The first three days of the month Persis William-Mensah took part in a musical. She played a cheerleader in Estancia High's staging of "High School Musical" in the Robert B. Wentz Theater in Newport Beach.
The role gave her a chance to be in a musical for the first time. Performing in front of a crowd isn't foreign to William-Mensah. When she normally does perform for Estancia, she's outdoors and people cheer her on.
Her stage is the track. Here, the only line she cares about is the one at the end of the race.
When you run as fast as William-Mensah, you cannot talk and run. She sure can put on a show.
In the final two sprints on her home track at Jim Scott Stadium Saturday, the senior wowed the audience. She broke Estancia school records in the 100- and 200-meter races, finishing in 11.92 seconds and 25.19, respectively, to qualify for the CIF Southern Section track and field finals in both events for the second straight year.
As is the case during this time of the year, William-Mensah is one of a couple girls from Estancia still competing. The rest of the team hasn't completely abandoned her. They showed up last week to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 preliminaries. They spent their time volunteering, as well as supporting the fastest girl sprinter to set foot on campus.
For William-Mensah, who is bound for UC Irvine, it wasn't hard to spot her teammates. After she won her heat, good enough for second place overall, William-Mensah heard the loud claps coming from the infield. To the teenagers in bright orange T-shirts, William-Mensah was No. 1.
"It was really nice of them," said William-Mensah, who will be on her own in the upcoming meet.
The next meet is on the road, at Cerritos College in Norwalk on Saturday. She has been preparing for it with her coach, Charlie Appell. He tells her of the site, and she cannot recall if she has run at Cerritos College before.
"The track is blue," Appell said. "How can she not remember it?"
What William-Mensah does remember is this is the stage where her season has ended in each of the past two years.
Making the CIF Southern Section Masters is the goal. This is her last shot, and Appell thinks she can advance in both the 100 and 200, even though her best race is the shorter of the two.
If she moves on, Appell has his first girl sprinter to reach Masters in his 22 years at Estancia. The fastest nine times, regardless of division, earn berths to Masters, the precursor to state.
Looking at her mark in the 100 from last week, she's close. On PrepCalTrack.com, her 11.92 is No. 10 in the section for wind-aided times. Appell said she might be in the lane next to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame's Donatella Asemota, the runner who beat William-Mensah at the Division 3 preliminaries with a time of 11.87 and claimed the 200 in 24.54, five spots ahead of William-Mensah.
"We hope that adds extra motivation," Appell said.
Pushing William-Mensah, a 4.0 grade-point average student who plans to study pre-med at UCI, has never been an issue. She has turned it on since her disappointing finishes at the Orange County Championships on April 26.
At the meet at Mission Viejo High, she wasn't her usual self. Having the flu didn't help matters. Fifth in the 100 (12.67) and 13th in the 200 (26.81) is where she placed. Those marks also put her in a bad mood.
"I didn't like my times," William-Mensah said. "But Charlie kept telling me there was time to improve."
Appell proved to be right. His runner looks more explosive off the starting blocks. She stayed undefeated in Orange Coast League competition, winning both the 100 and 200 titles for the third straight year.
The only runners who managed to catch her were boys. Appell used sprinters from the boys' team to make William-Mensah run faster. And the move worked.
"He'd put the runners right behind me, and I'd get a head start," William-Mensah said. "If they caught up to me, he had me redo the race. I didn't want to do it over, so I ran my fastest."
A second take is no fun, whether William-Mensah is acting or racing. In track and field, you cannot recover from a false start.
Born: June 15, 1996
Sport: Track and field
Coach: Charlie Appell
Favorite food: Chocolate
Favorite movie: "Finding Nemo"
Favorite athletic moment: The first time she made it to the CIF Southern Section track and field finals as a sophomore.
Week in review: William-Mensah broke Estancia school records in the 100- and 200-meter events, finishing in 11.92 seconds and 25.19, respectively, to qualify for the CIF Southern Section track and field finals in both events for the second straight year. She placed second in the 100 and sixth in the 200.