In arguably the most competitive state meet in the United States, California will host it's 96th annual state meet at Buchanan High School in Clovis (tremendous sports comples for a high school as you can see above). This meet will feature many great individual battles between athletes/teams from the North vs the South.
We will lead off with all the running events today and follow up with all the field events tomorrow. The trials will take place on Friday, starting at 3pm for field events and 5:00pm for the running events.
The girls' 400m. relay will lead off the great action and the South will have the overwhelming favorite in the event, Long Beach Poly. They ran 45.25 at the Southern Section (SS) Masters meet which is also their season best time. Most of the main competition for Poly will come from their own section and region and their closest competitors will be the SS runner-up Vista Murrieta. The top contender from the North will be the Los Gatos girls who powered past all the competition at the Central Coast Section (CCS) meet.
The boys' 400m. relay will be far more competitive with 13 teams recording times between 41.13 and 41.79. The best team from the south is Great Oak which ran a season best time of 41.13 at the SS Masters meet. The leading contender from the North will be the Woodcreek boys who ran a state best 40.93 at the SJS divisional meet and followed that up with 41.29 at the state qualifying meet. Poway from the San Diego Section (SDS) and Edision from the Central Section (CS) will also contend as they ran 41.45 and 41.47 respectively at their own section final.
The girls' 1600m. features seven girls under 4:50 including defending state champion, Anna Maxwell (picture above courtesy of santracruzsentinel.com) of San Lorenzo Valley (4:43.82). She won the CCS meet last Friday but was strongly pushed by Gunn senior, Sarah Robinson who ran a lifetime best time of 4:44.07. They will be strongly challenged by three Great Oak runners (Haley Dorris, Destiny Collins and Ashley Helbig) as well as more firepower from SS, Amanda Gehrich of Tesoro and Megan Huebner of La Quinta.
The boys' 1600m. is as deep as it's ever been in California. That also doesn't include athletes who dropped this race to focus on the longer 3200m. The favorite will be defending champion Blake Haney, Stockdale, who ran a comfortable looking 4:10.41 at the Prefontaine Classic. He can win fast or tactical races and will be tough to beat. The contenders from the south will be surprise SS Masters champion Sydney Gidabuday of El Modena and rising star, Ellis Newton of Mayfair. The best from the north will be rapidly improving Garrett Migliozzi of Nevada Union (4:10.34) and Livermore senior, Tyler Olson who was unchallenged at the NCS meet but ran a lifetime best time 4:07.99 the week before.
The girls' 100m. Hurdles race could feature a Northern California sweep as the three top times from the section meets are all from NorCal. Leading the way was Pattriana Perry of Vacaville who ran 13.76 at the SJS section final and was the 3rd place finisher at last year's state meet. NCS hurdler, Mecca McGlaston of Dublin HS recorded a lifetime best time of 13.87 at her own section final and has really competed well at the top invites this year. Freshman sensation, Reonna Collier of Piedmont Hills raced a solo 14.00 at the CCS final and will be another contender for the state crown. The competition from the south will come from two Eleanor Roosevelt HS teammates, Jaela Williams and Jasmyne Graham. They recorded times of 14.02 and 14.03 respectively at their section meet.
The boys' 110m. Hurdles race is a two man battle and both hurdlers are very familiar with each other. The defending state champion is Marquis Morris of De La Salle and he easily won the NCS MOC meet last weekend with a time of 13.96. The 2nd place finisher from last year was Misana Viltz of Millikan HS and he has gotten the better of Morris this season, indoors and out. Their epic duel at the Arcadia Invitational in which Morris won by 100th of a second, should be repeated here.
The girls' 400m. race will feature another epic duel between two athletes who have taken a different path to the state meet. Freshman, Kaelin Roberts of Long Beach Poly has been pressed all year in other sprint races by sensational teammate, Arianna Washington. She just edged out Madeline Price of Menlo at the Arcadia Invitational 53.37 to 53.43. Price, a senior, has been able to cruise through most of the races since Arcadia and easily won the 400 and 200 at last week's CCS final.
