Top Headliners in the Southern Section for 2019
Beau Allen (San Marcos/Sr.)
One of the section's best high jumpers since his sophomore season, Allen put aside a frustrating, fourth place performance at the Division 2 finals to clear 6-11 at the California State Meet and earn himself the State title. Fourth at the 2018 State Meet in the event, he was the Division 2 champ as a junior and a three-time Masters Meet qualifier. Allen was the one athlete in California to clear the coveted 7-foot bar in 2019 and only the fourth in the Southern Section to achieve the feat over the past five seasons.
Kai Wingo (Valencia/Sr.)
Wingo first shined early on in 2019 with his victory in the 600 meters in the Winter Championships. Wingo's template for success came with allowing a competitor to do the pacing through the first 500 meters and then watch as he took over the last 300. That was exactly the case at the California State Meet where Wingo was in 10th place with 250 meters to go, moved to the outside as far out as lane four, maintained his relaxed form (as he always did this season) and brought home the State title. He utilized the same strategy in capturing Division 1 and the Masters Meet titles. His 1:51.71 at the State Meet was the fastest mark in the state for 2019 and he needed every inch to hold off Jesuit's Chase Gordon at 1:51.74! Wingo broke 1:53 six times over the last seven weeks of the season but only broke 1:52 when he needed it most!
Gino Cruz (Newbury Park/Sr.)
While the rest of the competition struggled on State Championship weekend, Cruz maintained form and ascended to the top of the podium in the discus with his 191-01 throw for the State title. The day before, his 195-00 was a new personal best for the senior and cracked into the top 30 ever in Southern Section history. After placing fourth at the Division 1 finals as a junior, he captured the division title. He ended the season ranked 12th in the United States in the discus.
Loyola's Boys 4x400 Capture State Title
In what seemingly became a war of attrition, in their fourth straight weekend of high level competition and their second night in a row, the Cubs of Loyola were able to hold on to the finish for the State title in the 4x400 relay. In what ended up being only their fourth best time in the past month, the 3:17.56 was just enough to hold off fast-charging Long Beach Poly (3:17.68) for the win. Sophomore Ceyair Wright, and seniors Mason Ratkovich, Jeremy Davis and anchor Andrew Arth, the crew was only fourth at the Division 1 finals and fifth at the Masters Meet. Very few had them competing for the title. With a successful but busy weekend, Ratkovich was returning from taking third in the 800 meters (1:52.22), falling just short in a huge kick that saw him race from ninth place with 300 meters to go. Meanwhile, Arth just missed advancing to the State Meet in the 400 meters as he set a school record (47.54) in April. Not only did Loyola post the fastest 4x800 mark (7:48.13) of 2019 in California, but they raced away to the 4x400 one as well.
Long Beach Poly's Boys - First Divisional Crown since 2007
Heavy favorites since the end of the 2018 season, Poly was able to live up to the expectations and captured its first Division 1 team title since 2007! Despite injuries derailing their long term goal for a State Team title, they moved away rather easily for the, 82-46 divisional title over Upland. The Kenyon Reed-led 400 relay team ran to the divisional title and ended the season with the top time in the state (40.87). As Reed ran the second fastest time in the section (21.09) this season, he held on for the Division 1 title in the event. Along with DeAngelo Chester and Anthony Johnson, the trio earned 33 points altogether. Reed, a Kansas State football recruit, was one of the only athletes to qualify for FOUR events at the State Meet finals. Meanwhile, junior Everett Steward placed fourth in the 400 meters and later advanced to finish sixth at the California State Meet. He anchored the 4x400 squad to a second place finish at the divisional finals and brought the crew up from sixth place to just narrowly miss the state title on his anchor leg at the State Championships. All of that alone would have secured the team title, but Liam Anderson created his own headlines in the hurdles. A year after not advancing to the divisional finals in 2018, Anderson captured the title in the 110 hurdles and came back to place fourth in the 300 hurdles. At the State Meet, Anderson placed seventh in the 110's while just missing the finals in the 300's. William Frankenfeld also advanced to the State Meet in the 3200 meters, while placing second at the divisional finals for eight additional points. To cement the all-around team effort, sophomore Miguel Orozoco earned additional points with a sixth place effort in the long jump.
