Martin Moriel was waiting for someone to call foul or yell, "Re-do."
The Mountain Pointe senior track runner looked at the time he posted at the Glendale Invitational in the 400-meter dash and wondered if it was legitimate.
"I didn't want to believe the time," he said. "I thought it was a mistake. It felt great. A lot of work, right there, paved the way."
Moriel enters Wednesday's Division I state track preliminaries at Mesa Community College with the eighth best time in state classification in the 400 with a time of 49.58 seconds.
"It felt great getting under 50 (seconds)," he said. "Everyone in front of me and everyone behind me (in the rankings) is a great competitor. It is going to be pure competition."
Moriel said he isn't approaching the state meet any different than the races leading up to today's action.
"I just have to keep the momentum going," said Moriel, who credited assistant coach Larry Todd for the breakthrough. "I've been dropping my time almost every week so if I can get my best race at state who knows, I might just win it."
The top three in the event are Brophy's Devon Allen (48.73), Deer Valley's Trae Armstrong (48.76) and Pinnacle's Blake Eichler (49.11).
Moriel is back where he belongs in his mind.
He started at Mountain Pointe but transferred to Chandler Hamilton for his sophomore and junior years after his mother, Charity West, bought a new house, but ended back in Ahwatukee Foothills after his mom was diagnosed with cancer and they eventually lost the house.
"It felt like home again," said Moriel, who moved back in the middle of his junior year. "We made the best of it. My mom is fine now, but it gave us all (including 11-year-old sister Jaelynn) a tighter bond."
Mountain Pointe coach Jeff Griffin said Moriel's development started back in the football season when he had a quality year in the defensive backfield.
"This year, he made some really big plays for us during the football season," Griffin said. "I think it was a confidence builder that carried over to track. He knows, as a senior, this is his last chance and is really making the most of it. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who works harder. It is exciting to see him performing so well."
Moriel is one of several members of the Pride track team in contention for titles this weekend when the action continues Saturday.
Sophomore Travonn White ranks first in the long jump and junior Ben Trotter is fifth in the 100-meter dash. On the girls side, sophomore Katelin Warren is fourth in the 800 and the 4x100 relay team is fourth.
Desert Vista is expected to make a run at the top three in the boys and girls team standings per usual.
"We are hungry and humble," Desert Vista coach Chris Hanson said. "Hopefully we are healthy and peaking at the right time."
The Thunder's top candidates are junior Matt Smith (ranked second in the 110-meter hurdles), former state champion Mike Ingrassia (ranked fourth in the 300 hurdles), the top-ranked 4x800 relay team, Edmund Baker (top-ranked in high jump), Aidan Foster (ranked second, pole vault) and Riley Pendergast (ranked second in the discus).
"I'm ready to go," Pendergast said about the prospects of winning state. "I haven't been consistent but I know I can come through."
Pendergast's top throw in the discus of 178 feet, 9 inches came on April 1 in the Casa Grande Invitational but he hasn't come close to that mark since.
"It's all about technique and form," he said. "If I get that together I can get to 180."
In the girls meet, Desert Vista's top candidates are second-ranked Yasmine Yacut (800), the 4x400 relay team, second-ranked Kadie McNamara (discus), fourth-ranked Merrit Ten Hope (pole vault) and fifth-ranked Tinisha Toussaint (high jump).
"Both teams are ready to perform," Hanson said. "Our season has gone as expected and everyone who we thought would be in contention at the beginning of the year has a shot to do well."
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