Girls Division 1 Preview - Track Events
Ayala distance star Mikaela Ramirez is the top qualifier in the 1600 and 3200. (Frank Bellino photo)
In the first of several battles for the war over the team title plaque, Long Beach Poly and Roosevelt face off. Not much separates the top contenders as Murrieta Mesa steps in with the best seasonal mark of 46.96. Poly crossed with a 47.02 best at the Texas Relays. But, right on their heels are the Mustangs of Roosevelt. They were able to hold off a tough Martin Luther King squad, 47.07-47.08 at the Big VIII League Finals. Los Alamitos (47.42) looks to ride the pace to a spot into next weekend's Southern Section Masters Meet while Rancho Cucamonga (47.46) and Dana Hills (47.53) stepped it up with seasonal bests at last weekend's prelims. This race features the top six teams remaining in the postseason and seven of the top nine while only .12 separates the top four squads coming into the weekend!
Defending champion, Jacqueline Duarte of Chino Hills is no longer an underdog, such as was the case in 2018. As she flew by Great Oak's Fatima Cortes a year ago for the title, Cortes will look to push the pace and create a large enough gap from Duarte in this one. Cortes has a seasonal best of 4:51.33 (2:30-2:21 splits and a 69.8 last lap), run at the Meet of Champions. Seemingly with a sprint the last 200 meters of every race, Duarte is second in California when she ran a 4:48.56 for the Mile on this same track last month. In that same race, Ayala's Mikaela Ramirez tried to stay in Duarte's shadow as she crossed with a 4:52.89. Ramirez produced 2:39-2:19 splits last weekend in qualifying with a 4:58.41 while she looks to improve on her fourth-place finish from 2018. Qualifying for the fourth consecutive season, Walnut's Chloe Arriaga (4:55.23) looks to finish in the top five as she was eighth in 2018. Third, in this event a year ago, Great Oak's Arianna Griffiths (5:00.55 last weekend) looks to match that effort and gain much-needed points for her squad.
Long Beach Wilson's Rachel Glenn will try to make this the first of three individual titles she will claim at this year's Division 1 Finals. She continues to improve in the short hurdles, as evidenced by her seasonal best of 14.63 last weekend (into a -1.3 wind). Murrieta Mesa's Logann Williams will line up right to next to Glenn as she will look for the upset. Her seasonal best of 14.70 came when she captured the Southwestern League title two weeks ago. DeAira Jackson, seventh place a year ago, of Rancho Cucamonga is the third seed from last weekend and crossed with a best of 14.76 at the Arcadia Invite last month. Upland freshman Caelyn Harris will use this event as a warm-up for the Long Jump as her best was a 14.72 wind-aided effort from the Baseline League prelims two weeks ago.
Arguably, the deepest event on the Division 1 docket this weekend, the top five in the Southern Section explode out of the blocks. Meanwhile, Millikan's Samarra Monrroy was sharp last week in her 54.72 effort, which moved her up to sixth in the state! Chioma Okonkwo (54.25) is the state leader while Iman Babineaux of Quartz Hill rolled to a 54.27 on the same track a month ago at the Mt. SAC Relays. Corona's Egbe Ndip-agbor (54.49) seeks a little redemption on Roosevelt freshman Naomi Johnson (54.38), who edged her for the Big VIII title two weeks ago. Ndip-agbor was fourth here a year ago before advancing onto the California State Meet. Babineaux was fifth in 2018 and advanced to the Masters Meet. Also amongst those seeking a spot for next week is San Clemente's Emilie Bennett with a best of 55.41. Five of the top six in the state battle one another in this epic battle that includes the top four in California!
Important team title implications lie here for Long Beach Poly's Queen Okoh and Saundria Martin. Before transferring, Okoh was the Division 4 runner-up in 2018 while representing Serra. She advanced onto the Masters Meet and placed seventh. Martin has roared back from an injury-riddled 2018 season and looks to replicate the postseason she had as a sophomore at Carson where she was the Los Angeles City Section runner-up. Despite being the last seed to advance, Etiwanda's Kennedi Porter owns a wind-legal seasonal best of 11.87 and could surprise a few from lane one. Emerging out of oblivion this past month, ML King freshman Raykiyat Olukoju could be primed to pull the upset. Another surprise last week came in the form of Quartz Hill's Janae O'Neal, who held of Crystal Aluya of Valencia (Pl.).
