Among the many returning and emerging boys track and field standouts in the Southern Section are (from left) Colin Sahlman, Kienan Donovan, and Anthony Taylor. (file photos)
- - -
As we continue moving into the 2021 version of the track and field season, we took some time to bring to you the very best the Southern Section has to offer on the boys' side. With the cross country season just recently concluded along with a number of out-of-state opportunities for some of these talented distance runners to compete, we have been given a sneak peek of some of the incredible strength in that realm of track and field. We look forward to being introduced to more talent in the sprints, jumps, and throws over this next month, especially with football concluding.
We have seen the success of the two invitationals take place and are optimistic that these student-athletes can continue to receive more opportunities to compete. With the decreasing COVID-19 numbers continuing to provide more hope for a full season that includes a Southern Section postseason in June and a CIF-State Meet, currently on the books for June 25-26!
With that, here are some of the Southern Section boys stars to look for this 2021 season!
Sahlman first created his own headlines in capturing the Rising Stars Mile as a freshman at the 2019 Arcadia Invite. Still only a junior, he erupted with a 4:04.86 for the full mile at the Sundown Track Series in late March to rank atop of the national lists and into California's all-time top 20 lists! He became only the third junior to eclipse the 4:04 threshold for the 1600 meters in state history as well. In late February, he stamped his name in the record books for the 3200 meters as his 8:47.05 elevated him into the top 20 on the all-time state lists and the third-fastest junior in the event in state history!
The junior exploded onto the scene as a freshman in 2019 when he placed second at the Masters Meet in the 100 meters, only to run faster with a 10.55 at the State Meet Prelims a week later to establish a new all-time freshmen California State record. In placing fifth in the State Meet final, he flew to a 10.59 for a second sub-10.60 effort in two days! One of the top sophomores in the nation in 2019, Taylor placed sixth in the 110 High Hurdles at the California State Meet while just missing the final the night before for the 300 Hurdles, despite a new personal best of 37.94. With a wind-legal best of 14.08, he ranked second in the nation amongst sophomores in both hurdles. A nagging hamstring put him down for the 110 Hurdles at the Don Green Invite, so expect a late start from the talented senior. As a freshman in 2019, Ize-Iyamu qualified for the California State Meet with his fourth-place finish at the Masters Meet. With a wind-legal best of 10.73 that season, we received a quick glance of his talent with his 10.81 debut in the shortened 2020 season. This past weekend, we were reminded of his talent at the Simi Valley Invite as the junior burst to a 10.56, wind-legal effort that catapulted him into the top five on the national wind-legal lists!
The younger brother of California distance legend, Nico Young, has already created his own eye-popping resume - as a sophomore! Establishing a new sophomore state-class record for the 5000 meters (14:27.11), Young amazed once again in late March in throwing down an 8:57.27 for the 3200 meters! He is only the fourth sophomore in state history to eclipse the 9-minute landmark for the event - that time has become the norm at Newbury Park!
Only a freshman in 2019, Gates surprised many with his two CIF-SS Division 2 titles in the 100 (10.79) and 200 meters (21.72) becoming the first boy in the Southern Section to achieve that feat. He placed seventh in the 200 meters at the Masters Meet. He also helped his 4x400 squad capture the title, leading them to the Masters Meet. Now a junior, Gates opened up his 2021 campaign with a 21.93 victory at the Don Green Invitational. Abrego burst onto the scene in the 2018 postseason when, as a freshman, he rolled to a 1:55.09 in the 800 meters and qualified for the Masters Meet. Although recording a 1:53.76 best as a sophomore, he did not advance to the Masters Meet in 2019. Before the Covid-19 shutdown last March, Abrego opened up with a 4:17.56 for the 1600 meters, an event he had hardly contested in the past. The senior heads off to the University of Iowa this Fall.
Yep ... another NP Panther distance star! We simply cannot overlook the talents and marks of this senior, despite two other teammates headlining our examination of the best in the section! Over the past two months, at the Sundown Track Series, the senior posted 4:18.63 and 9:00.50 bests for the 1600 and 3200 meters, respectively. His time for the 3200 ranks him amongst one of the best in the nation and a time that would automatically qualify for the State Meet. He will attend Furman University in South Carolina this Fall.
