Seniors-Only Girls CIF-SS Division 1 Prelims Highlights
This is a wide-open event with several title contenders that all have Masters and state meet aspirations. Janae Oneal (Quartz Hill) got to Masters last year, saving her best races for the championship meets; however, she has not been under 12 seconds yet this spring. Chrystal Aluya (Valencia Placentia) has been the most consistent of the division title hopefuls, running under 12.1 several times and under 12 seconds in a handful of races. She also has the experience of advancing to the division finals in two races last year. The same is true for Sierra Smith (Vista Murrieta), although she does not have a wind-legal 11-second race yet. Raquel McDaniel (Rancho Cucamonga) and Naomi Kilson (Long Beach Wilson) have flashed sub-12 potential, but their baseline has been in the 12.1-12.2 range. With a good race, either could claim the title next weekend. Kennedy Peppers (Corona) could be a sleeper: last year she dropped 3 tenths of a second from her best invitational times to her league final, and if she makes a similar jump this time around it would put her in contention.
Egbe Ndip-Agbor (Corona) would have been the favorite in the 100, but she rightly chose to focus on the longer sprints. She advanced easily to the next round, where she will look to improve a PR that has already dipped just under 24 seconds. Aluya and Iman Babineaux (Quartz Hill) have both run consistently in the mid-24's and flashed the potential to drop into the 24.3 range, and both move on comfortably to the final. Smith, Oneal, and Kilson all made it through as well, setting up a very competitive race next weekend.
The long-standing rivalry between Ndip-Agbor and Babineaux has continued all season, and will likely continue for three more weeks. Although Ndip-Agbor is better in the 200, Babineaux has the edge at this distance. Both went to the state meet, with the Quartz Hill star finishing 4th. This year, Babineaux has broken through to the 53's a few times, while her Corona counterpart is still searching for her first sub-54. Nakyia Buckner (Centennial Corona) also advanced comfortably to the final, deciding to focus entirely on this event and drop the 200; she has run multiple 55's this spring, and if she can drop under that barrier it would make her a factor at Masters and the state meet.
Makayla Fick (Vista Murrieta) and Sarah Collier (Quartz Hill) finished 2019 only a half-second apart in this race, both made division finals, and both have improved in 2020. It's a classic battle of endurance vs speed - Fick ran sub-18 for the 5K in cross country and has been under 5 in the 1600, whereas Collier has multiple 58-second 400's on her profile. This year they've been chasing Hailey Golmon (Newbury Park), who clocked 2:12 and made the state meet last year while competing for Westlake. We're hoping the three will push each other under 2:12 next week and move on to Masters. Laila Wright (Etiwanda) leads the next group of runners hoping to challenge the 2:15 barrier; that cohort includes Myah Peters (Rancho Cucamonga) and the Great Oak duo of Kendall Harrison and Aubrie Nex.
Did you forget about Tori? You did, didn't you? Tori Gaitan (Great Oak) missed the entire 2019 track season and struggled at times in the fall (at least, by her standards and expectations), but after a strong winter she is back to the fitness she showed during her sophomore year. Having run well under 4:50 in multiple races, she is looking for a new PR and a run at some titles over the next three weeks. Teammate Arianna Griffiths had the top returning time in 2019, and she had been consistently in the low 4:50's, which puts her in position to advance to Masters at a minimum. Hana Catsimanes (San Clemente) has also clocked several times under 4:55 this spring after a monster cross country season, but we expect her to drop this race at some point to focus on the 3200. Bailey Watts (Trabuco Hills) and Clara Meade (Tesoro) have been on the verge of breaking 5 for some time, so it will be interesting to see if they can get there in the final.
Catsimanes had the top time in the division at this distance last spring, and she also led the division during cross country season with a 17:30 5K and a section title. She has lived up to that billing in 2020, running under 10:30 three times (including a sub-10:20). Gaitan's 3200 times have lagged just a bit behind her 1600's during this return season, but don't forget that she clocked 10:17 as a sophomore and finished 5th in the state meet. That year she chose to drop the 16 after Masters, so it will be interesting to see what she does going forward. Great Oak could put two other runners into Masters in Audrey Dang (who has broken 10:30 this spring) and Arianna Griffiths (although we wouldn't be surprised to see her focus on the 1600). Archana Mohandas (Newbury Park) is one to watch, as she has been flirting with the 10:30 barrier for a few races. Hailey Rutter (Saugus) hasn't gotten as much attention as some of the runners listed above, but she has been improving steadily and looks like a candidate to break 10:30 and bust up the expected top 5. Maria Hernandez (Santa Ana) could be a sleeper candidate in this race, too. Amazing depth here!
