Southern Section Girls in Review - Top Headliners

Long Beach Wilson junior Rachel Glenn qualified for the CIF-State Championships in four events, won three medals and the title in the 300 hurdles, with one of the fastest times in the nation. (Pat Rhames photo)


Deviating from our template section in review narrative, we are approaching the Southern Section a bit differently. MileSplitCA Southern Section editor Mark Gardner breaks down the top headliners from the season by gender. This article focuses on girls (individuals and teams) in the Southern Section. 




Rachel Glenn (Long Beach Wilson/Jr.) - State Meet Qualifier in four events / 300 Hurdles State Champion

The 2019 top female performer in the Southern Section, the Long Beach Wilson junior continued to create headlines that extended well beyond the borders of California.  Before advancing onto the State Meet in four events, Glenn captured three titles (scoring 31.5 points on her own) at the Division 1 Finals.  Fast forward to the State Championships, and get a glimpse of her hectic schedule.  In the middle of the High Jump competition, where she was looking to defend her 2018 State title, Glenn raced over to capture the State title in the 300 hurdles (41.71).  Her 41.01 victory at the SS Masters Meet is the third fastest in the nation as Glenn went undefeated against all California competitors.   It is also the 17th fastest ever in California State history and 11th ever in the Southern Section.  She had to settle for the runner-up medal in the high jump. Glenn just missed qualifying for the State Final in the 100 hurdles the day before.  Adding to the busy slate, Glenn consistently threw down sub-55 second splits in the postseason to lead her 4x400 relay squad to a fourth-place finish at the State Meet finals as well.  She opened the regular season in a 55.45 rain soaked effort in the 400 meters before moving on to primarily focus on the 300 Hurdles.  That focus paid off and allowed her to climb to the top of the podium for the second year in a row.  We have her back for one final season in 2020, but for now, Long Beach Wilson's Rachel Glenn is the 2019 Female Athlete of the Southern Section.    

Jacqueline Duarte (Chino Hills/So.) - State Champion in the 1600 meters

As a freshman, she pulled off the upset of the meet at the 2018 Division 1 Finals, blasting to the lead in the last 100 meters and with a 13-second personal best, captured the 1600 meter title.   Peaking with a third-place performance at the California State Meet, and as the top freshman in the nation, capped off the incredible breakout season.  Moving onto the 2019 season, she stayed relatively tame for the first half.   Once we saw her close with a 68-second lap at the daytime portion of the Arcadia Mile, we knew she was right where she needed to be for that time of the year.   This became her template over the last month of the season as she defended her Division 1 title and rolled away from the competition once again at the California State Meet.  She even added on the 800-meter title (2:11.66) to add onto her resume.  But once in Clovis, she brought her best when it counted most and claimed the state title in what is currently the sixth fastest time in the nation (4:42.58).   This is just outside the top 20 in California State history as well.  Her 67-second closing lap was nothing new and unfortunately, for the competition, they had a view they'd rather forget.  She is off to Seattle next weekend to compete at the Brooks PR meet and take on some of the nation's best.  

Natalie Ramirez (West Ranch/Sr.) - State Meet Medalist in Discus and Shot Put
One of the greatest throwers in Southern Section history closed out a great career with two third-place medals in both throws at the California State Meet.   Over the course of the past three seasons, she has finished in the top three at the divisional finals six times with three individual championships (two in the SP and one in the Discus).  This season, she made her third trip to the State Meet where ss a junior, she earned a fourth-place medal in the Shot Put and placed seventh in the Discus.  She advanced on to the postseason all four years while also earning four titles in the tough Foothill League with three runner-up honors as well.   Her personal best of 163-2 in the Discus ranks her 14th on the all-time Southern Section lists while her 49-7.75 in the Shot Put places her 17th on those lists.  Very few throwers have left with this many accolades on their resume.  

Fatima Cortes (Great Oak/Sr.) - State Meet Finalist in the 1600 and 800
A catalyst for multiple championships on the Cross Country course, and a stalwart on Great Oak's 2018 Division 1 championship squad, Cortes attempted something rarely seen (or accomplished).  In taking second place at the SS Masters Meet in the 1600 and 800, she became the first Southern Section girl to qualify for the State Meet in both events since 2010.  Templeton's Savannah Camacho and Chadwick's Jaye Buchbinder achieved the feat at the same Masters meet nine years ago.  But, both chose to focus solely on the 800 meters at the State Meet whereas Cortes not only competed in both but advanced to Saturday's finals as well. She moves on to UC Berkeley with personal bests of 2:11.40, 4:45.41 and 10:25.90.  Not a bad progression for a girl that did not break 2:30 in the 800 meters as a freshman.   

