MISSION VIEJO -- Under uncharacteristic overcast and cool skies for the second weekend in May, some of California's best athletes made their annual trek over to the confines of Trabuco Hills High School. Doing a great job as always in hosting the Southern Section Division 1 Prelims, it is the most competitive elimination round in the United States when you consider that it is still three weeks away from the California State Championships. In this brutal qualifying meet, the prelims also provided more insight on next weekend's battles for the team championship.
Several of California's best individuals did qualify with relative ease, but the one race that stole the headlines was the first heat of the Boys 3200 meters (Lizette Adams photo above).
Traditionally, the second heat has the advantage but in this case, it may have been a deal breaker. Dana Hills' senior Jack Landgraf kept an aggressive pace throughout the opening laps but could not shake six others in route to a 4:32 first half. Expecting several of those boys to fall back, all six, including Great Oak's Carlos Carvajal, continued to stay on Landgraf's pace with Centennial's Trevor Woodward falling off the pack in the 7th lap. Crescenta Valley's Artin Allahverdian surged into the lead going into the bell lap with Ayala's Zach Arias in tow.
In what seemed like a group that would not have anything left in the tank, Newbury Park sophomore Nico Young continued to battle with the group along with Valencia's Britain Reynolds. With all six never more than five meters apart, Arias brought home the victory in what was one of the state's fastest times in 9:04.52. But the real story was right behind him as three others were only one step behind him!
Meanwhile, Woodward roared back over the last 200 meters, passing Landgraf and Reynolds to take 5th in a 9:06.68. The group needed to thank Landgraf for pacing the entire race as his 9:07.06 took 6th place while Reynolds held on with a 9:08.28.
This one prelim heat was faster than last year's Southern Section Masters Meet!
In the second heat, the group, oddly enough, stayed content to come through the halfway point in 4:40. Almost identical to what he did in his victory in the Arcadia Invitational Seeded 3200, Mira Costa's Xavier Court came back with 4:27 negative split affair for the 9:07.14 victory. Burroughs senior Jagdeep Chahal challenged him to the end, barely advancing with a 9:07.58. Chahal still holds the section's top time (9:00.06) going into next week. Unfortunately, Long Beach Poly junior William Frankenfeld has the dubious honor of being that 10th man, albeit, with a 9:09.18! A 9:09 and.... Your season is over?? Absolutely ridiculous!
Before that circus, six of California's best shined on their own individual stages and advanced with relative ease. Cooler temperatures and a slight headwind hindered most of the sprints on this afternoon. Defending state champion, Ariyonna Augustine of Long Beach Poly looked strong as ever in her victories in the 100 (11.96) and 200 (24.38). Augustine (Lizette Adams photo above) will go into next weekend going unchallenged in both her heats here. She also anchored her 4x100 squad to the top time (47.21) while she allowed her teammates to do the work in advancing forward in the 4x400.
In making it look almost too easy, Yucaipa's Asani Hampton placed it on cruise control in both of his heats of the 100 and 200. Coming off his 10.26 eruption at his league finals and now owning the 2nd fastest wind legal mark in California history, Hampton had no reason to red line it. His 10.77 and 21.54 efforts easily place him as the top seed going into next weekend's finals. Just about even at the final baton exchange, Hampton warmed up by anchoring his squad to the victory in the 4x100 relay (42.20).
With, arguably, the best start of any girl in the state, Upland senior Jada Hicks made the opening round of the postseason look like another workout. Hicks started her meet by leading off her group to the victory (47.23) in the 4x100 victory. In a comfortable and clean hurdling session, Hicks easily captured her heat of the 100 Hurdles (14.10) and advanced as the top seed. Bypassing the 100 meters to focus on the 200 this year, Hicks displayed how she can excel in the longer sprint as well. Her impressive 24.44 looked like she was in a race by herself and strong contender for the state meet in this event as well.
