2019 BOYS TRACK ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
A year after barely making the podium in both short sprints at State, San Diego Madison senior Kenan Christon is pictured winning the 200m and completing the sweep in 2019. (Credit: Pat Rhames)
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This is the next installment of a series featuring individual recognition from the 2019 track and field season. This feature article looks at the 2019 MileSplitCA Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
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The Madison High senior had just lost his second consecutive 100-meter dash race to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame's Christian Grubb.
"I don't know what's wrong because I'm better than this," Christon said, heading back to the starting line to retrieve his sweats after running 10.62.
By the time he got there, his mood had changed considerably.
"I'm just going to have to get faster," said Christon in a determined, steely-toned declaration. His 21.79 time for 200 meters later that evening for seventh place was even more disappointing.
Two weeks after that, he settled into the blocks for the 200-meter dash at the Mt. SAC Relays. The gun sounded and 20.90 seconds later, Christon had broken the 21-year-old CIF-San Diego Section record of 20.97 by Morse High's Ike Okenwa.
A week later, at the Escondido Invitational, Christon dropped a full tenth-of-a-second off his 100m best at 10.42 and then in the cold darkness, roared to a 20.67 in the 200m.
Kenan Christon, the MileSplitCA Boys Track Athlete of the Year for 2019, had made good on his promise. But he was far from finished.
"I can go faster," were the first words out of his mouth after the 200. Mind you, the now USC freshman is not given to boasting. A raised hand is a major celebration. Compact and muscular at 5 foot, 9 inches tall and 185 pounds, Christon was actually just getting started.
In the San Diego Section prelims a week after easily sweeping the sprints at the City League Finals, he had everyone gasping as he stopped the automatic timer in 10.26 seconds. Even though it was aided by an over-the-allowable 2.6 meter-per-second breeze, it was the fastest time run under any conditions in San Diego Section history.
What would he run in 200m?
Just 20.55 seconds after the gun sounded, the now-standing spectators had witnessed the fastest time in the nation. He had gobbled up the turn so quickly he was 10 meters ahead with half the race to go.
He saw his time and smiled.
"That's more like it ... but I think I can still go faster," Christon said.
After sweeping the SDS championships, including capturing the 100m in a wind-legal PR of 10.33, Christon took dead aim at the State Meet in Clovis where he had been frustrated with a pair of sixth-place finishes the year before.
Anyone who watched him anchor the 4x100 relay at State Prelims knew he was ready for something special, going from dead last to fourth place in his final relay race as a high school student.
His 10.32 wind-aided (2.5 mps) 100m and wind-legal 20.67 led the qualifiers but after the 200m he said quietly while putting on his shoes, "tomorrow (the finals) is all that matters."
There was clearly very little wind when Christon settled into the blocks on the bright-blue Veteran's Memorial Stadium track for the 100m the next day.
Although Grubb got a sensational start, Christon actually had a better-than-average charge out of the blocks and by the midway point of the race, the powerful Warhawk was flying, hitting the finish line with room to spare.
The crowd gasped and already on its feet -- like at every State Meet 100-meter final -- cheered lustily because in big bright numbers on the scoreboard was '10.30' and in the corner was the notation 1.2w -- wind legal.
That mark equaled a State Meet record set 27-years earlier by another San Diegan, Southwest High's Riley Washington, which had withstood the challenge of some of the best sprinters in the nation.
"That (the 10.30) is a great record," said Christon. "I'm proud to match it, but ..."
Naturally, he wished he could have been a hundredth of a second faster. But while he celebrated his first state title, he very quickly refocused himself for the 200m.
That race, though, was never in doubt. By the time he hit the straight-away, he was clearly in front and no one was going to catch him even though he 'only' clocked a windy 20.69. It was the sixth time he had run under the section record.
It gave Christon a 15-2 record in the 100m and 13-2 in the 200m, finishing fourth in the 200m and fifth in the 100m nationally. Soon after he would be named the Gatorade California Track Athlete of the Year and the San Diego Section Male Athlete of the Year.
As he patiently spoke to the media after his 200m victory, Christon looked around, seemingly absorbing everything that is a State Meet for a high school athlete.
Then, he turned his attention toward football at USC where he would enroll for summer school in June.
Moving quickly in his mind was no different than sprinting on the track -- he was simply faster than everyone else
That evening in Arcadia, Christon had made a vow to get faster. He never lost another high school race.
Photo credits: Pat Rhames, DeAnna Turner, Dan Tyree