Taylor Shorter (Norco/Jr.) - State Meet Medalist in both hurdles
After a sophomore breakout season, but not truly sure what event was best for her, the Norco coaching staff made all the right decisions on Shorter's fate in 2019.  In 2018, She was the only girl in the section to qualify in three track events at the Division 2 finals. (100, 200 and 100 Hurdles).  This past off-season, Shorter continued to improve her hurdling form to elevate into one of the best in the nation.  Her 13.92 was the fourth fastest wind-legal mark in California, and while it looked like she favored the shorter hurdles, she almost pulled off a huge upset in the 300's.  In qualifying sixth to the 300 Hurdles State Meet final, Shorter attacked the first several hurdles, maintained form all throughout for a huge improvement (42.06) and a second-place finish!  She leaves the 2019 season as not only one of the most improved athletes in the state but also the only girl in California to be ranked in the top four in both hurdling events.      

Calabasas - "What Could Have Been ..."   Calabasas had Both Relays and Two Top Athletes Disqualified
Perhaps, the greatest single headline that captured the attention of the Southern Section was one of misfortune, regret, and disappointment.  Since Jade McDonald (formerly of Mater Dei) and Bella Witt (formerly of Birmingham) enrolled at Calabasas, the Coyotes became instant favorites to capture the 2019 State team title.  Projected to score over 60 points at the State Meet, they were also slated to score over 115 points and easily capture the Division 2 team title as well.  But, once Witt and Kyla Robinson-Hubbard stepped onto the track to compete in the 4x400 relay at the Marmonte League finals, it officially became their fifth event.  Unknown by the coaching staff that the Tuesday prelims and Thursday finals are, essentially, the same meet.  The punishment for this infraction, unfortunately, resulted in both girls being disqualified in their individual events while both relay teams were also unable to advance to the postseason.  While their 4x100 relay (45.95) left the season with the top mark in California, Witt was projected to advance to the State Meet finals in the 100 hurdles and the 200 meters.  Meanwhile, Robinson-Hubbard was the 2018 State Meet runner-up in the 300 hurdles.  Once the decision was finalized by the CIF-SS offices, this sent shockwaves all throughout the state and if anything, served as a continual reminder that we all need to review the NFHS rules before every season.

De'Anna Nowling (Calabasas/Sr.) - Defends 100 meter State Title along with a Fourth Divisional Title
The University of Miami-bound senior was able to place aside all off-the-track distractions to defend her State title in the 100 meters.  She will be missed as her electric smile was on full display once again as she crossed the finish line in 11.55!  She returned to finish fourth in the 200 meters.  Her 11.43 performance from the Texas Relays in March leaves her as the 12th fastest in Southern Section history as she is the first repeat state champion in the event since Long Beach Poly's Arianna Washington earned three in a row from 2012-2014.  Back to the Southern Section, Nowling earned her FOURTH divisional title in the 100 meters as she captured the Division 3 titles in 2016-2017.  You have to back to 2000-2003 and Allyson Felix, (yes, THAT Allyson Felix!) to find a girl that captured titles in the 100 meters in all four seasons.  Nowling earned fourth place medals at the State Meet before these last two championships.    

Jazmyne Frost (Serra/Sr.) - Wraps Up Career with Two More State Meet Medals
Despite the majority of her 2018 State Team Champion squad graduating or transferring, the USC-bound Frost continued to shine on the largest stages.  One of the most decorated athletes in Southern Section history, she graduates with a State Team Title, a Division 4 team title (both in 2018), two first-place medals from the State Meet to go along with three runner-up distinctions.  Adding to the trophy case, Frost also placed third on two different occasions at the State Meet.  Of course, this is on top of her earning the Division 4 title in the 100 meters the past two seasons, the divisional title in the 200 meters in 2018 to go along with being a member of three victorious relay squads over the past three seasons.  This past State Meet, she placed second in the 200 meters while crossing for third place in the 100 meters.  In 2018, she earned the same places, just flip-flopping the events.  She leaves the section with personal bests of 11.57 (100 meters) and 23.65 in the 200 meters.  

