Saddle Up Survives the Storm

Long Beach Wilson junior Rachel Glenn ran a state-leading time in the 400 meters despite wet conditions Saturday at the 12th Saddle Up Invitational at Vista Murrieta HS. (Frank Bellino photo)

MURRIETA -- The wet winter that continues to challenge the Track & Field scene early on in the 2019 season did its very best to derail the 12th annual Saddle-Up Invitational.  Hosted by Vista Murrieta, the meet runs as efficiently as one will find in the state.   Despite consistent rain all throughout, adding in a good dose of wind and cold temps -- the action remained hot as the athletes toughed it out!   Conditions that would chase most sprinters away did not phase the likes of Rancho Cucamonga and Long Beach Wilson.

Fresh off leading her squad a national leading time in the sprint medley relay on Friday night, Long Beach Wilson junior Rachel Glenn made a surprise appearance, subbing in and taking a teammate's lane assignment.  Taking advantage of one of the few breaks in the weather, Glenn shed almost a second off of her lifetime best in the 400 meters, running a state-leading 55.45.  Glenn, who started as a longer sprinter, is the defending State Champion in the high jump and was a Division 1 finalist in the 400.  

Looking to steal some of the spotlight, Rancho Cucamonga's Christopher Hill impressed in his own version of the 400 meters, with a 48.83 victory.  Last month, Hill committed to attend the University of Michigan in the fall before capturing the 300 meters at the CA Winter Championships.   

Earlier in the meet, Hill led his 'A' squad with his strong second leg of the 4x100 relay.  The Cougars' 42.50 is the fourth fastest in the state.  But more impressive was that they had to hold off their own 'B' team, which sped to a 42.70 out of lane 9!  With that, Rancho Cucamonga boasts the Nos. 4 and 5 performances in CA thus far in 2019. 

Head coach Terry Tierney commented that he was aware of the depth, but still surprised with both groups' results. 

"Our sprint coach, Victor Bolden, has done a great job with the boys balancing between the track, club and football worlds and has been able to get out our school's best athletes," Tierney said.

Keep in mind, Rancho Cucamonga finished sixth at the California State Meet in the 4x100 relay (41.57) and this was after Hill went down at the league finals with a hamstring injury!  Although RC graduated that entire crew, it still possesses one of the deepest sprint groups in the nation.

Kalel Jackson, the opening leg on RC's 4x1, also captured the 100 meters in 11.01, despite a cold, -1.9 mps wind in his face. 

Vista Murrieta's Hunter Escorcia also did not let the damp conditions spoil his mood.  A State Meet qualifier as a sophomore in 2018, Escorcia is primed to advance to this year's finals.  Flawless in his 14.70 victory, and into a slight headwind, his effort is the second fastest wind-legal performance in California.  Rancho Cucamonga's Cullin Bates (not among the eight legs of their 4x100 relays) challenged all throughout with a 15.20 strong showing.   

In the fast section of the varsity girls 1600, Claremont's Kalinda Reynolds held off Vista Murrieta's Gaby Hubarth, 5:14.37 to 5:14.68.  Hubarth came back to capture the 3200 in 11:23.42, despite a steady downpour all throughout the race. 

On the boys' side in the 1600, the pedestrian pace threw out all ambitions to break 4:30 in a very talented field.  Negative splitting the victory, Claremont's Jacob Moran (2:21-2:11 splits) held off his own teammate, Vicente Huerta, 4:32.91 to 4:33.68.

In the boys' 3200, Murrieta Mesa junior, Cole Havens took the victory in a wire-to-wire effort.  Anticipating the Great Oak duo of Cole Sawires-Yager and Chris Verdugo to close the gap, Havins did not relent in his 9:36.91 performance. 

With many of this past weekend's meets forgoing the field events, Saddle Up got in all but pole vault.  Highlights in the boys' throws belong to the Great Oak underclassmen.  Junior Nicolas Meeker (50-11.75) out-measured sophomore James Wright (50-9).  Wright captured the discus in a seasonal best of 152-1, holding off Vista Murrieta's Edward Ta'amilo at 149-5.   Wright is the second best sophomore in California in both throws. 

On the girls' side, Rancho Cucamonga's Abby Venglass took the discus in a 124-11 effort, which is sixth best in the Southern Section.    

All photos by Frank Bellino