CIF-Southern Section represents well at Arcadia

This post has been updated to correct a height in the boys pole vault and to add detail to the girls recap page. 


By MARK GARDNER

ARCADIA -- The 51st edition of the Arcadia Invitational lived up to its billing as always, altering the California and Southern Section Top 25 lists, as well as the rankings throughout the United States.  Closer to home, we gathered more insight on what the best squads in the CIF-Southern Section have in their respective arsenals along with a slew of  individual efforts that catapulted them into the national spotlight.  

With meet director Rich Gonzalez doing another phenomenal job along with the Arcadia High track and field community, the Arcadia Invitational has become THE standard amongst all prep invitationals in the United States and the 2018 version did not disappoint! 

With the Southern Section girls earning the headlines in 2018, one thing was justified - Upland's girls are for real!  With no one able to match her electricity out of the blocks, senior Jada Hicks led her crew to the 3rd fastest time in the nation in the 4x100 relay (45.78) and almost a full second ahead of CA #2 Serra (46.70) of Gardena. 

Hicks (3rd at the CIF-State Meet last year) spotted her group a huge early lead en route to running the fastest time in the nation in the Shuttle Hurdles (58.50).  That Friday night effort was just a preview of what we saw from their ladies on Saturday!   After clocking a 11.95 wind-legal time (#4 in the section) in the afternoon session, Hicks finished off her weekend in rolling to a 13.54 runner-up finish in the 100 Hurdles. 

Being her new personal best in wind-legal conditions, Hicks is now #3 in the nation and #1 in California. 

With the addition of versatile senior Chelsea Daye (formerly of Rancho Cucamonga) and freshman hurdler Jordyn Grady, the Highlanders will threaten to topple the dynasty that is Long Beach Poly.  Only the women of Rancho Verde ('07) and Great Oak ('16) have been able to break up the Jackrabbit legacy over the past couple of decades. 

Defending state champ, Ariyonna Augustine of Long Beach Poly brought home the victory against an impressive field in the Invitational 100 meters.  Her 11.56 effort improves upon her CA-leading mark as she held off Calabasas junior Deanna Nowling (4th at the California state meet in '17).   These are the #3 and #4 wind-legal marks in the United States. 

Nowling will play a huge factor in trying to leapfrog Santa Margarita's girls for that Division III team title next month as Calabasas currently holds the 3rd fastest time in California for that 400 relay (46.91).  Long Beach Poly is fourth at 46.94. 

Moving back to Augustine, she continues to exercise a prudent racing schedule, focusing on one individual event per invite this season.  She is the only girl to break 24.00 under all conditions in CA for the 200 meters as she also impressed on her 200-meter leg of the Jackrabbits' 800 meter Sprint Medley Relay on Friday night. 

Meanwhile, stepping onto the statewide scene, the women of Etiwanda rolled to a 47.70  best at the Arcadia Invitational.  This moves them up to #5 in the section while senior Ezinne Abba almost flew under the radar with her 24.09 wind legal clocking in the afternoon portion of the 200 meters.   Only fellow Baseline League rival, the aforementioned Daye of Upland along with Serra junior Jazmyne Frost (coming back from a disappointing false start in the 100 meters) broke 24.70 for the Southern Section women.

 As Hicks rolled to her CA-leading 13.54 effort in the 100 hurdles, Temecula Valley senior Danae Dyer burst forward to a huge personal best of 13.68.  The two-time State Meet finalist has really come into her own here in 2018 and is now #4 in the United States and right behind Hicks in the state and section.  

Roosevelt senior Breanna Bernard-Joseph's 14.05 was just off her personal best but she remains #4 in CA and #3 in the section.  Meanwhile, Carter's Mya Greene continues to move up with her 14.20 personal best. 

But, where we experienced the most improvement, in regard to CA and CIF-SS rankings, was in the 300 hurdles!  Six of the top 10 times in the U.S. were at Arcadia with several Southern Section girls among them:

  • Calabasas junior Kyla Robinson-Hubbard took 3rd place in a CA-leading 42.37 (previous best was 43.59).
  • Santa Margarita's Nikki Merritt was right on her for a 42.50 finish.  Merritt's previous best was 43.81!
  • (These are the #1 and #3 marks in California (Bernard-Joseph has a 42.46 this season)
  • Segerstrom's Nyree Brown (5th place at CA State Meet) continues to impress with her 43.10 personal best
  • Upland's Grady improved to a 43.73 (44.82 was her best)
  • Dana Hills' Hailey Ray ran to a seasonal best of 44.13
  • Carter's Greene just missed her personal best of 43.57 despite navigating her way through a tough 6th hurdle. 
  • Grady and Ray earned their times during the daytime session
  • Hubbard-Brown and Merritt came from the seeded portion.  