As with most races, the boys' 400m. field is quite a bit more competitive than it's female counterpart. Even without the top 3 returners from last year's state meet not competing, this year's field will be just as competitive and several athletes should dip under the 47 second barrier once again. Cameron Stone (picture above courtesy of sacbee.com) from Sheldon (SJS) has already accomplished that feat with his 46.99. From the south, sophomore Michael Norman of Vista Murrieta came close at his section final with his 47.01 and based on his smoking 200 time (20.82) will be a dangerous threat to dominate this field. Jeremy Wright of Terra Nova HS (CCS) has lowered his best time in the 400 from 48.52 in the early season to 47.01 at last Friday's section final. Mary'ea Harris of Long Beach Poly will keep everybody honest and could be another contender for a sub 47 time.
The girls' 100m. race has one strong favorite and that is 2-time defending state champion, Ariana Washington of Long Beach Poly. She has proven to rise to the occasion at the CA state meet and will be tough to beat. Her closest competitor appears to be Jasmen Bunch of Edison (CS) who ran a lifetime best time of 11.52 at her section final but will need to improve that time to challenge Washington. The leading contender from the north is the best athlete from the Oakland Section (OAK), Skyline senior, Destiny Smith-Barnett. She finished a distant second to Washington at the Arcadia Invitational and that results may be repeated on Saturday.
The favorite in the boys' 100m. race will come from the South and that is senior, Curtis Godin of Mater Dei HS. Only in his second year on the track and field team, Godin participated on the baseball team during his first two years in high school. After a successful debut in the sport last year, Godin has enjoyed a spectacular senior season including an Arcadia Invitational victory in the 100. Godin will be pushed by two southern athletes, Brandon Lucas of Poway and Dominic Davis of Alemany. The leading sprinter from the north is NCS 100/200 champion, Ja'Maun Charles of Amador Valley.
The girls' 800m. race will feature defending state meet champion, Mikaela Smith of Clovis North. She should be the favorite once again as she cruised to victory at her section meet winning her specialty in 2:11.08. The intriguing figure in this race is Anna Maxwell who will be doubling back from the 1600. Looking for a new challenge, Maxwell dropped one of her specialties (3200) in favor of the 800. She is a tough, hard charging runner who will take the field out at breakneck speed and will challenge anybody to stay with her. SS champion, Anevay Hiehle of Redondo Union, Ashlyn Rambo of Mater Dei and Hiehle's teammate, Amber Gore will provide more of a challenge for the two leading runners.
The one race that usually leads to a surprise victor is the boys' 800m. With 12 athletes making the final, this race could have 6-7 runners coming off the turn with an equal chance to win. Whoever can close best in the last 100 will have the best shot to win this race. The leading time from all the section meets comes from the SJS and Roseville junior, Arturo Sotomayor who won with a lifetime best 1:51.93. He is a fearless runner who will not be afraid to lead and keep the pace honest. SDS champion, Adrian Mangoba roared to victory with a new personal record of 1:52.33. From the north, Amador Valley HS senior, Connor McKinnon powered to victory at the NCS MOC meet and wil be trying to become his school's 2nd state meet champion since the late Dan Gabor. Jeremiah Bias of Vista del Lago is the lone returning finalist from last year's final.
Long Beach Poly is the overwhelming favorite for the girls' team title due to their sprinters, relays and Kymber Payne (picture above courtesy of imageofsport.com) who is favored to take the title in the 300m. Hurdles. She finished in 2nd place at last year's state meet and won this year's SS meet with a near lifetime best time of 41.35. She will be challenged by fellow SS'er Jeanette Paul of Serra HS who kept her honest at the section final with a 41.54. The top contender from the north will be Reonna Collier of Piedmont Hills who escaped a near false start violation at the CCS final. She ran a PR of 42.12 with 2nd place over a second behind which means there is room for improvement from the talented freshman.
The boys favorite in the 300m. Hurdles has to be De La Salle senior, Marquis Morris. He owns the fastest time in CA which was achieved at the Arcadia Invitational with a 2nd place finish and a time of 36.94. The 2nd fastest long hurdler in CA also resides from the north in the SJS. Folsom senior, Austin Carter recorded his fastest time of the season at the SJS divisional final with a time of 37.14. Incredibly, this will be Carter's first state meet to go along with his 400m. Hurdles victory at the Stanford Invitational. The leading contender from the south will be Santa Margarita senior, Austin Tinsley, who won the SS Masters meet with best time of 37.25. This will also be Tinsley's first state meet.