Staying with the Highlanders of Upland, junior Caleb Roberson showed why he is one of the best athletes in California. Despite taking 5th at the California State Meet in the Long Jump as a sophomore, Roberson placed his focus on the hurdles this season. As expected, Roberson advanced in both hurdles. His 14.36 was, by far, the best time of the day in the 110's while he cruised to the victory in the 300's with a 38.68. Sandwiched between those two events, Roberson captured his heat with a 10.90, which was the 3rd fastest mark of the day. In leading his squad off with a 49.2 split, he got his group out to an early lead that they never relinquished in their 3:19.64 victory for the 4x400 Relay. Roberson lined up in four events and came home with victories in each one.
Moving over to the horizontals, defending state champion in the Triple Jump, CJ Stevenson of Great Oak finally made it official. With several 50-foot plus jumps on record, none had ever been properly recorded on official wind readings. Officially setting the Riverside County record, Stevenson bounded out to a 50-2 to outdistance the next qualifier by over three feet. In only taking one jump each at his league finals and focusing solely on these last four weeks, he also advanced in the Long Jump with a 22-1.50 effort. In between those two qualifying sessions, Stevenson rolled on that 3rd leg of his squad's 4x100 Relay to help bring home the top time of the day. While most focus primarily on Great Oak's distance crew (and for good reason), Stevenson is part of field event group that projects to score over 50 points, providing the foundation for a potential 2018 Div. I team title.
Senior Maliyah Medley began her run back to the California State Meet by driving up the road from nearby El Toro High. Medley, 3rd place at the last two state meets for the 400 meters, got out quick and never broke down in form down the stretch. With a seasonal best of 54.09 (#2 in CA), she captured her heat by over two seconds and easily moves on as the top seed. A state meet finalist in the 200 meters, Medley decided to include the 100 meters as well this postseason. She qualified with a 12.47 while also moving on with her 24.48 victory in the 200. Whether she keeps the 100 in her schedule remains to be seen, but Medley looked as impressive as ever.
Great Oak's girls' distance crew made it look like another track workout here, taking advantage of the perfect conditions for distance running. In unprecedented fashion, the quartet of Tori Gaitan, Fatima Cortes, Arianna Griffiths and Sandra Pflughoft all advanced in the 1600 and 3200 meters.
(Pflughoft, left, Cortes, right, in Lizette Adams photo above)
Those four, along with Audrey Dang (5th qualifier for the 3200) are projected to capture over 45 points in these two events alone at next week's finals! Along with Great Oak qualifying freshmen Summer Stevenson and Sami Bollinger in the Triple Jump, Kolonnie Green advancing in the 300 Hurdles and Kaitlyn Swenson moving on in the Pole Vault, Great Oak's girls now project as the favorite for the team title next weekend.
In what seemed like it would be an 'off' year for the Girls 800 took an impressive turn at the Div. I Prelims. With Los Alamitos' Delaney Sanacore securing the top seed with a wire to wire 2:11.57 victory, the 3rd heat featured four girls all at 2:14.40 or under with that same time placing 7th overall at the prelims. While Sanacore looks to qualify for the California state meet again, Centennial's Rylee Penn made her way back to the finals for a 4th straight year. Advancing for the 2nd year in a row, Riverside Poly's Kalea Ibarra came home with a huge seasonal best of 2:13.19.
Along with the Great Oak quartet advancing forward in two distance events, Ayala's Mikaela Ramirez advanced in both the 1600 and 3200 meters. Her 4:54.40 and 10:30.08 results were well managed efforts as she looks to disrupt that Great Oak monopoly in those two events next weekend. Walnut junior Chloe Arriaga also advanced in both events and will right there in the mix up front next weekend. Chino Hills freshman Jacqueline Duarte continues to impress with her late race surges as she advanced in the 1600 and 800. Her 4:58.47 qualifying effort places her amongst the best in the section while she may be stronger in the 800 meters (2:15.04) regarding how far she can go into the postseason.
Roosevelt's Breanna Bernard-Joseph ran the top time in the 300 Hurdles (43.10), qualifying for the fourth year while also advancing in the 100 Hurdles for the third straight season. BBJ (Lizette Adams photo above) also anchored her 4x400 relay to the victory and #3 top time of 3:51.90. Segerstrom's Nyree Brown won her heat of the 300 Hurdles in 43.25 while also advancing in the 100 Hurdles. Carter's Mya Greene also advanced in both hurdles as did Rancho Cucamonga's Deaira Jackson. Despite a frustrating day for Temecula Valley's Danae Dyer, she managed to qualify in the 100 Hurdles and the 200 meters. A botched hand off on her anchor leg of the short relay, a false start in the 100 meters, while also mismanaging some hurdles late, her 14.49 and 24.83 efforts advanced her. She is looking to qualify for the California state meet in the 100 Hurdles for a 4th straight season.
