Storylines, notes and more from the CIF-State Championships

Clovis North is off and running in the middle of the track in the boys 4x100 relay. (Jeffrey Parenti photo)



CLOVIS -- Of all the individual storylines from the 101st CIF-State Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High, it's hard to imagine one more perfect than what happened in the girls 800 meter run.


As the air was becoming chilly and day turned to night, a sophomore from Marin Catholic, whose gesture of spontaneous sportsmanship a week before had captivated a track-loving state, was churning through a fast first 400 more than a few strides off the lead of Concord senior Rayna Stanziano

Samantha Wallenstrom said she was all too familiar with that vision -- of Stanziano's back -- having competed against her three previous times this season. Stanziano, a senior headed to St. Mary's, placed third at the State Meet as a junior and was the top returner from 2018. 

But she almost never made it this far. 

At the North Coast Section final a week before, Stanziano, suffering from a virus, lost motor control while leading near the end of the race and fell to the track. Wallenstrom, running behind her, at first continued on, but then instinctually stopped and turned back to try to help Stanziano.

While the Concord senior got to her feet and found her way to the finish line without physical assistance from Wallenstrom -- which would have resulted in a disqualification for both -- it was the pure act of sportsmanship that drew headlines, praise and respect from all who witnessed it and read about it. 

So, with about 80 meters to go in the State 800m final, Stanziano's strong early lead evaporated as she began to hit the wall. Season-long state leader Charlotte Tomkinson, a junior from Menlo, powered into first and appeared on the verge of victory. But then Wallenstrom, surging from the outside, had hit a different gear and first passed Stanziano and then Tomkinson. 

Wallenstrom had won the state 800 meter title. There seemed to be a momentary pause while the crowd processed the poetic justice of what had just occurred. 

Wallenstrom's 2:08.78 PR was the fastest in the state this year and ranks top 20 U.S. Tomkinson's 2:09.41 PR for second ranks CA No. 2. Stanziano's 2:10.07 fell short of her 2:09.44 PR from the 2018 final but earned her a second consecutive third place medal. That race produced the six fastest times in the state this season. 


In a post-race interview with by a stadium field announcer, the crowd was told about what happened at NCS and a picture (taken by Bay Area News Group freelancer Haley Nelson) was shown on the video board, an acknowledgement of the act of sportsmanship pre-planned by the CIF-State and meet management. 

Tomkinson, who competes in the Central Coast Section, was aware of the story and asked about it by a Bay Area reporter.

"I did see the video of them last week," Tomkinson told Darren Sebedra of The San Jose Mercury News.  "I really think it's a testimony to what a great community this is and really epitomizes the spirit we have. Each competitor really supports each other.

"We've obviously very fierce and competitive out there. There'll be some elbows that are flying while we're racing. But at the finish line, it's all love and support."


As whirlwind senior seasons go, it's hard to imagine any more crazy than that of Upland senior Caleb Lutalo Roberson. As a junior, Roberson won the State Meet title in the 300 meter hurdles. But Roberson is a football player who runs track. Looking for a better opportunity to earn a football scholarship, Roberson moved to Missouri last summer. And after having a season that garnered a full-ride to Wyoming, Roberson moved back with family and re-enrolled at Upland. He had to sit out the first part of the season in accordance with the CIF-Southern Section transfer rules, and had an inconsistent season leading to State. 

As a sophomore, Roberson qualified for State in the long jump and placed fifth in what remains his PR of 23-05.50. 

As a junior, he dropped the horizontal jump and focused on hurdles and sprints, to improve his speed for football. He qualified for State in the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles, reaching the final in the 300s and missing the 110 final by .07. He was third in section divisionals in the 100m.

He opened this season in March running the 300 hurdles in 36.96. But a few weeks later, he struggled to 38.68 at Arcadia, placing sixth. At the Southern Section Divisionals, he ripped off a 36.35, but the following week, struggling with an illness, he slipped to a sloppy 38.64 at Masters, placing fifth. 

Additionally, he won the SS Division 1 title in the 100  (10.59)  and placed third at Masters, qualifying for State. He also ran first leg on the 4x400 relay. 

Friday night's State Prelims were not kind to Roberson. He did not qualify in the 100, running 10.84, his slowest time in a month, and in his lead leg of the relay, he was ruled to have stepped on the lane line too many times and the team was disqualified. 

Fueled by anger and disappointment and only one race to disburse it, Roberson got out fast and attacked the hurdles with aggression, surging to a lead. 