Paige Sommers (Westlake/So.) - Pole Vaulter Earns Runner-Up Medal at the State Meet
The sophomore from Westlake continued to improve after her breakthrough freshman campaign in 2018.  After ending the season as the top freshman in the nation, elevating up over 13-00.50 and advancing onto place third at the California State Meet, expectations were higher than ever.  Improving up over the 13-06 bar, the 5-10 Sommers claimed a second Division 2 title in the pole vault.  In clearing 13-00 at the State Meet last month, she earned the runner-up medal while she is now tied for the 10th best mark in California State history.  It's also the sixth-best mark in Southern Section history.  Following in her father's footsteps in the vault (John was an 18+ vaulter in the mid-'90's for UCLA and competed at the '96 Olympic Trials), she also displayed her athleticism away from the vaulting runway.  Sommers added her third Division 2 title to her shelf as she escalated up over the 5-06 bar in the high jump while she also qualified for the State Meet in that event as well.  Furthermore, she just missed advancing onto the divisional finals in the 100 hurdles.  

Caelyn Harris (Upland/Fr.) - Freshman Flies to State Long Jump Title
Coming into the season with one of the best club-track resumes, we had our eyes on the Upland freshman early on.  And for good reason as she exceeded even the high expectations we already had!  She saved her best for last with her 20-08.50 wind-legal performance to capture the California State title in the long jump.  Throwing some drama in there, she fouled on her first two attempts but recovered to capture the title by almost a foot.  Her performance is the 13th best mark in California State history and ninth ever for the Southern Section as she just missed the state freshman record.  Harris was also an accomplished hurdler as she placed fifth at the Division 1 finals while also helping her 4x100 relay squad to advance to the divisional finals.  She finished as the top freshman in the nation in the long jump and now has the goal of becoming the first back-to-back champion in the event since Jenna Prandini (2010-2011).     

Saundria Martin (Long Beach Poly/Sr.) - Four Time State Meet Medalist

Perhaps, hidden by other headliners, Martin improved over the last two weeks about as well as anybody else in California.  She crossed with a fourth-place finish in the 200 meters (23.94) after placing fifth in the 100 meters (11.76).  Two weeks earlier, she captured the Division 1 title in the 100, while being out-leaned at the finish for the 200 meters.  She was also a vital cog in their relays, which earned 18 points between them.  At the California State Meet, Poly's 4x100 relay placed third.  Meanwhile, to end the meet with the 4x400 Relay, Martin moved her squad into the lead on an impressive second leg.   In enacting a small sense of revenge and payback on Roosevelt from two weeks earlier, Poly's squad was able to bring home the State title in the relay!  At Saturday's State Meet finals, Martin's performances were personal bests as she was one of the few athletes to drive back with four State Meet medals.

Roosevelt - Holds off Long Beach Poly for First Title in School History
In one of the closest team battles in the history of the Southern Section, it all came down to the final relay as both squads went into the event, tied at 48 points apiece.  And, of course - both squads were the top two teams in California going into the meet!   With what ended being the fastest time in California for the 2019 season, Roosevelt left no doubt and rolled to a 3:43.77 victory to capture their school's first team title.  Unfortunately, the false start from Kenya Payne in the 300 hurdles is what allowed Roosevelt to jump right back into the battle. Myah Hatcher stepped up to finish fourth in that same race, while just before, Alexys Ford placed sixth in the 800 meters.  Meanwhile, one of the most improved throwers in California, Lydia Liu pulled off the upset victory in the discus (to go along with her fourth-place finish in the shot put).  Erika Flaherty came up big with her second place finish in the pole vault while the Mustangs started the meet, finishing right behind Poly in the 400 relay.  Anchoring that 1600 relay squad, freshman Naomi Johnson placed fourth in the 400 meters to also help propel Roosevelt to the team title.  In what also made a team championship improbable for Roosevelt was the fact that their top pole vaulter, and obviously one of the best in the division, abruptly quit the team and transferred out of the state.  While Hatcher and Johnson just missed qualifying for the State Meet finals in their events, Liu placed fifth in the Discus.  Meanwhile, their 4x400 relay finished second while their shorter relay placed fifth.  But, at the Division 1 finals, the cards fell in place and the Mustangs brought home the team title plaque.   

