CA All-State T&F: Girls Track Athlete of the Year

2018 MileSplit CA Girls Track Athlete of the Year

A week after losing to Olivia O'Keeffe (7) at section masters, Maddy Denner would not also be denied a second consecutive CIF-State Meet 1600m title, sprinting away to victory in PR time. (Jeffrey Parenti photo)


Oak Ridge (SJ)

Senior | Distance Runner

It was without question that the 2018 track & field season in California was the Year of the Distance Runner. Girls Distance Runner, to be precise. 

Of the 39 girls to run sub-4:50 for 1600 meters across the US this past spring, 19 were from CA, including six of the top 10. Of the top 20 ranked 3200 runners in the US, nine are from CA. 

When selecting the 2018 MileSplitCA Girls Track Athlete of the Year, it was obvious that the choice would be the best of the best collection of distance runners in the country. 

And that selection is two-time State Meet 1600 champion and two-time State Meet 3200 runner-up Maddy Denner, a senior from El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge (SJ). 

Denner was selected primarily over Tierra Robinson-Jones (Bishop O'Down/NC), who previously earned our Girls Individual Performance of the Year recognition for her historic 200-400 double at State. All other State Meet champions, including a couple of others from the distance pool, were considered here. 

But it was Denner's epic 1-2 double at State and her overall resume of success and fast times that earned her this nod.

Teaming only with twin sister Elena, who won the 3200 and ran 4th in the 1600, Oak Ridge nearly won the State Meet girls team title. It took a strong finish in the 4x400 relay for Gardena Serra to snatch the title in the meet's last race, leaving the Denners and Oak Ridge to embrace the runner-up trophy.

Maddy Denner's winning 1600 time at State of 4:42.77 is ranked as CA #2 and US #2. She ran 3200 PR of 10:08.01 to win at the Mt. SAC Relays, a time that ranks CA #2, US #7. She also won the 3200 at Arcadia, opting to run in the seeded race on Friday night so that she could compete with her team on Saturday night in the Distance Medley Relay.

Friday night's unchallenged 3200 (in a modest 10:28.32) proved a perfect prep for Saturday's DMR, where Oak Ridge ran to victory in 11:42.85, the #1 time in the US in 2018 and the #8 time in CA history. 

A year-after running 2nd to Claudia Lane in the 3200 at State, Maddy Denner ran the second-fastest time of her career, 10:11.56, and trailed only her twin sister Elena across the finish line at State in an iconic moment that will not soon be forgotten.

Maddy Denner, headed to Michigan, is a two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 champion for 1600. She ran 2nd to Olivia O'Keeffe in the SJS Masters Meet, running a 4:44.01 PR -- beating her previous PR of 4:44.89 -- in a race that saw the University of Washington-bound O'Keeffe run what would hold up as the fastest 1600 in the US this season, 4:42.71. Elena Denner was third in 4:45.15 in what was a 1600 that produced at the time the #1, #3 and #5 times in the US. 

After Maddy Denner lowered her time at the State final, those three SJS combatants now rank  #1, #2 and #8 in the US.

Denner closed out her high school career with with a performance at New Balance Nationals Outdoor that personifies her talent, drive and perseverance. With 600 to go in the invitational 2-mile race, she was spiked along the bottom of her leg around her ankle, a cut that would require 12 stitches. Running through the injury, Denner kicked home to win in 10:04.53.

The girl who spiked her was Olivia Theis, who will be her teammate in the fall at Michigan. 

"I don't think it affected my finish but could have possibly affected my time a little since I had to swerve," Denner wrote in an email responded to questions about the race. "I'm not sure how Olivia Theis would have finished but if she was ready to run under 10 and finished strong, I think it would've helped me run faster too. I've never been spiked so badly (that) I needed help before."

Denner's winning time from NBNO ranks US #6, CA #9 all-time, and #30 on the all-time US list. 

