Charles Sanford finished the perfect race.
Etched in my memory: Edwards Stadium, Berkeley, 1963 state track meet, final event, 880-yard relay. San Diego High against the field at the end of the two-day program.
Sanford and teammates Walter (Buddah) Blackledge, Gordon Baker, and Raymond Dixon, were considered one of the better entries coming into the meet with a best time of 1:27.2, but there were other, more favored teams from the Los Angeles City and Southern sections.
Sanford, who passed away at age 72 recently, was an attacking sprinter, grinding out his races with each stride, and the best at San Diego High since the days of Roscoe Cook and Bobby Staten a decade before.
Sanford had set a San Diego Section record of :09.6 in the 100-yard dash the week before and had a best of :19.2 in the 180-yard low hurdles.
He qualified in neither event in the Friday trials but was fresh and ready for the baton chase the next day.
The Cavers got off to a good start when Blackledge came out of the blocks with a :22-flat first 220, handing off to Gordon Baker, who put some distance between himself and the pack with a :21.3 second leg.
Baker a sometimes erratic sprinter-quartermiler, ran the most important leg, because he was able to make the second pass from the pole position to Dixon.
With the posse in hot pursuit, Dixon held the inside lane, running his furlong in :21.7, and maintaining Baker’s lead as Dixon passed to Sanford.
Anchor man Sanford closed with a :21.3 leg, increasing San Diego’s winning advantage to about five yards.
The Cavers had covered the distance in 1:26.3, second fastest in the country that year; almost one second faster than they had run the week before, and bettered the record they had shared with the 1957 Cook-Staten-Charles Davis-Willie Jordan team.
Los Angeles Manual Arts was second in 1:26.8.
What I remember most were the flawless handoffs as the Cavers protected the baton amid the pressure of flying spikes, and streaking bodies in a high-powered race.
Sanford, who also was a football standout at San Diego, will be honored in a funeral service Monday, April 3, at 11 a.m. at Missionary Baptist Church in Logan Heights.