Storylines To Watch At The CIF-State Championships

The middle five girls in this photo of pole vault medalists at the Arcadia Invitational have all cleared 13 feet this season and are on their way as one of the headliners at the State Meet. (Jeffrey Parenti photo)


In a meet with 64 events, 28 individual champions, four relay champions and two team champions, we explore just 10 of the storylines heading into the 101st CIF-State Track and Field Championships. 

1. Shiny New Track

Earlier this spring, the track at Buchanan High's Veterans Memorial Stadium got a $600,000 upgrade with a new polyurethane surface by Beynon installed over the existing 24-year-old track. Early returns are that it's faster (and more colorful) than the old oval. Now we're about to find out just how well it handles the best in the state -- as well as how well it handles the rain. 

2. Talk About The Weather

Speaking of wetness, the forecast all week as called for at least a 50 percent of showers as well as thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening on Saturday in Clovis. Friday, if weather forecasters are to be believed, is expected to be comfortable and dry. No offense,, but we all hope you are wrong about Saturday. Just sayin'. (Above screenshot from updated Friday AM.)

3. Seventy-Foot Shot

Daniel Viveros, the Bakersfield Liberty (CS) weight specialist, unleashed a monster shot put of 71-03 that vaulted the Ole Miss-bound senior to the No. 1 spot in the U.S. and also the No. 4 spot in state history. Not too shabby. So, now what? Viveros, the defending State Meet champion in the shot put (as well as the state leader in the discus), had two throws over 70 feet at that Central Section South Area Championships. In the 100-year history of the State Championships, only two boys have won with a throw exceeding 70 feet in the shot put: Matt Katnik (St. John Bosco/SS), who went 72-00 in 2015, and Brent Noon (Fallbrook/SD), who set the meet record of 74-04.75 in 1990. 

4. Eight Laps For The Ages

Three of the greatest distance runners in state history are scheduled to toe the line for the 3200 meters toward the end of the two-day meet Saturday night. Newbury Park (SS) junior Nico Young leads the nation with his epic 8:40.00 (CA No. 3 all-time) performance at Arcadia in early April. Jesuit (SJ) junior Matt Strangio ranks U.S. No. 3 for his solo 8:47.97 at the Dublin Distance Fiesta in mid-March (CA No. 19 AT). And Redwood (NC) senior Liam Anderson ranks U.S. No. 8 for his 8:51.89 at Arcadia. Strangio is the defending champion while Anderson is the defending champion in the 1600 looking to double and cap a senior year that included a national championship and Gatorade Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year honors. The field also includes Canyon Country Canyon senior Ethan Danforth (9:02.28), JSerra senior Peter Herold (9:02.53), West Ranch senior Isaiah Galindo (9:03.82) and Long Beach Poly senior William Frankenfeld (9:03.94). Top-eight scoring positioning for Galindo and Frankenfeld could be significant in the team competition.

5. Multitasking Gals

Of the girls qualified to multitask at the State Meet, here are three we are watching a little more closely, at least for the moment: Rachel Glenn, Jade McDonald and Jazlynn Shearer.

Glenn, a junior at Long Beach Wilson (SS), is the defending champion in the high jump (she shared it with a senior last June), who is also the state leader in the 300 hurdles and also will run in the 100 hurdles and the 4x400 relay.

McDonald, a sophomore at Calabasas, is the No. 3 seed in the long jump, No. 4 qualifier in the triple jump and No. 7 qualifier in the 100 hurdles.

Shearer, a senior at San Jose Silver Creek, is the No. 1 qualifier in the 100 hurdles, the No. 8 qualifier in the long jump and No. 10 qualifier in the triple jump. Don't be fooled by qualifying position, at least not in Shearer's case. She is the state leader in the 100 hurdles (13.36, which is .50 faster than her qualifying time). This is her fourth trip to state in the hurdles (she is the top returner from last year's finals where she was fourth), and not her first rodeo in the jumps, either.

McDonald, sixth here last year in the triple jump while attending Santa Ana Mater Dei, is looking to add big points to a decimated Calabasas team that lost two star hurdlers and both relay teams to disqualification after the league meet.

Glenn will make Wilson a threat for the team title mostly by herself. She is No. 3 in the U.S. in the long hurdles (41.01) and her time is 1.39 faster than the next qualified competitor, which does not include either of the returners from last year's finals. Neither made it this far. The high jump field is deep with nine girls at 5-08 or higher led by Coronado's Alysah Hickey, who was fourth a year ago and the only girl in the state so far this year to jump at least 5-10. 

6. Sprint Doubles

This one is much simpler. Can Kenan Christon (San Diego Madison) and De'Anna Nowling (Calabasas) sweep the 100 and 200? Sherman Oaks Notre Dame's Christian Grubb looms as the biggest threat to Christon in both (and has beat him twice in both earlier this season). Nowling, the defending 100m champion making her fourth trip to state in the 100, has won 16 of her last 19 races in the straight sprint and two of those were prelims. She comes in with the No. 3 seed and will be challenged by the likes of top qualifier Aysha Shaheed (Christon's classmate at Madison, who went 11.57 to win her second consecutive SDS title, and Chinyere Okoro (Amador Valley), who went 11.65. Nowling comes in with the No. 2 time in the 200 where she is a three-time Southern Section Division champion making her third trip to state where she was fourth last year. 

