When it comes to Track and Field, there is no question that the Southern Section is the largest and most powerful section in California. The second-best section may be in question but for my money, I will take the North Coast Section. Every year, some of the most talented athletes reside in that section and this coming season will be no different.
In the sections below, I will highlight the top returning athletes in each event based on their personal best marks as well as their places in the last contested section final in 2019.
The most impressive returning sprinter in the section is American Canyon junior Croix Stewart. As a freshman, Stewart had bests of 10.81, 21.78 and 49.97. He was among the best sprinters in the section and only an injury at the section final prevented him from having a major impact at the section final as a freshman.
There is absolutely no denying that the best distance runner in this section is Amador Valley senior, John Lester. He finished impressively as a sophomore with a personal best 1:52.99 in the California State Meet 800m final which garnered him much-needed experience. Lester led off the 2020 season with a 1:52.06 victory at the Dan Gabor Invitational. Covid shut down the remainder of the official season but Lester was just getting started. He ran a time trial 1:49.36 (seen below) before really garnering national attention at the Desert Dream-Last Hurrah meet as he won with an even better 1:48.26. He finished his season at the Independence Day Sub 4 Showdown with another victory and a personal best of 4:06.97 in the mile.
From taking a peak to the last official Track and Field season, two hurdlers appear to be the best for each distance. In the 110m High Hurdles, Nathaniel Spears of Eureka ran a swift 14.87 at the NCS Redwood Empire meet.
In the 300m Intermediate Hurdles, St. Mary's Berkeley senior Kai'Lib Copes was the lone sophomore to break the 40-second barrier with his 39.84 personal best that he set at the NCS Bayshore meet.
Tamalpais senior Will Holden-Wingate was the lone sophomore to qualify for both the long jump and triple jump at the NCS MOC meet. He had a best of 21-5 in the long jump and 44-7 in the triple jump. Even more impressive, Holden-Wingate also qualified for the pole vault and had a best of 13-1.
In the high jump, Castro Valley sophomore Miles Bennett had a season-best of 6-4 at the section championship meet to qualify for the CA State Meet.
The best-combined thrower in the section is Antioch senior Jailen Weaver. As a sophomore, Weaver had a best of 48-5 in the shot put and an even more impressive 165-8 in the discus which qualified him to the state meet. Fellow senior Andrew McGallian of Clayton Valley had a best of 52-0.5 in the shot put which is the best returning mark in that event.
Alhambra senior Desie Armstrong finished in 5th place at the 2019 NCS MOC meet in the 100 meters and had a season-best of 12.17. In the 200 meters, the best returning athlete is Sophia Pardo of Las Lomas who had a best of 24.90w and also qualified for the section final as a sophomore.
Benicia senior Katelyn Carro finished in 3rd place at the 2019 NCS MOC meet with a personal best of 55.95.
For the girls, the best distance runner has to be Marin Catholic senior, Samantha Wallenstrom. She finished her sophomore season spectacularly. She won the NCS meet which you can view below which also has an incredible display of sportsmanship from her. One week later, Wallenstrom won the state championship as she recorded her best time of 2:08.78.
Another runner who should also be mentioned is St. Helena senior, Harper McClain. She was impressive during her junior Cross Country season as she won the Division V race at the California State Meet and qualified for NXN as an individual. During her previous sophomore track season, McClain finished out the year with a 10:29.68 7th place finish at the California State Meet.
Dublin senior Emily Liao just missed making the state meet in 2019 in the 100m Hurdles. She had a season-best of 15.48. In the 300m Hurdles, the best returner in this event is Campolindo junior Sara Tabibian who was an impressive 4th at the 2019 section final. Her season-best was 46.32.
The best-returning marks in the horizontal jumping events are 17-9.75 by Foothill junior Torre Anderson in the long jump and 38-5.75 in the triple jump by Julia Alexander of St. Mary's Berkeley. Alexander was a state meet qualifier as a freshman with a 2nd place finish at the NCS MOC meet.
Hayward senior Joanna Togiai is the best-returning thrower in the section. As a sophomore, Togiai qualified in both throwing events in the section with third-place finishes in both events. Her best marks for the season were 41-8 in the shot put and 129-4 in the discus.