the Canyons for graduation on Friday, Pear had business to take care of.

At the time, the senior was 50 miles south at Cerritos College competing in the 800-meter race at the Masters Meet, where she ended up qualifying for this weekend’s CIF State Track and Field Championships at Buchanan High School in Clovis.

“I knew it was a possibility,” Pear says. “That was kind of my goal all season was to make Masters and skip graduation. That was my reach goal, and the ultimate goal would be to come back after graduation and train for state.”

She didn’t get to walk across the stage at graduation and she’s out a few dollars for the cap and gown she never used.

But on Friday Pear was crying tears of joy at the thought of making her first state final meet after clocking a personal-best of 2 minutes, 13.69 seconds for fifth place at the Masters Meet.

“I think it just shows how dedicated she is to her running and how badly she wants to succeed and how much it meant to her,” says fellow Valencia senior runner Brian Hicks.

Hicks is part of a small group of Valencia track and field athletes who have volunteered to train with Pear this week.

Both seniors are done with finals and classes. High school is finished, but track and field season isn’t for Pear as she continues to show up to campus this week for no other purpose than to prepare for state.

This Friday, Pear will be one of 27 runners to compete in the state 800 prelim, which will determine the 12 finalists to advance to Saturday’s state championship race.

Pear is joining a strong legacy of great Santa Clarita Valley runners in the 800.

She’s the first Valencia athlete to qualify for the state meet in the event since Aly Drake won the 800 state title in 2009.

Canyon graduate Alysia Montano also won a state crown in the event in 2004.

In addition, West Ranch's Ashley Welker and Jennifer Owen competed in the state 800 in 2011.

This valley’s storied history in the middle distance race continues with Pear. And for her to even get to this point is noteworthy.

“This has just been amazing. This has been more than I expected,” Pear says. “To make it this far is just unbelievable.”

Originally, Pear never thought of the 800 as a potential strength. She always considered herself a distance runner, particularly with her success in cross country.

She didn’t begin seriously training for the event until last season after Valencia co-head coach Darryl De La Vega coaxed her into it.

Though she showed signs of promise last year, she really began to hit her stride this spring.

“This has been a breakout year for her definitely,” says De La Vega, who also trained Drake the year she won her state title. “She had a great cross country season and I think it carried on through to track.”

In the fall, Pear nearly made it to her first state meet in cross country, as well.

She advanced all the way to the CIF-Southern Section finals as an individual, only to fall one second short of qualifying for the state finals after an 11th place finish in the Division I race.

That left her with one final chance to make it to a state final — and it was going to have to be through track and field.

A month ago at the Foothill League track and field finals, Pear again experienced disappointment when she finished third in the 800.

It was just good enough for her to move on to the CIF-SS prelims. Then it was the CIF-SS finals. And finally, it was the Masters Meet.

One by one, she simply kept qualifying.

“Every week she’s just been surprising herself and surprising me,” De La Vega says.

Three weeks in a row, Pear shaved a little bit off her personal best to continue qualifying for the next step.

She began the month running just under 2:17, and has since dropped down to her current mark of 2:13.69.

“I think she’s just always really tried hard and it’s finally paying off now and I think she’s starting to peak right now at the perfect time,” Hicks says.

In March, Pear was accepted academically to the University of California, Berkeley, where she plans to study chemical engineering. Her improvement on the track this year has been so significant, the college’s track and field team agreed to let her join as a walk-on. Coaches told her she can potentially earn scholarship money as time goes on.

But college won’t be on Pear’s mind much this weekend. After missing one major event last week, she’ll make sure to soak in every moment in Clovis.

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