As with the 100m., the strong favorite to take the girls' 200m. race will be Long Beach Poly senior, Ariana Washington. She will attempt to win the 100/200 double for the 3rd consecutive state meet and join past California star and Olympian, Marion Jones to accomplish the same feat. The competitor with the fastest 200m. time behind Washington is actually teammate Kaelin Roberts but she has scratched from the 200m. to focus on the 200m. Jazmen Bunch of Edison will once again provide the challenge from the CE and will be the 2nd fastest 200m. runner entering the meet with her 23.93. Destiny Smith-Barnett of Skyline lowered her PR to 24.03 at the OAK but shouldn't get in the way of Washington and her quest for three. Suzie Acolatse of Mission Hills, Gabrielle Cantrell of San Leandro and Madeline Price of Menlo are the three other sprinters have have dipped under the 24 second mark in the past.
The boys' 200m. race will be won by a sprinter for the SS. The 100m. favorite, Curtis Goden of Mater Dei, will clash against one of the 400m. favorites, Vista Murrieta's Michael Norman. They both dipped under the 21 second mark at the SS Masters meet with Norman getting the better of Godin 20.82 to 20.85. Their two challengers will come from Kevin Nutt of Edison (CE) and Brandon Lucas of Poway (SDS). The top contender from the north is Amador Valley's Ja'Maun Charles, but he has some distance to make up with a best time of 21.60.
The girls' 3200m. race took a hit with the injury to Sarah Baxter (3 time defending champion) and Anna Maxwell's decision to focus on the two shorter distance races. When it comes to depth in most events, California never fails. Bethan Knights committed to Cal Berkeley and they were very excited to have a cross country state champion (Division 3) to their team. Little did they know that Knights would emerge in track to record one of the all-time greatest season for a CA distance runner. She ran 4:42.29 and scratched from that event to focus on the 3200m. She ran 9:54.89 at last week's SS Masters meet and got that much closer to the national record held by Kim Mortensen at 9:48.59. Knights should be clear of the field from the first step and will chase the national record on her own. Two Great Oak runners (Haley Dorris and Destiny Collins) will be doubling back from the 1600m. Addi Zerrener of Dos Pueblos and Kimberly Coscia of Torrance will both be focusing on the 3200m. and will be part of the chase pack as well.
The boys' 3200m. race is usually the heavyweight boxing equivalent with most of the top runners focusing on the 8 lap final. Blake Haney, provided he wins the 1600m., will be chasing history and match the feat by Roman Gomez of Belmont as the only CA male to win the 1600/3200 two consecutive state meets. It will not be easy considering the heat and opposition. Fred Huxham of Redwood ran 4:09.99 at his area meet but dropped that event to focus on the 3200m. He finishes well and will give Haney all he can handle. Blair Hurlock of De La Salle will make sure the pace is honest and make it really tough for the runners doubling back from the 1600m. like Austin Tamagno (picture above courtesy of flotrack.org) of Brea Olinda and Garrett Corcoran of Villa Park. Steven Fahy of La Costa Canyon already has a state champion or two in the family and comes into the meet with the fastest section time (8:58.50). Brian Zabilski of Saugus is the other runner in the field with a sub 9 effort at his section final (8:59.98).
The final running event of the day for the girls will be the 1600m. Relay. The defending champions are the Piedmont Hills girls and they come into the meet fresh off another CCS championship in the long relay. They added stud freshman Collier but will be hard pressed to repeat as you guessed it, Long Beach Poly is the strong favorite here. They crushed the SS field with a strong 3:41.33. This should be their victory lap as they will send off coach Don Norford with his 15th girls team championship in his illustrious coaching career. The two other contending teams come from the north and they are St. Mary's, Berkeley (NCS) and St. Francis, Sacramento (SJS).
The last time a team from the north won the boys' 1600m. Relay was 1993. The Harrison twins (Calvin and Alvin) helped North Salinas win the long relay and tie for team championship with Merced. Fast forward to this year and several north teams are in contention for a state title. They will have to get by the Long Beach Poly boys who have been no stranger to "mile relay" victories with 6 wins in the last 13 years. They won the SS Masters meet with a CA leading time, 3:14.79. The teams hoping to upend LBP will be SJS rivals Sheldon and Roseville who each hope that a lightened load for their runners results in a faster time in Clovis. Hercules (NCS) won the NCS meet but will need to also improve their season best time to get by the SS power.
Feel free to comment on potential state champions that I may have overlooked in the comment section below.