It converts to 10:01.02 for 3200 meters, which ranks US #3.

Others Considered

Ariyonna Augustine (Long Beach Poly/SS) Sr. -- A year after winning both sprints at the State final, the LSU-bound Augustine placed 2nd in the 200 (23.70/0.3) and 3rd in the 100 (11.65/1.2). Her 11.56 (1.0) PR in the 100m from Arcadia is US #10. Her 200 PR of 23.53 from league final is CA #1, US #15. Included among her seven meet titles in the 100m this spring: Arcadia, Mt. SAC Relays (11.67/0.2), SS Division 1 (11.75/-2.6) and SS Masters (11.70/0.0). Augustine is a three-time SS D1 champion and State medalist in the 100m. She is a two-time SS D1 and SS Masters champion and three-time State medalist for 200m.

Breanna Bernard-Joseph (Roosevelt/SS) Sr. -- She is the State champion in the 300 hurdles, running a 41.76 PR which CA #1, US #8 (tie). Bernard-Joseph, bound for USC, is a three-time State medalist in the 300 lows. She also qualified for the State final in the 100 hurdles, running 14.26 for 8th. This was her second year in a row making the State final in the 100H and third consecutive year as a State qualifier. Her 13.92 PR from Southern Section Masters ranks CA #7.

Mariah Castillo (Saugus/SS) Sr. -- One of the elite distance runners in the US ranking #4 in the 3200 (10:06.47 for 1st at SS Masters) and #6 for 1600 (4:43.69 to win at Mt. SAC). Following a sub-par performance at the State Meet final, Castillo, bound for TCU, won the 1-mile race at the post-CIF Brooks PR, blistering a  4:41.40, which converts to 4:39.77 for 1600, the the eighth-fastest time in CA history. She won 1600m titles at the Don Green Invitational (4:56.81), Redondo Nike (4:54.03), Mt. SAC Relays, and Southern Section Division 2 final (4:43.73). She ran 4:47.56 for 2nd at State qualifying (4:49.34 for 7th in the final). In the 3200, Castillo ran 10:09.12 for 2nd at Arcadia and 10:22.24 to win SS Masters. In CA, she ranks #9 in the 800 (2:10.70 for 1st at Azusa MOC), No. 3 in the 1600, and No. 1 in the 3200. No other distance runner in CA is top-10 in all three events, and only one, Olivia O'Keeffe, comes close.

Elena Denner (Oak Ridge/SJ) Sr. -- State champion for 3200 meters with a 10:10.32 PR (CA #4, US #10). She ran that after placing 4th in the 1600, running 4:45.49. Denner's PR for 1600 of 4:45.15 for 3rd at Sac-Joaquin Masters, ranks CA #5, US #8. She ran 4:47.81 for 3rd in State Prelims and in her only post-season race, went 4:49.57 in the 1-mile for 3rd at New Balance Outdoor. Denner, bound for Notre Dame, is a two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 and Masters champion for 3200. She placed 4th at State in the 3200 as a junior. Her twin sister Maddy won the 1600 two years in a row and was runner-up to Elena in the 3200. The two alone combined to earn Oak Ridge the State girls team runner-up trophy. Her 2-mile time at New Balance Nationals Outdoor converted to 10:02.17 for 3200, which is CA #10 all-time.

Jazmyne Frost (Serra/SS) Jr. -- Runner-up at the State Meet in the 100 (11.61/1.2) and 3rd in the 200 (23.76). She anchored winning 4x100 relay (45.69, CA #1, US #6) and ran a leg on 3rd place 4x400 relay team (3:44.27, CA #2) that clinched the girls team title for Serra. Frost accounted for 30 of the team's winning total of 36 points. Her 100m PR of 11.57, achieved in running the fastest time State Prelims, is CA #2 and US #6 in the junior class. Frost's  200m PR of 23.65, also the fastest time at State Prelims, is CA #1 and US #6 in the junior class. She is the SS Division 4 champion in the 100 (11.59/1.2) and 200 (23.70/1.1).