In the girls' sprints, beyond Augustine's efforts up front, Chino Hills' Zani Meaders is seeking another trip to the state finals in the 400 meters. She advanced as the #2 seed in the 400 while also advancing in the 200 meters. Meaders also led both her squads forward in qualifying in both relays. Corona sophomore Egbe Ndip-agbor applied some of her family lineage to work here. In the fastest heat of the 400 meters, she prevailed with a 55.85 victory while in chasing down Augustine in the 200 meters, her 24.69 ended up being the 4th fastest time recorded. Etiwanda's Ezinne Abba qualified in the 100 (12.13) and 200 (25.02) while Lakewood's Alexus Alexander advanced in the 200 (24.95) and 400 (56.72). As the Quartz Hill pair of Alonna Johnson and Iman Babineaux advanced in the 400 meters, they also moved forward in both relays, with the 4x400 relay being the top seed with an impressive 3:48.95 effort. South Orange County powers, Dana Hills and Aliso Niguel, join Arcadia and Long Beach Poly in also advancing both relay squads.
The Div. I girls pole vault continues to improve as four girls with an 11-6 clearance will have to admire from the stands next weekend. Six girls elevated up over 12-0 with those remaining three spots coming down to misses. Mira Costa's Brigette Grau goes into next weekend with the best seasonal mark of 12-9.
The Upland duo of Chelsea Daye and Kennedy Smith advanced in the Long Jump while presenting a powerful pair of their own, Woodbridge's Madison Lyon and Emily Garner recorded the top two marks in the Triple Jump. Lyon also advanced in the Long Jump while state meet qualifier in 2017, Garner advanced in the High Jump. There were no real surprises in any one of the jumps as top ranked in California, Long Beach Wilson's Rachel Glenn easily advanced in the High Jump (while also qualifying in the 400 meters and 4x400 Relay). Ayala's Madison Moneymaker advanced in the Triple Jump and High Jump. One of the top Long Jump qualifiers in JW North senior Sydney Reid, she also moved on in the 100 meters.
In the Girls Throws, Los Alamitos' Faimalie Sale had the top mark by almost four feet with a 43-10.25. Rancho Cucamonga sophomore Abby Venglass qualified in both throws along with Roosevelt's Lydia Liu and Trabuco Hills' Kyleigh Wilkerson. Wilkerson recorded the top mark in the Discus with a 131-8 out of her home ring.
The Great Oak duo of Jaime Navarro and Harrison Gould advanced in both throws, thus placing them in position to possibly earn over 25 points for their team next weekend. Santiago's Silas Hurst uncorked a huge personal best of 60-8 to record the top mark in the Shot Put while he also qualified in the Discus. Fontana's Donal Aluesi was a double qualifier in both throws while Newbury Park junior Gino Cruz recording the top mark in the Discus at 174-2.
In the boys' jumps, defending state champion and top ranked in California, Trabuco Hills' Sean Lee easily qualified as 6-6 was recorded by three athletes. Aside from Stevenson being the only boy to advance in both horizontal jumps, Alta Loma's Matthew Zimmer recorded the top mark in the Long Jump of 22-9.50.
In the sprints, while Yucaipa's Hampton was stealing the spotlight, Trabuco Hills' junior Jake Burns easily advanced by winning both his heats in 10.88/ 21.95. Long Beach Poly's Kenyon Reed (10.96/21.86) impressed as he also anchored both his advancing squads in the relays. Rancho Verde's Carlton Johnson also turned the same trick in moving forward in the short sprints and both relays. San Clemente's Jack Shippy moved on in the 100 meters while also advancing over at the Long Jump pit. In the 200/400 combo, Oxnard's Chase Wells advanced in both as did Centennial's Gregory Lapit. Top ranked in the state for the 4x400 relay, Long Beach Wilson easily moved forward but Aliso Niguel advanced as the top seed. After qualifying in the 400 meters, Michael Phillippy anchored his Wolverines to the 3rd fastest time in the state at 3:16.44.