Derek Pekar Leads Ventura's Boys to the Division 2 Team
No one athlete had a busier schedule on the day of the divisional finals than senior Derek Pekar. He had already established himself as one of the top decathletes ever Southern Section history, in earning 7021 points at the Arcadia Invitational. He took on the task on not just qualifying for the postseason in four events but advanced as well to the Divisional finals. Despite running out of steam in the 300 hurdles, where he went in as a top seed but came away with an eighth place finish, he had already earned the Cougars 21 points from the long jump, pole vault, and while running to a surprising runner-up finish in the 110 hurdles. Two weeks later, he advanced to the State Meet finals in the long jump (8th place) and the 110 hurdles (9th place) to cement one of the greatest all-around careers in section history. Off the track, Carlos Aviles earned 16 points in the rings with two runner-up finishes in both throws. Aviles advanced to the California State Meet in both events with a ninth place finish in the shot put. With Charlie Hammel stepping in to provide four additional points in the 3200 meters to go along with Benjamin Maidman tie for fifth place in the pole vault, the 43.5 points was enough to hold off Mater Dei, which finished with 39 points. In a tightly contested team battle, less than 13 points separated the top seven squads. Ventura only needed four athletes to get the job done in earning a second divisional championship, matching their 1999 Division 2 title!
Harvard Westlake Defends Division 3 Team Title!
Led by Brayden Borquez (who earned his own separate capsule) the Wolverines defended their Division 3 crown from 2018. The last several weeks, it became obvious that it would be a hard fought battle with Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks. Going into the final event, Harvard Westlake was down by two points but cemented the championship with its second relay victory on the day and with a 60-52 victory. Once James Chung (48.30 in the 400 meters) was sidelined with a mid-season injury, the margin for victory tightened, but Borquez earned 18 points from his efforts in the 400 and 300 hurdles while leading those winning relay squads. Josh Johnson earned 11 more points in the shorter sprints while also advancing onto the Masters Meet in the 200 meters. Those two would eventually lead their 4x100 relay squad to a fifth place finish at the California State Meet while their 41.35 seasonal best was the fourth fastest effort in the state for 2019. Keon Mazdisnian pitched in four more points in his efforts in the 1600 and 3200 meters. Justin Butler placed fourth in the 300 hurdles while Jack Riley contributed two additional points from the 100 meters.
Oaks Christian Earns Another Division 4 Title
Despite losing Cristian Moore, who posted the fastest times in the 100 and 200 meters for the division going into the postseason, the Lions had no problems regrouping to claim their fourth consecutive team title! In holding off an improved Crespi squad, Ezekiel Bishop anchored their squad to the 4x400 title to secure the 65-47 team title. Utiliziing 11 different individuals for points, they only had one finish in the top two in their events (Luciano Barretto earned the Division 4 title in the shot put). Will Davis, Graham White and Sebastian Macaluso combined to earn 12 points. Sophomore Semaj Freeman was their only athlete to score in two events as he added nine points between both hurdling events. Freshman Jake Reed placed fourth in the pole vault while the aforementioned Bishop and Gabriel Martin combined for 11 points in the long jump. Seif Awad and Bradley Smith contributed an additional seven points in the shot put with Mathias Portzel earned a seventh place finish in the triple jump. With the majority of the points coming from underclassmen, expect Oaks Christian to be the favorites to earn a fifth straight title in 2020!
Grubb established himself as one of the top sprinters in the nation with his 10.40 wind legal performance at the Arcadia Invitational in April. That moved him into the Top 25 on the all-time Southern Section lists. While he placed second at the California State Meet behind one of California's all-time best performances by Kenan Christon. His 20.93 effort in March also moved him into the top 25 for the 200 meters as well as he placed third in the 200 at the State Meet. He was the only athlete at the Divisional finals to place first in THREE events as along with the sprints, Grubb also captured the Division 3 triple jump title. Along with the 400 relay, he advanced to the Masters Meet in four events while he was a State Meet qualifier in the triple jump in 2018. Committed to attend UCLA for football this fall, Grubb graduates as one of the top athletes we've seen in the Southern Section the past several seasons.
Along with teammate, Caleb Lutalo Roberson, these two led the way to earning the runner-up team plaque at the Division 1 finals. One of the more versatile athletes in the section, Hemphill was one of the top triple jumpers in 2019 while continuing to improve all the way to the State Meet finals in the 300 hurdles. In advancing to the State Meet in the triple jump for a second season in a row, he also anchored his squad to the Division 1 title (3:13.95) in the 4x400 relay! They advanced to the State Meet final in the relay before being disqualified for interference. That DQ seemed to sour what could have been the following day as Hemphill struggled to a fifth place finish in the TJ before placing eighth in the 300 hurdles. As he left the 2019 with the second best mark in California (48-8.5) in the triple jump while his 37.50 in the hurdles is seventh. His ability to shine while competing in three demanding events (including anchoring the relay) at the end of meets is unmatched while he returns for the 2020 as one of the State Meet favorites in both events.