Jada Hicks (Upland/SS) Sr. -- State champion for the 100 hurdles (13.35/1.3). Hicks, bound for UNLV, posted her PR 13.24, as the top qualifying time at State Prelims. That time ranks CA #1, US #3 and the CA #7 all-time. Hicks is a four-time State qualifier in the 100H and three-time medalist. She is a two-time SS Division 1 champion. She ran 13.54 (0.7) to win her first SS Masters title, 13.54 (1.5) to win at the Mt. SAC Relays, and 13.54 (1.3) for 2nd at Arcadia. She also was a State finalist in the 200 where she placed 7th (24.37). Her 200m PR of 23.76 (3.8) at league finals ranks CA #6. Hicks also ranks CA #10 in the 100 (11.82/nwi), and ran a key leg on the 4x100 relay (45.71; CA #2, US #7). 

Cathilyn McIntosh (Del Oro/SJ) Sr. -- State champion in the 800 (2:05.22 PR for CA #1, US #3 and US #2 in the class). McIntosh, bound for Georgetown, is a two-time State Meet runner-up in the 800 as a sophomore and junior. With two-time champion Alyssa Brewer injured and unable to compete, the title was McIntosh's to grab and she did so with gusto, clocking the seventh-fastest time in CA history. She followed her State title race with a win at Brooks PR (2:06.50). Earlier, McIntosh ran 2:10.77 to win third consecutive SJ Masters title and followed that with a 2:07.64 at State Prelims, just off her 2:07.62 previous PR from the 2017 State final. 

Deanna Nowling (Calabasas/SS) Jr. -- State champion in the 100m (11.47/1.2, season best) upsetting 2017 winner Ariyonna Augustine. Nowling placed 4th at State in the 200 (24.02/0.3) and anchored the runner-up 4x100 relay team (45.91, CA #3, US #15). She is the Southern Section Division 2 champion in both 100 (11.74/-1.0) and 200 (24.10/1.7). Her 100m time at State ranks CA #1, US #2 in the junior class among wind-legal marks (wl), US #4 all-conditions (ac) and US #6 (tie) overall (wind-legal). Her 200 PR of 23.62/2.5 from the SS Prelims, ranks CA #4 (all conditions) and US #6 ac in the class.

Olivia O'Keeffe (Davis Senior/SJ) Sr. -- Double-medalist at State placing 2nd in the 1600 (4:43.69) and 3rd in the 3200 (10:12.56). O'Keeffe, headed to the University of Washington, has two 2nds and a 3rd in the 1600 in three years at the State Final. Also took up the 3200 this season, running a PR at the State final that ranks CA #5 and US #11. Her 1600 PR of 4:42.71 at SJ Masters in an epic race with the Denner twins is US #1 and CA #21 all-time. O'Keeffe ran 2:11.82 for 800 to rank CA #14 and is one of only two distance runners in CA to rank as high across all three events (#s 14-1-5).

Tierra Robinson-Jones (Bishop O'Dowd/NC) Sr. -- Double State Meet champion, winning the 200 (23.66/0.3) and 400 (52.37) as the first girl to achieve that double since Monique Henderson in 200. She is the first Northern California girl and fourth overall in State Meet history to win titles in both the 200 and 400 at the same meet. Her 400 PR from the State final is CA #1 and US #3. Her 200 PR of 23.56 (-0.4) in winning her third consecutive North Coast MOC title ranks as CA #2 all-conditions and CA #1 among wind-legal times. Bound for Texas A&M, Robinson-Jones is a four-time State Meet finalist and three-time medalist at 400 (runner-up in as a junior, 4th as a sophomore). Her 400 time is #15 in CA history and #2 among runners outside of SoCal. 

Tierra Robinson-Jones (5) is the first to sweep the 200-400 titles since 2000. (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport)