By Bob Highfill
Record Staff Writer
STOCKTON — Cicelya Beard and Michael Fancey are confident athletes.
Both have inner strength from different sources. Beard has been spurred on by her faith and the memory of her late grandfather, Jesse Beard. Fancey is out to prove he can compete with the best in the state after an illness his senior year of high school temporarily de-railed him.
Beard is the top seed in the 800 meters and Fancey is the No. 1 seed in the pole vault entering the California Community College Athletic Association NorCal Regional Track and Field Finals at 2 p.m. today at Chabot College in Hayward.
Beard, a sophomore out of Edison, and the freshman Fancey from Liberty High in Brentwood said they are ready. And their coach, Lauryn Jordan, believes they have the confidence and the athletic ability to advance to the state meet.
"They get out there and they know that they are better," Jordan said. "They know they've put in the work to be better and they've earned it, so they come out with that attitude and it's paying off."
Beard sat out last season as she worked on her academics. She wasn't sure she could return this season at the same level athletically as her freshman year. In time and with lots of hard work, she improved her times, going from 2:22 to a season-best 2:16.4, which is first in Northern California and fifth statewide.
Beard reads inspiring quotes most every day and consults her godfather, Mike Lewis, who offers her encouragement. She also says a prayer before every race and imagines her grandfather, who passed away just days before her high school graduation, is in the stands watching her.
"I carry him everywhere I go," she said softly.
Jordan said no one outworks or has more confidence in herself than Beard does.
"She's like, 'I put in the work all year,' and she says, 'I'm going to run 2:14 this next week, Coach, and I'm going for the school record and the state championship,'" Jordan said. "She told me that. She believed it and I think she can."
Fancey came to Delta this season sapped of his strength after missing two-thirds of his senior year due to an illness he didn't divulge. In his weakened state, Fancey's grades dropped and his college applications that originally had been accepted were rescinded. Fancey said he had little choice but to attend and rebuild his pole vaulting prowess at Delta. And Jordan is glad he made that decision.
"He kind of fell in our lap, so we're very thankful to be able to work with him," Jordan said. "He was competitive but really weak when he first came, so all we had to do was build his strength back up."
Fancey, who stands 6-foot-3, said he's now strong enough to handle 16-foot poles and hopes to improve his best vault this season of 15 feet, 9.75 inches, which is tops in NorCal and tied for second statewide.
"For most of the year I've worked on building my strength up to help me on my bigger poles, which will help me vault higher," Fancey said. "And we're about to find out if it's paid off."
Beard and Fancey were among a group of Delta scholar-athletes who were honored on Wednesday for achieving a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.