Mission Viejo - Claims Division 2 Title
In the midst of other great programs taking the headlines, the girls of Mission Viejo were one of the top teams in the section, despite being in the shadow of Calabasas all season.  When the opportunity arose going into the postseason, the middle-distance, throwing-laden squad claimed as many points as possible and ran away to a 72-52 Division 2 title!   The throwing duo of Ava Butterbaugh and Danielle Lister teamed together to be the best 1-2 combo in the section.  Butterbaugh was a huge factor as she improved by 30 feet in the discus (132-2 best) and over four-feet in the shot put (44-10).    Meanwhile, Lister delivered in the clutch with a second-place finish in the Discus and a third-place effort in the shot put.  The two combined for 27 points from the throwing rings.  Both advanced on to the State Meet finals in the shot put and were Masters Meet qualifiers in the discus. Meanwhile, they also possessed the best 800-meter duo in the section was Morgan Calcagnie and Ashley Johnson!    With Johnson taking fifth place at the 2018 State Meet, Calcagnie remained in her shadow until this season.  She crossed with the Division 2 title while Johnson was fourth.  For good measure, Grace Fulwiler crossed in seventh place, giving them 17 points in that event alone.  Matriculating to Yale this upcoming Fall, Kelli Hines closed out her career with a second place finish in the 1600 meters while Emma Hicken placed fourth.  Combined, the crew earned 30 points in the distances!   The relay squads added on eight more points to the cause while Jenny Kroeger's fourth-place finish in the pole vault cemented the title.  This was their second title in the past four seasons.      

Santa Margarita - Earns Fifth Division 3 Title in a Row
With the graduations of Nikki Merritt, Gwynn George, and Mallory Barnes, the Eagles lost 45 points from their 2018 Division 3 championship squad.  Tough task to replace those three -- but not for Santa Margarita!  Harnessed by the speed of University of Columbia-bound Tessa Green, they simply reloaded and rolled to their fifth consecutive Division 3 title.   Green captured the 100 meters while coming back to earn her second title in the 200 meters.  She anchored her squad to the title in the 400 relay (which advanced to take seventh at the State Meet) while impressing with a strong leg on the victorious 1600 relay squad.  Where Green shined was her surprising 11.78 eruption of sorts in placing sixth in the 100 meters at the State Meet final!  Her previous best had been 11.96 from five weeks earlier.   This effort gave her a new school record and is now the second fastest in Orange County history!  Acquiring Lauren Memoly seemed like a nice replacement from some of the graduated talent but by the end of March, the sophomore (main focus had been soccer) was creating her own headlines!  Memoly continued to improve and placed sixth at the State Meet!  Her 54.97 best from the State Meet prelims is now sixth in O.C. history.  She was runner-up at the divisional finals in the long jump as well as being a vital cog, with Green, on those relay squads.  The two combined to earn 48 points between the two of them!   Improving by two feet in the pole vault, Nathalie Barnes stepped up for a second-place finish in the pole vault.  Sophia Morris and Jessica Elisalde-Rendon combined for nine points in the 300 hurdles while Kendall Saeger and McKenna Bradley provided eight additional points from the distances.  

Oaks Christian - Claims Fifth Title in Six Seasons
One of the most dominant programs over the past decades has been Oaks Christian.  While Serra was en route to claiming the 2018 California State team title, this was their seventh year in a row of obtaining some hardware as a team before they left the Division 4 finals.  Hannah Wilson, who ended earning the fifth place medal in the 800 meters at the State Meet, was one of a numerable components that comprised their scoring at the divisional finals.   Wilson, along with Calabasas transfer Janiah Brown (who also advanced to the State Meet finals), placed 2-3 in that event.  Also the foundation of their 4x400 squad, who moved on to take seventh place at the California State Meet, these two combined for 19 points.  Jahzara Richardson was runner-up in the 100 meters and sixth in the 200 as she brought in an additional 11 individual points.  The duo of Brooklyn Courtnall and Raeshell Austin combined for nine more points in the 400 meters.  Austin also earned a sixth place finish in the long jump.  Tasha Bierling contributed additional points with her runner-up finish in the 300 hurdles while Bryn Polly kicked off the meet with her runner-up placing in the pole vault.  When the dust cleared, Oaks Christian found themselves with another divisional championship, with a 73-49 victory over Serra.  They only graduate Brown and Bierling while Hannah Wilson's 2:10.87 performance at the State Meet will return for the 2020 season as the top time in the Southern Section.

