MODESTO Neal Bland took care of business Wednesday in the Sac-Joaquin Section track trials at Modesto Junior College.
The Sonora High School senior qualified for the finals in both his individual events, the 200- and 400-meter dashes, setting himself up for a possible second straight trip to the State Meet.
The 400 came first and Bland finished second in his heat in 49.8 seconds, the fourth-fastest time of the day with a stiff headwind blowing down the backstretch. The top nine qualified for Friday's finals at MJC and the top three from there will make state, which is May 31 and June 1 at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
Bland went to state last year in Sacramento as part of Sonora's section-winning 4x100 relay team, but missed by two places in the 400. What are his chances this time around?
"I think he has an excellent chance of going to state," Sonora coach Robert Cendro said.
The No.1 qualifier is Latrell Kidd of Elk Grove, who won Bland's heat in 48.9.
"I think Kidd is head and shoulders above the rest, and then there are about five guys battling for (the last two state berths)," Cendro said. "Neal might be able to get Kidd if he has a really great day."
Other top qualifiers Wednesday were Cedric Ellis from Cordova of Rancho Cordova and Marcus Goss of Vallejo in 49.5 and Ernest Gordon from Johnson of Sacramento in 49.8.
Bland's best is 49.02, which he ran to win the Valley Oak League championship and set a school record May 9 at Delta College in Stockton. Friday's race is set for 6:45 p.m., about two hours later than Wednesday's race was run and a time, perhaps, when the wind won't be so strong.
In the 200, Bland's time was not available but was among the top nine an earned him a spot in the finals. The top qualifier is Arthur Williams from Burbank of Sacramento in 21.96. Bland's best is 22.32. The 200 is set for 7:30 p.m.