Behind Roberson being the top seed in the 110 hurdles, ML King junior Reyte Rash recorded the top time in the 300 Hurdles with a 38.05. Surprisingly, he also qualified in the 110 Hurdles. Also qualifying in both hurdles, Trabuco Hills' Collin Hurd and Tesoro's Michael Robbins will renew their South Coast league rivalry next weekend.
In a preview for next weekend, the top two boys in Division I lined up next to one another in the first heat of the 800 meters. Tesoro's Ryan Bush prevailed over Roosevelt's Jackson Taylor, 1:53.39 to 1:54.21 with both easily advancing forward (Lizette Adams photo above). Off the radar with a 1:59.61 personal best, La Quinta's Parker Wallace upset the projections by rolling in with a 1:55.09 qualifying spot. Valencia junior Kai Wingo almost improved by two seconds with his 1:54.30 victory in his heat.
In the 1600, in a flurry of sit and kick affairs, Vista Murrieta's Edgard Villa came from behind over the last 300 meters to capture his heat and record the top time of 4:16.52. Burroughs' Jagdeep Chahal warmed up for that epic 3200 meter qualifying round with a victory here at 4:17.55 while Crescenta Valley's Colin Fitzgerald winning the 3rd heat in 4:18.75. Whereas there were six girls advancing in both the 1600 and 3200 meters, only Chahal and Great Oak's Carvajal duplicated that feat on the boys' side.
Great Oak's girls got a boost here at prelims while Long Beach Poly will need some help in defending their title. Beside the Wolfpack's dominance in the two longer distances, they can score in four other spots (300 hurdles, Pole Vault and two girls in Triple Jump). For Poly, Augustine projects to bring home 20 points along with their relays capable of 15-16 points. Off the grid, Poly did qualify Crystal Fesili in the Girls Shot Put, which will give them a slight boost. Along with Kenya Payne in the 300 hurdles and Jaelyn Predium in the 100 meters, we project another 11-14, placing Poly around 45- 50 points. Great Oak could very well obtain over that same total just in the 1600/3200 combo. We're projecting an additional 10 points beyond that in those four other spots. But, as Long Beach Poly's girls realized last year in capturing the state team title ... anything can happen and it's what you do 'on the day' rather than on paper. Upland's girls will also be in the mix with Jada Hicks, the two long jumpers and short relay. A couple hiccups at prelims along with a late season injury hindered Upland's chances with competing with those two other squads. They are projected to score in the 35-40 point range.
On the boys' side, despite Great Oak not advancing all they expected in the boys' distances, they continue to be the overwhelming favorites for the team title. They are projected to score around 75-80 points. Not quite the 104 points they scored in their 2016 team title campaign, no other team has the fire power that Great Oak possesses across the board. They will score big in five of the six field events while also gathering valuable points with two entered in the 1600, one in the 300 Hurdles and the 3200 while projecting to challenge for the win in the 4x100 relay. They also captured titles in 2013 and 2014. If achieved, this would be the ninth straight year a Riverside County school captures the team title. Rancho Verde turned the trick in 2017 and Vista Murrieta earned titles from 2010 to 2012 and again in 2015.
Trabuco Hills projects to be around 40 points while Long Beach Poly came away with their key components in place. Between these two squads, Trabuco's Jake Burns and Poly's Kenyon Reed will go head to head in the 100 and 200. Kejuan Markham will join Reed in that 100. While Trabuco counters with Sean Lee in the High Jump, Poly will score in both relays, projecting there for around ten points. Both squads have a boy in the 110 Hurdles while Trabuco's Collin Hurd (Lizette Adams photo above) projects to score well in the 300 Hurdles. If either one of these two teams drop off, the Caleb Roberson led Upland squad could sneak in there.
Stay tuned this week as we look to provide you with Divisional Previews building up to Saturday's Southern Section Divisional Finals. Held at El Camino College in Torrance, the weather is predicted to be in the low to mid 70's while the facility should offer up some incredible results as always!