But it wouldn't be that easy.

Riverside King senior Reyte Rash, who was second to Roberson in the State Final last year -- and had won half of the 12 previous 300 hurdles races against Roberson - was not about to go away. The opposite, actually.

With track announcer Tim O'Rourke whipping the crowd into a frenzy, Rash closed fast as Roberson was starting to feel his legs give way. As the finish line approached, both runners, with nothing left but heart and desire, took flight. 

With both sprawled on the track just beyond the finish, O'Rourke announced Roberson's victory in 36.32, .09 ahead of Rash. Stockton St. Mary's junior Jamar Marshall, the 110 hurdles winner, was third in 36.74.

The race produced the top three times in the state and Nos. 2, 3 and 6 in the U.S.  Los Gatos senior Joey Monti was fourth in 37.39 (CA No. 6). 

Roberson is the first to repeat as champion since San Ramon California's David Klech in 2005-06 and the fifth in history of the event dating to 1975.


Madison senior Kenan Christon came in as the man to beat in the short sprints. The USC football recruit who runs track "for fun" had a blast on Saturday. 
Christon, sixth in both sprints as a junior, had previously posted a 10.26 wind-aided best in the 100 meters.

On Saturday, he powered through a wind-legal 10.30 to equal the meet record set by another San Diegan, Southwest High's Riley Washington in 1992. 

Christon came back later in the meet after the weather had turned and a chill enveloped the stadium looking to complete the sprint double. Getting out fast and remaining low looking every bit like the football running back he is, Christon leaned into the turn and by the straight, he was gone. His 20.69 was aided by a 2.5 meters-per-second wind, was .30 faster than runner-up Cameron Reynolds (Clayton Valley/NC) and .42 ahead of Christian Grubb (Sherman Oaks Notre Dame/SS).

Grubb had beaten Christon in both sprints twice earlier this season but the third time was all Christon.
Christon is the first to double in the short sprints since Curtis Godin (Santa Ana Mater Dei/SS) went 10.31 in the 100m and 20.87 to win the 200m in 2014.   


It's hard to imagine that a junior pole vaulter who didn't win league and needed his very last attempt to earn a qualifying mark for State, is a future face of the event.

In the boys pole vault, won by Harvard-bound senior Samuel Wright of Lodi (16-05), it's true that the guy in fourth place almost didn't get out of his section.

Great Oak junior Kyle Yonker was 10th at Southern Section Masters but advanced based on hitting the at-large standard of 14-09. 

Yonker had flirted with 14-09 all season, but didn't hit 15 feet until the division finals where he placed fifth. Yep, fifth. Sense a trend? 

Yonker was ninth at Arcadia (13-07), fifth at Mt. SAC (14-00), second in league (14-09), and fifth at the SS Division 1 finals, where he finally cleared that 15 foot ceiling.

But it was back to 14-09 at SS Masters, barely earning his ticket to state on his final attempt at that height.

And, as fate would have it, the opening height at Friday's qualifying? Yep, 14-09. But Yonkers went over on his second attempt and then cleared 15-03 on his first attempt to earn a ticket to Saturday's final.

On Saturday, the opening height was ... 14-11!! No worries. Yonkers cleared on his second attempt, then cleared 15-05 on his third attempt and 15-09 on his second attempt to place fourth!!

Yonker is the No. 2 returner for 2020 behind only Scott Toney of Mountain View St. Francis, who placed third at 16-01.

It's hard to imagine two schools from the same league in the 117,000-plus-population central California town of Clovis winning State Meet team titles in the same year. But it happened Saturday when league foes Buchanan and Clovis North captured the girls and boys titles. 

Buchanan, the meet host school, got 22 points from distance runners Meagen Lowe and Corie Smith, 12 points from senior sprinter Shelby Daniele, and eight points each from the 4x100 relay and triple jumper Haley Abirached to run away to an emphatic victory over undermanned or depleted challengers. 

The road to the title was a little different for the boys at Clovis North, which got 28 points from junior Caleb Foster, and support points from Naythn Scruggs (100m, 4x100) and Isaiah Galindo (3200) to post 41 points, which was enough to hold off the Zachary Larrier-led team from Monterey Trail. 

Boys and girls combined points scoreboard: Buchanan (67), Clovis North (42), Long Beach Poly (45), Liberty (35), Long Beach Wilson 30, Upland 30.