In the distances, the most impressive Southern Section individual performance was Saugus senior Mariah Castillo.   Texas Christian-bound, she executed the perfect race plan placed out there by coach Rene Paragas. 

Patiently sitting back around 10th place the entire first half of the race, Castillo came across the midway point at 5:10.  With precision, she steadily moved away from the chase pack and started closing in on eventual champ Katelynn Hart (10:02.56 US #1) to close with a 67 last lap!  This was after her 64-second closing lap on Friday night's opening leg of the 4x1600 Relay!  Coming home with a 4:59 last half, Castillo's 10:09.12 (73-79-79-79-78-77-77-67 splits) elevated her to the top of the California charts and #2 in the U.S.

Also improving with an even split effort was Capistrano's Valley's Haley Herberg whose 10:18.93 yielded her a 5th place finish, is now #3 in California and moved her up to #7 on the all-time Orange County list for the 3,200 meters (she's #12 for the 1600 meters).  Seven of the top 10 national marks came from this same 3,200 meter affair.

Staying with girls' distances, the CIF-SS has found itself two new stars.  Coming off a great freshman cross country campaigns, Mayfield's Audrey Suarez was able to hold off Village Christian's Mia Barnett. 

Barnett was the Div. V CIF-SS champ in the fall.  Meanwhile, as most eyes were on Malibu's Claudia Lane, a very impressive Suarez took 2nd at the Div. IV XC final. 

Coming in with a 5:01.98 best, Suarez surged on the back straightway during that 3rd lap and came back with a 4:54.10 for the full mile. 

Barnett closed on her and finished right on her shoulder in a personal best of 4:54.29.  Converted to the 1,600, these are the 3rd and 4th fastest marks in the Southern Section thus far. 

Choosing to focus solely on relays at Arcadia, Great Oak's dominant crew was committing to a 3rd straight weekend of high level competition.  Sophomore Tori Gaitan (4:51.5/10:18.7), junior Fatima Cortes (2:14.7/4:53.2/10:25.9), sophomore Arianna Griffiths (4:55.7) and senior Sandra Pflughoft (5:04.2/10:45.1) combined for impressive and national leading victories in the 4x800 and 4x1600 relays on Friday night.

Related: Tori Gaitan Interview

In the Invitational Girls Distance Medley Relay, Cortes rolled to a 2:15 split on her 800 meter leg while Gaitan still split a 5:02, albeit going up against two sub-4:50 splits, including defending state champ, Maddy Denner (4:44 split) of Oak Ridge!  Great Oak broke that coveted 12 minute barrier for the second week in a row in finishing 3rd place.

In the horizontal jumps, Capistrano Valley junior Jolie Robinson elevated herself as a legitimate threat in the postseason next month.  In capturing the victory in the daytime session with a wind-legal effort of 18-10.5, she is now right up there as one of the best in the Southern Section.  Speaking of which, Mater Dei freshman Jade McDonald continues to roll with her 18-10.25 second place effort in the Invitational portion of the Long Jump while teammate, junior Sophia Chiaramonte burst out to a wind-legal 18-7 third place medal in the daytime session.  Taking 2nd (based on her 2nd best mark), Ayala junior Anyssa Romo also went 18-7 with a +2.4 wind.  (She did measure out to an 18-2.5 wind-legal mark as well).

To continue demonstrating how Upland's girls are for real, senior Kennedy Smith finished with an 18-3 wind aided mark to go along 18-0 mark that went into a -1.4 wind that swirled all throughout in the afternoon.  (Note: Smith also went 18-8 the previous week into a wind - not measured for some odd reason - was a part of both victorious 400 relay and Shuttle Hurdle crews while running to a 15.02 legal effort in the 100 Hurdles.)

Moving over to the Triple Jump, the deadly duo from Mater Dei, McDonald and Dominique Ruotolo came home with 39-7.5 and 39-4 efforts respectively.  They are both currently the top two in the Southern Section.  But, Woodbridge sophomore Maddie Lyon improved by over two feet to bring her personal best out to 39-9.5.  This huge breakthrough moves her out to #3 in the section.

Finishing 9th at the California State Meet, West Ranch's Natalie Ramirez had a great weekend at Arcadia.  While just missing her personal best of 154-5 for the Discus (#4 in CA), she measured out to a huge personal best of 45-9.5 for 3rd in the Shot Put.  This mark moves her up to #3 in the state and just behind Los Alamitos' senior Faimalie Sale for #2 in the section.  

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