Jade McDonald (Calabasas/So.) - State Meet Finalist in Three Events
Already an accomplished athlete as a freshman at Mater Dei, when transferring to another high octane
program such as Calabasas brought some headlines on its own.  While at Mater Dei, she placed sixth in the triple jump at the California State Meet while helping her squad to the Division 2 title as she earned 22 points by herself.  With all those expectations, McDonald did not miss a beat while she advanced back to the California State Meet once again, but this time, in THREE events!   With a busy slate for Friday's prelims, the sophomore advanced to the finals in all three.  Her best performance came the next day where her personal best of 19-09.75w yielded her a fourth place medal.  Meanwhile, she placed seventh in the triple jump and eighth in the 100 hurdles.  At the Division 2 finals, she captured the long and triple jumps while finishing second in the 100 hurdles, adding up to 28 points on her own!  

Mia Barnett (Village Christian/So.) & Audrey Suarez (Mayfield/So.) - No Sophomore Slump for these Two
It's very difficult to separate these two as seemingly, both of them are in one another's shadow on the largest stages.  Add in the fact that they are training partners, despite attending different schools and it just felt right to highlight these two together!  Both rose up to two of the top freshmen in the nation in 2018, but followed up with even better seasons as sophomores.  Both battled one another to the top two times at the Divisional Finals, with Barnett holding off Suarez for the second year in a row in the 1600.  Suarez bounced back to capture the 800 meters to claim her first title (to go along with three runner-up medals), while Barnett would cross with the Division 4 title in the 3200.   The two advanced back to the California State Meet in the 1600 meters where they shined once again.  Suarez crossed in third place while Barnett was right behind her in fourth.  Barnett also advanced to the State Meet final for the 3200 meters, where she placed ninth and was the top finisher representing the section.  Barnett ended the season with the third best marks in the section for the 3200 (10:22.51) and the 1600 (4:46.12).  Meanwhile, Suarez rolled to a 4:45.00 in her third place finish at the State Meet in the 1600 meters.  She passed up on the 800 meters at the SS-Masters Meet but not before she recorded the second fastest time (2:11.16) in the section to capture the Division 4 title.  Along with Chino Hills' Jacqueline Duarte, these two executed precise racing schedules that had them performing best at the end of the season for the second year in a row.  Photo: Suarez (3) and Barnett (second from left) in the 1600m Final at State.

Samarra Monrroy (Millikan/Fr.) - Freshman No Longer the Underdog
Very few outside the Long Beach area realized just how talented this freshman was until the postseason.  Aggressively attacking the first half of the 400 meters and not letting up, Monrroy got everybody's attention at the Division 1 prelims, where she delivered the top time of the day in 54.72.  She placed second at the Division 1 finals, captured the event at the Masters Meet (54.16) but unlike most freshmen, kept it coming.  Despite being unable to hold the lead over the last 50 meters at the State Meet final, Monrroy crossed with a runner-up 54.25 performance (her fifth straight sub-55 second effort in four weeks).  Her seasonal best is the top time in the section in 2019 and overall, she is the third fastest freshman in the nation.  Meanwhile, her 24.64 effort at the Moore League Finals was the second-fastest among all freshman in California.  

Asjah Atkinson (St. Anthony/So.) - Sophomore Shines Once Again
Advancing to the State Meet finals in the 100 hurdles once again, Atkinson rolled to a 13.89 wind-aided third-place effort.  She also placed sixth in the long jump.  In capturing the Division 4 titles in both hurdles as a freshman, she claimed divisional titles in the 100 hurdles and long jump in 2019, giving the sophomore four titles on her resume already!   Her 13.84w was the fourth best (under all conditions) time in California while her 19-04.5 effort in the long jump makes her one of the best returning athletes in the state.     

Shyann Franklin (Golden Valley/Sr.) - SS Masters Qualifier All Four Seasons, State Meet Runner-up 
There was no way we could exclude Franklin as the senior earned her second straight State Meet runner-up medal in the shot put.  This season, she saved her best for last, as her 48-0.75 performance at the State Championships leaves her as the 15th best performer in the event in Southern Section history!  Competing against West Ranch's Natalie Ramirez kept her honest as she graduates with a resume unmatched by anybody else these last four years.  Her first two seasons, she advanced to the SS-Masters Meet in both throws.  As a junior, she placed second in the shot put while also qualifying for the State Meet in the discus.  In 2019, she finally captured her first divisional title with her victory in the Shot Put.  Going into the season, she had placed third on three different occasions along with second place finishes on two other efforts.  The Foothill League boasted two of California's best the past several seasons as her, and Ramirez will be missed in 2020.