This isn't Rachel Glenn's best hurdle race, but the Long Beach Wilson star is still dominant in the division here. She would like to continue bringing her time down closer to 14 flat, but her consistent 14.1 - 14.2 times will be more than enough to earn a title next week. Deaira Jackson (Rancho Cucamonga) made it to Masters last year, and she leads the next group that includes Myah Hatcher (Eleanor Roosevelt) and Madison Lyon (Woodbridge); all three move on to set up a great battle for second next week. Isabella Ales (Troy) isn't far behind that group and could be poised to play the role of spoiler while earning a top 3 finish.
Glenn is an absolute monster in this event, posting a best time of 41.01 on her way to Southern Section and state meet titles in 2019. She returns to defend the title, and is looking for a sub-41 PR (she hasn't been pushed this spring and has reduced her number of races compared to last year, presumably in an effort to have fresher legs in the championship season). Hatcher also made the state meet last spring, and she has improved to consistent 43's - in any other division or section that would be a title resume. Jackson is not far behind with several low 44's on her resume, and the same applies to Demia January (Upland), whose 2019 season was cut short. Ales also made division finals last year and also has broken 45 this season, so she will definitely be in the mix here.
This is three events in a row in which Glenn is the favorite, and that's definitely a formula for an MVP candidate. She will be challenged in this one by Aaliyah Mendoza (Etiwanda), who has been over 5-6 several times and has cleared 5-7 once. If Mendoza hits 5-8 over the next few weeks, she can certainly beat Glenn (even though the Wilson superstar's best of 5-9 is superior). On the other hand, Glenn has had several close attempts at 5-10 in 2020, so we won't be surprised at all if she gets a new PR and continues to stay on top of this event. Madison Lyon will be one to watch - she has cleared 5-5 but is also a state title contender in the triple jump, and she may decide to focus her energy there. Jillian Kolarik (Newbury Park) saw her 2019 season end early, but she went to Masters in 2018 and she has her sights set on a return this year. Amelia Wiggs (Los Alamitos) made Masters last year; she will be in contention again.
Morgan Flynn (Aliso Niguel) first broke 13 last spring, and she has done so several more times in 2020, inching her PR upward closer to 13-6. Great Oak's Kaitlin Swenson has joined her in the 13-foot club; both made the state meet in 2019, and both move on easily to the final. Sierra Meier (Vista Murrieta) leads the rest of the field, with her season best in the low 12's so far. (Tessa Watkins would have been a contender in this division, but she moved to Washington state last May.)
It's not surprising to see Madison Lyon (Woodbridge) leading in a horizontal jump, although this isn't her strongest event. She does have a 19-foot jump this season to go with consistent high 18's, and that should get her a return trip to Masters (at least). Sheredyn Pfeiffer (King) is the only other jumper in the division who has been consistently over 18 - Rionna Wallace (Lakewood) has been there but never wind-legal. Kelsey Ehinlaye (Ayala) and Isabella Fakehaney (La Quinta) are both looking to hit 18 for the first time after some close calls.
This is where Lyon truly shines, the event where she is a state title contender. Amazingly, she isn't the only one in the division, as Kerrington Smith (Upland) has also posted a few jumps over 40 to make herself a co-favorite. Both made the 2019 state meet (Lyon finished 6th), and both have the potential to make the podium this year. Katelyn Lowry (Mira Costa) also advanced to the final as the leader of the next group, but her season best in the 36-foot range leaves a big gap between her and the leaders.
This is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and competitive events of next week's finals meet! Abby Venglass (Rancho Cucamonga) came into the season as the slight favorite and was the first to break 40 among this group, but Caitlyn Dawson (Murrieta Mesa) has since joined her in that club to keep pace. Alejandra Rosales (Marina) has thrown consistently in the 39's, so she will definitely be within striking range. Saloni Khandhadia (Beckman) has been inconsistent, but she advanced; at her best she can beat anyone in the field except the three listed above.
Rosales was the top returner coming into the season, and has been the top-ranked thrower in the division all spring in her better event. She has a handful of throws over 140 feet as well as several in the upper 130's, and that makes her the favorite next weekend. Khandhadia is also better here than in the shot (and more consistent), although she is still hunting for that elusive 140. Behind them is a big gap back to Venglass and Faitalia Ahfook (Warren), who both have cracked 120 feet this spring.