One of the more wide-open events on the schedule, Great Oak's Fatima Cortes toes the line with the top time in the division this year. And, it came at last week's prelims where she crossed in a 2:12.68 (sixth in the section), not too long after running a 4:55 for the 1600 meters. She will be forced into battle against some familiar foes. Chino Hills' Jacqueline Duarte returns with Cortes from the 1600 meters, while she steps on the line with a 2:13.93 effort to capture the Baseline league title. The neighboring duo from Vista Murrieta of Peyton Candaele (2:13.95) and Makayla Fick (2:14.20) will once again challenge Cortes and look for two of those twelve qualifying spots to next weekend's Masters Meet. Mia Lawrence of Dana Hills snagged one of those last spots onward and joins the group with a 2:14.18 best, where she took third place at the South Coast League finals. Not to be overlooked, watch for Quartz Hills' Sarah Collier, who improved by over five seconds on her seasonal best in qualifying in 2:14.79.
Rachel Glenn of Long Beach Wilson is back, as she qualifies as the top seed and the top time in California with a 41.21. In looking relaxed as she broke 42 seconds last weekend, she is the heavy favorite. The group trying to chase her down will be led by Long Beach Poly's Kenya Payne, who owns a seasonal best of 43.81. She was fourth in this event in 2018 and stepped up on the largest stage by also taking fourth at the California State Meet. Upset by not advancing in the 100 meters last week, Upland's Jordyn Grady will place all of her focus here, where she gets into the blocks with a 2019 best of 43.98 and projected to advance to next weekend's Masters Meet. Hailey Ray of Dana Hills shined on this same track last month where she claimed a 44.16 victory at the Mt. SAC Relays. She has the sixth-best mark in the section of those remaining in the postseason. Amari Frasier of Mira Costa (44.49) will also be vying for a top spot while Roosevelt's Myah Hatcher improved to a 44.70 last weekend and looks to keep Payne in her sights for that team title battle.
Saundria Martin is third in the state and the favorite to capture this event. Her 24.01 comes in as the top time of the group, but Corona's Egbe Ndip-agbor continues to look stronger in this event over the past month. She was seventh in 2018, but with a 24.15 wind-legal best in 2019, looks for the win. Murrieta Mesa's Chioma Okonkwo was third a year in the Division 2 finals, but has improved down to a 24.19 wind-legal best and was able to outlast Ndip-agbor to capture the Inland Empire Championships last month. Raykiyat Olukoju, the ML King freshman, rode the coattails of the Corona Panther in crossing in 24.28 to take the runner-up spot at the Big VIII League Finals. Anisa Rind (24.38) of Dana Hills continues to look sharp and comes into the action ranked eighth in the Southern Section. Three of the top four in the section get into the blocks along with five in the top eight.
State Meet qualifier in 2018, Mikaela Ramirez of Ayala is the favorite. Not only does she step onto the line being the only one to break 10:30 in the division, her 10:19.32 is currently second in the Southern Section. She was in complete control last week and easily accelerated from the group last week in qualifying. San Clemente's Hana Catsimanes (10:34.80) was a Footlocker Finalist this past Fall, and is focused solely on this event in 2019. With a 10:34.80 performance on her resume, that is the fourth best in the section going into the weekend. Chloe Arriaga of Walnut (10:35.53) looked sharp at last weekend's prelims and looks to finish better than seventh (where she has finished ALL three years in this event). We will have to look at the last time a girl qualified for the Division 1 Finals in both the 1600 and 3200 all four years of high school! Great Oak's Audrey Dang has been consistent all season and steps in with a 10:43.46. She was eighth a year ago but comes in projected to finish in the top five. While placing fifth in 2018, her teammate, Arianna Griffiths (10:56.39 last weekend) looks to stay with Dang all throughout and earn, what could be, the needed points to threaten Long Beach Poly and Roosevelt for the team title.
The team title may come down to this final event! Roosevelt is the current state leader and looking to cement the title on this final gun. With an impressive 3:47.17, they need not look any further than behind them to see where Poly is listed on the charts. Long Beach Poly's seasonal best came at the Arcadia Invitational with a 3:48.60, which was when they passed Long Beach Wilson (3:49.36) down the stretch. Both finished just ahead of Roosevelt in that same race. Dana Hills has been solid all season and gets onto the line as the fourth fastest in the Southern Section with a 3:49.93. Quartz Hill delivered an impressive 3:53.10 at last week's prelims and also projects to qualify to the Masters Meet once again. The top four squads in California lace it up to conclude the day!