7. Four-Lap Drama

Between illness, elite depth and intense competition, there were a few surprises in the girls 1600 last year, including three Southern Section freshmen among the six medal winners. This year the four-lap drama should be just as compelling. To start, there are three qualifiers under 4:50 and 14 who earned a ticket to Clovis running sub-5. Mayfield sophomore Audrey Suarez, fifth as a frosh last June, went 4:45.04 at Southern Section Masters to hold off Great Oak senior Fatima Cortes (4:45.41) in a qualifying race that produced the Nos. 4 and 8 times in the U.S. A week before, another one of those 2018 freshmen, Mia Barnett (Sun Valley Village Christian) went 4:47.30 at the Section Division Final, a time that ranks U.S. No. 13. Also among that trio, Jacqueline Duarte of Chino Hills, who took home the medal for third place last year, when she ran 4:44.87, hasn't been under 4:50 yet this year. Yet. Remember, last year it took 4:52.99 to finish among the top 12 qualifiers for the Saturday final. Aside from the returning sophomore trio, three others from last year's final field are still around, seniors Cortes, and two future Oregon State teammates, Meagen Lowe (Buchanan/CS) and Gabrielle Peterson (Healdsburg/NC). We'll give you one guess as to the top six qualifiers here. 

8. 13-Foot Fliers

In the aftermath of the 13-09 clearance by Clovis West senior Elizabeth Funk, we detailed how this has emerged as the greatest single year for girls pole vault in state history. There are now 10 girls -- TEN!!! -- at 13 feet or higher. No other season has had more than five.  Knowing that, it's crazy to think how four girls peaked at 12-06 last year and the title came down to misses. Stanford-bound Santa Catalina School senior Laurel Wong was the winner last year. This year, weather permitting, those misses won't come until the bar is well over 13 feet. Nationally, Funk ranks No. 4 at 13-09, sophomores Ashley Callahan (Rancho Bernardon/SD) and Paige Sommers (Westlake/SS) are among a half-dozen tied for No. 7 at 13-06, Carondelet (NC) junior Kelley Kern is in the mix at No. 13 with her 13-04 clearance last week, and Poway (SD) senior Camryn Thomson is U.S. No. 17 at 13-03. Wong, sitting at 13-01.50 and U.S. No. 20, has gone 13-04, but not in almost a year.

9. Future Is Now

Three sophomores and four freshman are among the top 11 qualifiers in the girls 1600. Four sophomores and a freshman are among the top 10 qualifiers in the girls 100 hurdles. Three freshman and two sophomores are among the top 10 qualifiers in the girls 400, including top seed Samarra Monrroy (Long Beach Millikan/SS -- post-Masters victory interview above). One freshman and three sophomores are among the top four qualifiers in the girls long jump, including the top seed, freshman Caelyn Harris (Upland/SS). And before you think this segment is all about the ladies, let us introduce you to Rayshon Luke a freshman at Bellflower St. Johns Bosco (SS) who has the third-fastest qualifying time in the boys 100m (10.65). 

10. Who's Next?

The only guarantee in the battle for boys and girls team titles is that there will not be a repeat winner. Murrieta Mesa in the boys and Gardena Serra in the girls were the 2018 champions. The Rams from the powerful Southwestern League in south Riverside County has all of one qualifier, Chioma Okonkwo, the sister of a member of last year's boys title team, Matthew Okonkwo. While Serra returns USC-bound senior Jazmyne Frost in the 100 and 200, her support crew this year is down to just A'Lena Chaney in the long jump. Buchanan looms as the team to beat among the girls, although Calabasas could still challenge. Long Beach Poly has been the favorite to grab its first title since 2011 but Clovis North could challenge. Also, the stream of Inland Empire teams winning the title would need Upland to come up big and join the short list of recent IE champs: Vista Murrieta (twice), Rancho Verde and Murrieta Mesa.

Plus three more ...

11. Can super-talented Clovis North junior Caleb Foster lead the Broncos to the team title? Foster is the top seed and top ranked in the triple jump (49-01.25), the No. 2 seed in the long jump (and state leader at 25-01.50). He is the No. 3 qualifier in the 110 hurdles and ranks a distant third in the state behind Jamar Marshall (St. Mary's/SJ) and Warren Williams (Merrill West/SJ), who rank Nos. 2 and 4, respectively, in the U.S. 49-01.25. And, Foster is a key member of the Clovis North 4x100 relay team that is seeded third with a CA No. 3 time of 41.17. If the ranking holds to form, that's a whopping 24 points individually and six more in the relay. 

12. Can little sister mirror big brother? In 2016, Great Oak senior Isaac Cortes became just the second athlete to win the 800 and 1600 at the same State Championship Meet. This weekend, little sister Fatima will attempt the same double. Fatima Cortes, a senior at Great Oak headed to Cal, has the No. 2 qualifying mark in the 800 (2:11.40, CA No. 7) and the No. 2 time in the 1600 (4:45.41, CA No. 2, U.S. No. 7). 

13. How many of the 10 returning champions will be able to repeat?

Photos by DeAnna Turner, Zoe Medranda, Patrick Corsinita, Jeffrey Parenti, Frank Bellino, Josh Barber. Interview by Matt Parker.