Maybe the third time will be a charm for Watkins Memorial High School's Gabrielle Calderone, a junior who will have to wait yet another year in her quest to reach the Division I state meet in track and field.

Maybe the third time will be a charm for Watkins Memorial High School's Gabrielle Calderone, a junior who will have to wait yet another year in her quest to reach the Division I state meet in track and field.

That's because her season had a familiar ending during the regional last Wednesday at Hilliard Davidson. She finished her preliminary of the 400 meters in 1 minute, 0.7 seconds, but failed to qualify for last Friday's finals.

"Same thing as last year: Lane 8, first heat, fifth place," she said. "I have to avoid that next year. Lane 8 is so problematic. The curve (of the track) and everything catches up to you."

Calderone improved her time (1:00.93) from a week earlier when she took the final regional berth in the district 3 meet with a fourth-place finish at Dublin Coffman. Her seed compared with the other five contestants in her regional heat relegated her to the far lane again, however, and only the top four in each heat advanced to the final. She did post the fastest overall non-qualifying time among the 12 contestants, however, and also improved on last year's preliminary time (1:01.43).

"By far, this is the hardest race I'm in," said Calderone, who ran cross country last fall. "You know you're a runner when you get excited about this event."

Nathan Corum, an assistant with the Warriors who specializes in the sprints and hurdles, agrees with Calderone's assessment of the 400.

"You want to get out strong and survive the last 50 meters at a sprint," he said. "It's a race of survival, really."

There may have been a time when the 400 was considered somewhat of a mid-distance event, but those days are long gone.

"I don't know if it's evolution," Corum said. "I think it's just that kids are getting stronger, getting in shape earlier in their careers."

The Central District has produced five state championships in the 400 in the past five years. They include Eastmoor's Ayrizanna Favours' three titles, and she set the girls state record (53.19) as a senior in 2005. Isaiah Pead of Eastmoor captured the Division II boys title a year ago and Brookhaven's Phillip Turner won the Division I boys championship in 2004.

Calderone's teammate, junior Rob Baisden, also struggled in the boys 400 preliminaries last Wednesday at Davidson but his time (52.32) was good enough to qualify for the final. He advanced to state in the event last spring.

"He's had walking pneumonia all week," Calderone said. "It's amazing he's even here."

ELSEWHERE -- Newark's Dannell Smith, another junior, took a philosophical approach to his season-ending eighth-place finish (156 feet) in the Division I boys discus last Wednesday at Davidson.

"Hey, I'm happy," he said. "This is my first year (throwing) since I was a freshman and I did better than I thought I would. I won the (OCC-Ohio Division title, 144-7) and took third at the (district 3 meet, 147-5). I kept getting better."

Smith said he competed with another Wildcat, sophomore James Ault, in mind.

"He could be one of our best throwers, but he was out this year helping to take care of his mom. She's been real sick," Smith said. "He's starting up football already and now I'm ready to join him."