Favorites Survive at CIF-SS Division 1 Prelims

Long Beach Poly remains the boys team team beat in CIF-SS Division 1. (Frank Bellino photo)

MISSION VIEJO -- The juggernaut that is the Division 1 Preliminaries, hosted at Trabuco Hills High School, is the first crucial step in the process of advancing to the California State Meet.  Under near perfect conditions all throughout where every mark was wind-legal, there were no real surprises in regards to which athletes and relay squads advanced onto next weekend's Division 1 Finals, which will be held at El Camino College in Torrance.   

(NOTE: At all of the four CIF-SS division qualifiers, only nine advance in each event. On the track, qualifiers to move on were heat winners plus the next fastest to total nine. In the field events, only the top nine marks moved on. In events like the pole vault and high jump, once the field was narrowed to nine, the competition ended.)

Long Beach Poly's boys put on full display why they are the heavy favorites to claim the Division 1 boys title next weekend.  Projected to capture the title by over 30 points, Kenyon Reed looked sharp and will line up in lane five as the top seed after his 10.65 / 21.50 victories in the shorter sprints.  Teammate Anthony Johnson also advanced in the 100 (10.77) and 200 (21.84), with DeAngelo Chester finishing strong to win his heat in the 200 meters (21.52).  This was after they comfortably crossed as the top time of the day in the 400 Relay in 40.99, just off their state-leading 40.91.   In the 400 meters, Everett Steward maintained form down the stretch to move away for a relatively easy victory (47.86) to claim the top seed in that event for next week.  In the sprints, the Jack Rabbits are poised to score 35 points.  Meanwhile, Liam Anderson impressed in both his victories in the 110 and 300 hurdles and projects to capture 14 points there next week.  William Frankenfeld advanced in the 3200 meters and is projected to finish in the top three there while Poly has gained a potential scorer in the long jump as well, in Miguel Orozco.   With all the pieces in place, this would be their first team title since 2007, the last of that seven-year run Long Beach Poly experienced from 2001-2007.  

Despite a hiccup in not qualifying their 400 relay squad and losing potential points in the long jump, Upland is the favorite for the runner-up plaque next week.  Caleb Roberson left everybody behind midway through his 100-meter prelim heat (10.68) while comfortably moving a step closer to defending his State title in the 300 hurdles (37.64).  Junior Namir Hemphill did what was needed to advance in both horizontal jumps while also qualifying in the 300 hurdles with his 38.75 heat victory to move on as the third seed.  He anchored his 1600 Relay squad to a 48.4 split and a new seasonal best of 3:17.97 to advance as the fourth seed next week. 

Vista Murrieta and West Ranch will be up top in the running for that runner-up plaque as well.  Vista Murrieta, with four team titles and two state championships over the past decade under coach Coley Candaele, started the day by advancing their 400 relay team.  Sophomore Darius Hill easily moved on to the long and high jumps, while State Meet qualifier in 2018, Hunter Escorcia advanced in the 110 hurdles with a seasonal best of 14.59.  Willie Coleman barely escaped in the 800 meters, being the sole qualifier in his heat, while Kendal Gibbs advanced in the pole vault.  The Broncos are projected to score 15 points in the throws off the talents of Edward Ta'amilo and Alex Oyawale

West Ranch is anchored by Solomon Strader who backed off at the end to easily advance in the 200 and 400 meters.  A State Meet qualifier in both events a year ago for Trinity Classical, he is the favorite to advance back to the Masters Meet once again as a junior.  Evan Bates and Isaiah Seidman both qualified in the 3200 meters while the duo of Noah Bultman and Bryce Valles both moved on in the shot put.  Mya Davis will also provide an extra push in moving forward in the 300 hurdles.    

The second heat of the boys 800 provided some fireworks as with four heats, five of the top nine qualified there.  Long Beach Wilson's Armando Bryson opted to go solo with a 15-20 meter lead until Valencia's Kai Wingo caught him with 150 meters to go.  Bryson responded though and in each others' shadow down the stretch, earned the 1:52.51-1:52.66 victory.  Bryson moved up to second in the state with Wingo maintaining the top time in California.  A 1:55.08 was fifth in that heat and the last time to advance. 

Newbury Park's Nico Young dazzled the nation with his 8:40 effort (third fastest in California history and eighth ever in U.S. history) last month at the Arcadia Invite.  Cruising is putting it mildly in examining his performance in the 3200, as he came across in 4:38-4:22 split, including a 2:07 last 800 meters in crossing in 9:00.04.  On the seventh lap, he expanded his lead from 25 to 75 meters in the span of 200 meters by throwing down a 63-second lap.  

In the boys 1600, six of the top 10 times came out of the third and last heat with a 4:17.91 advancing as the last qualifier.  Two 'wild card' entries (those that did not finish in the top three in their league, and did not meet the at-large standard but yet, would have been one of the top 12 times after all marks were submitted to CIF) advanced among the nine.  The field will only include two seniors as juniors Chris Verdugo of Great Oak, Crescenta Valley's Dylan Wilbur and Loyola's Anthony Stone advance for the second year in a row.  One of the surprising performances on the day came from Highland sophomore, Daniel Rodriguez, who captured his heat in 4:16.18.  As of two weeks ago, his personal best was 4:23.75! 

With 10 of the top 14 squads in California lining up for the 1600 meter relay, six squads broke 3:20 with a 3:20.71 time being the last team to advance.    Top two in the state, Long Beach Poly and Wilson dipped under 3:16 to capture both their heats and fittingly, advance as the top two seeds.

Heritage's Deondre Ruth easily advanced in both horizontal jumps with 23'7.5 and 47-10 wind-legal efforts. That was a new personal best for the 2018 State Meet qualifier in the Triple Jump.  Newbury Park's Gino Cruz, second in the state, was the top mark in the Discus (182-4).  San Juan Hills' Sean Rhyan is a heavy favorite in the Shot Put next week as he left atop the qualifiers with a 61-3.5 performance. Riverside King's Reyte Rash has been nursing a quad strain the past several weeks and is looking to drop the 110 hurdles to focus solely on the 300 Hurdles, where he is the top seed for next week and the State Meet runner-up in 2018.  His 400 relay squad still qualified without his services in the 400 Relay.  Not to be overlooked, Orange County's top squad, Aliso Niguel, impressed in advancing in ten events, which was the most by any school on the boys' side.