Caleb Foster, left, almost single-handedly led Clovis North to the State boys team title, while Corie Smith, right, gave Buchanan big points toward its State girls team title last spring. Foster and Smith are not only the two marquee returners in the Central Section, they are on the list of elites in CA for 2020.
In 2019, the Central Section was the Section of Champions! At least on the team level where the Buchanan girls and the Clovis North boys each won CIF-State team titles.
While senior distance star Corie Smith, who was second in the 3200 at the State Final last May, is the lone scoring returner for Buchanan, the story with Clovis North is a bit different. The Broncos won the team title primarily on the broad shoulders of Caleb Foster, who scored 28 points by himself.
Foster, who returns for his senior season before heading off to Florida State, won the State title in the long jump and triple jump and placed second to Jamar Marshall's all-conditions state record in the 110 hurdles.
Isaiah Galindo, who added two points with a seventh-place finish in the 3200, is the other returning individual point scorer for Clovis North.
While anything close to a repeat for Foster and more distance points from Galindo should have the Broncos right back in the mix for a team title, the forecast isn't as bright for Buchanan. Of course, the Bears may not have been on too many folks' radars at this point last year, either.
Coach Brian Weaver's young cross country team had an impressive state-title winning fall and that bodes well for the future. But replacing points from a distance star like Meagen Lowe (now at Oregon State) and 200-meter sprint champion Shelby Daniele, among a veteran team that peaked perfectly while running on their flashy new home track last Memorial Day weekend, may not be possible.
(In fact, Coach Weaver's stronger unit come the end of spring may very well be on the boys side. More on that in a bit.)
With Foster as the face of Clovis North's championship defense, and Smith the face of Buchanan's, it's easy to overlook what truly makes the 2020 track and field season potentially very special in the CS: Its incredible high-level depth.
There are eight other State Meet finalists and five medalists other than Foster among returning boys and six returning finalists and five medalists among returning girls, a list that includes two medals apiece by Bakersfield Liberty juniors Faith Bender and Reese Renz (pictured). Bender is the top returner in the state in both throws and Renz and Norco senior Taylor Shorter, are the only two returning girls to medal in both hurdles last May at the State Meet.
While that's a modest list of State Meet returners and medalists, the parade of those returning from the CS Masters Meet is jaw-dropping.
Among boys, there are 12 -- TWELVE!! -- returning champions out of 14 events. That includes three by Foster (long jump, triple jump, 110 hurdles).
Overall, there are 48 returning boys who placed among the top six at the CS final, an average of 3.43 top-six returners per event!
There are six returning champions among the girls, including two by Renz (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles).
Overall, there are 50 returning girls who placed among the top six at the section final, an average of 3.57 per event. On the track, where there are 33 top-six returners, the average is 4.125 per event.
Here's a closer look at the top returning athletes in the Central Section.
The list of returning State medalists not named Caleb Foster (pictured below) begins with Buchanan senior Kyler Van Grouw, who placed third in the discus throw (177-09). Sanger senior Kosi Agina was fourth in the triple jump (47-11.00), Boron senior Kelton Chenworth was fourth in the high jump (6-09), edging Morro Bay senior Joseph Ruddell (6-09) on misses, and Redwood senior Brandon Andrade was sixth in the 300 hurdles (38.03).
Worthy begins the list of returning CS champions, winning the 100-meter title in 10.71 seconds with San Joaquin Memorial senior Jalen McMillan (10.77) placing third to lead three other returners who placed among the top five. McMillan won a title of his own in the 200 (21.70) with Liberty senior Ramon Henderson second (22.01) and Central sophomore Jeremiah Walker fourth 922.26).
Foster went 14.27 to win the 110 hurdles with Redwood senior Brandon Andrade fourth (14.72). Andrade got his title in the 300 hurdles (38.85) with Buchanan junior Clark Donaghy third (39.76). Foster went 23-09 to win the long jump and 49-01.25 to win the triple. Sanger's Agina was sixth in the long (21-05.25) and third in the triple (46-00.75).
Whereas Chenworth got the better of Ruddell in the high jump at State, it was Ruddell whose 6-06 clearance was good enough to claim the CS title.
Other returning top-six finishers from the CS finals (grades are current):
Bakersfield sophomore Mallik Bolton (400), Garces junior Zach Buckey (discus), Stockdale junior Stephen Connelly (800), Liberty senior Sky Blue Gonzales (400), Golden Valley senior Adrian Hodges (triple jump), St. Joseph junior Darien Langley (100), Stockdale senior Adham Maher (1600), Clovis North senior Elijah Martorana (pole vault), Frontier senior Zach McNaughton (300 hurdles), Clovis junior Ayden Merrihew (discus), Central Valley Christian senior Dirk Nelson (shot put), Clovis North senior Joshua Ochoa (1600/3200), Central senior Abel Teffra (1600), Clovis senior Bryan Trujillo (800), Frontier senior Jadin Turner (300 hurdles), Lemoore senior Ryan White (pole vault), and Paso Robles senior Clay Wilshusen (pole vault).
Renz is the only returning girl to have claimed two CS titles last spring. Renz, the daughter of Liberty coach Ryan Renz, won the 100 hurdles (14.36) and the 300 hurdles (43.47). Renz also was fourth in the long jump (17-07.50).
Bender (pictured) won her title in the shot put (47-04.75) and placed second in the discus (159-05).
Other returning section champions are Clovis North sophomore Takiya Cenci in the 400 (56.08), Edison junior Kennedy Jennings in the 800 (2:14.38), and Buchanan junior Helen Chu in the long jump (18-06.75).
Buchanan's list of returners -- in addition to Smith, who was second in the 3200 (10:30.42), and Chu, who was sixth in the triple jump (35-09.75) -- include junior Lauren Fowler, who was fourth in the 200 (25.50) and second in the long jump (18-05.50), junior Alexa Dandridge, who was sixth in the 100 hurdles (15.41) and third in the 300 hurdles (45.27), and sophomore Hannah Butler who was second in the high jump (5-04).
Clovis North's top returners based on CS Finals results includes senior Alyssa Orr (sixth in the 200, third in the 400), junior Tiara Adeniji (fourth in the 400), sophomore Tatum Zinkin, whose 2:16.95 was second in the 800, and sophomore Miliana Perez (pictured), who was second in the 1600 (4:54.85) and fourth in the 3200 (10:59.90).
Other top returners in the CS from the 2019 section final (grades are current): Paso Robles sophomore Sophia Berry (800), Bakersfield sophomore Mia Bolton (100), Righetti junior Rayann Booker (200), Bishop Union senior Rachel Fitt (800/1600), Madera senior Unique Ford (1600), Central sophomore Bella Gragnani (100H/300H), Immanuel senior Carissa Hall (long jump/triple jump), Edison senior Alyssa Hayashi (triple jump), Central senior Monea Jennings (100H/300H), Central senior Simone Johnson (triple jump), San Luis Obispo junior Raquel Kalpakoff (high jump), Sanger sophomore Nia Lamas (1600/3200), Tulare senior Jacqueline Maze (pole vault), Clovis East senior Jadyn Pennington (800), Bullard sophomore Claire Predmore (high jump), Selma senior Mia Salinas (300H), Atascadero senior Deandra Tyler (shot put), Mt. Whitney senior Jade Whitfield (discus), and Central junior Taliah Wickett (400).
Photos by Frank Bellino, Patrick Corsinita, Jeffrey Parenti, DeAnna Turner