For the second season in a row, ML King's Reyte Rash earned the runner-up medal in the 300 hurdles. Fellow Inland Empire foe, Caleb Lutalo Roberson of Upland, continued to hold on just enough to cross the line first down the stretch in both seasons. Roberson had Rash to thank afterword as both pushed one another to be two of the best in section history and at times, were shadows of one another down the stretch. Rash's 36.41 is the 11th best performance in Southern Section history. (He was also a State Meet qualifier in the 110 hurdles as a junior.) Rash eclipsed the 38-second barrier in the 300s eight times this season and was the Masters Meet champion for the second year in a row. Rash beat out Roberson for the Division 1 title in 2018 and placed second in both hurdles in 2019. Despite a nagging quad injury over the last month, he was also able to lead his 4x100 squad to the divisional finals. Their 41.76 was the seventh fastest in the Southern Section for 2019. Do not also overlook how he rolled to a 48.53 in the open 400 in a dual meet this season. He graduates as one of the section's best ever, despite two runner-up medals at the California State Meet.
As Elbettar managed one of the greatest disappointments at the 2019 State Meet in not qualifying to Saturday's finals in the discus, the junior bounced back in the shot put to earn the runner-up medal. His 197-04 best in the discus ended the season as the top mark in California (No. 23 all-time in Southern Section) and ended as eighth in the nation. Elbettar returns for the 2020 season as the top underclassmen in the United States! With his 62-09.50 seasonal best in the shot put, he ended as the sixth best junior in the United States and second in California.
Still in the midst of researching, we cannot recall another boy qualifying for the Southern Section Masters Meet in all three distance events! In earning 20 points between the three events, Grover placed second in the 800 meters while crossing in third for the 1600 and 3200 meters. For the second season, the junior advanced back to the State Meet finals in the 1600 meters where he delivered a season best of 4:10.60 and a fourth place medal. Going into the 2020 season, Grover will enter as one of the favorites to compete for the State Meet title. His 9:10.53 is one of the best in California for the 3200 while he improved by over four seconds in the 800 meters (1:54.09) and one of the top underclassmen in the state.
Despite a disappointing conclusion to his season with a 10th place finish at the California State Meet, Hibbard ran the fastest time in California in 2019. In one of the greatest races we witnessed in 2019, he held off Newbury Park's Nico Young who shadowed him at the finish with a 4:08.69-4:08.82! Although we placed a major emphasis on the State Meet, we could not overlook the fact that he ended the 2019 season with the fourth fastest time in the nation for the Mile (up until last weekend's postseason Music City Distance Carnival). Hubbard captured the Division 2 title and placed second at the Masters Meet. His conversion to 4:07.25 for the 1600 meters places him in the top 40 on the all-time Southern Section list and the fastest regular season mark in the section since 2016.
Another athlete that walked away disappointed from the California State Meet but yet, had a season that simply could not be overlooked! The junior returns as the nation's best for 2020 as his 66-08 shot put at the Mt. SAC Relays was the top performance for an underclassmen in 2019. This is the 17th best mark in Southern Section history and now ties him for 8th overall on the all-time Orange County list! Frustrated with a eighth place finish in the event at the State Meet, he earned the runner-up medal in 2018. Duensing earned the fourth place medal in the discus after earning the Division 3 title with a seasonal best of 190-09. That effort was fourth best effort among all underclassmen in the nation as well.
Perhaps, stealing the headlines from teammate Anthony Grover, Herold had a monster senior campaign. He also almost went unnoticed, behind the shadows of some of the nation's best, in his performances at the California State Meet. Not only did he qualify in the 1600 and 3200, but he performed at his best, especially in the 3200 meters where he was one of the few to post a personal best in the race. Patiently sitting back in eighth place midway through the 3200 meters, Herold kept moving forward and in negative-split 4:31-4:27 performance, he crossed at 8:58.34, finishing behind three of the most talented in California state history. He also negative split the 1600 meters, running 4:11.85 for a sixth place medal.
One disappointing day in all of 2019 and it happened on Friday of the California State Championships! But, there was no way Turner's season could be left off our top athletes of 2019! Turner pulled off one of the upsets at the Division Finals, as he motored by Harvard Westlake's Brayden Borquez for the 46.74 victory. This performance moved Turner into the top 30 on the all-time Southern Section lists. He almost pulled off a second one as he pushed Christian Grubb to the line with his 21.31 runner-up finish. Turner finished second in both events at the Masters Meet and was slated to easily advance to the State Meet. Unfortunately, Friday's prelims was not to be as Turner ran two seconds behind what we saw at the divisional finals in the 400 and over a second slower in the 200. All in all, Turner leaves 2019 as one of the top athletes in the Southern Section.