The junior is already off to a hot start this Sprint, posting a wind-legal 14.89 for the 110 High Hurdles while coming back with a legal 10.94 for the 100 meters not too long after. Adding a 39.34 in the 300 hurdles to go along with a 21.69 (nwi) effort for the 200 meters, you have the makings of another rockstar from Upland (defending SS Division 1 team champions). No real surprise here as he qualified for the postseason, as a freshman, in the 100 and 200 meters while also a member of the State Meet qualifying 4x400 relay in 2019.
The Golden Valley senior already accumulated a strong resume as a sophomore. In 2019, Donovan was the only sophomore to qualify for the State Meet final in both the Shot Put and Discus. With a best of 58-2.5 and 171-2, he placed seventh in the Discus at the State Championships. This Spring, he opened up the season with a 168-2 effort in the Discus, while he eclipsed the 60-foot watermark in the Shot Put last June. Despite the forced shutdown, Donovan's dad is his coach as they have continued to train all throughout.
Staying in the Foothill League, Hernandez burst out of the gates in the shortened 2020 season. In the High Jump, he soared over the 6-8 bar, improving by seven inches from his 2019, sophomore year. We also got a glimpse of his talent in the 110 Hurdles as well which was validated by his 14.73 wind-legal performance several weeks ago. While also an accomplished long jumper, the versatile Hernandez is one of the top athletes in Division 2 for the section.
Perkins placed fourth and seventh, in the 110 and 300 Hurdles at the CIF-SS 2019 Division 3 finals. But, it was his early-season accolades of 2020 that placed him onto the statewide scene as he recorded a wind-legal 14.95 in the 110 Hurdles and an even more impressive 38.50 for the 300 Hurdles. He opened his 2021 senior campaign with a solid 38.94 victory at the Don Green Invite before crossing with a 15.04 in the higher hurdles.
One of those that shined early on in the 2020 season, we were all shut out from seeing just how much talent Harleston possesses. Continuing on with the strong talent at Harvard-Westlake, he exploded out of the gates with wind-legal 10.81 and 21.75 marks in the 100 and 200 in early March. The lengthy wide receiver will join the track crew immediately at the conclusion of the football season.
The talented senior continues the long line of aerial excellence in the jumps at Vista Murrieta. Hill captured the CIF-SS Division 1 title in the High Jump in 2019 with a personal best of 6-8. He opened up the 2021 season with a 6-6 effort last week, he was the only sophomore in California to elevate over the 6-8 bar. Also in 2019, he qualified for the Masters Meet in the Long Jump while placing third in the Division 1 competition.
As referenced above, we have had an earlier screening of the incredible talent in the Southern Section in regard to the distance strength. After Givens' performances from this past month, we could not exclude him. Continuing to train through the 2020 shutdown, he impressed with solid efforts in the early summer but he exploded onto the national spotlight with his 4:08.43 outburst several weeks ago for the full mile and this being a month after his 8:59.64 effort for the 3200 meters.
Most of Dawson's accomplishments have been on the Cross Country course thus far, but let's glance back to his 2019 freshman year for added perspective. After moving to the United States from New Zealand, Dawson was unable to compete at the varsity level or compete in the postseason. Competing on the Frosh/Soph level at his league finals, his 1:54.78 performance is just a glimpse of what this young man will do! He earlier ran a 4:19.52 that Spring for the 1600 meters as well.One of those that continued to build a stronger resume the past several months was the Boise State bound-Fitzgerald. Two weeks ago, he threw down another personal best of 4:13.56 for the full mile at the Sundown Track Series. A week prior, Fitzgerald motored to a 1:55.72 personal best in capturing the 800 meters at the Don Green Invite. This past week, he motored to the victory at the Simi Valley invite in the 3200 meters as well (9:18.35).
Others to WatchDario Rock (St. Francis) - hurdles; Ryan Rivituso (Edison) - sprints; Eli-Gault-Crabb (Burbank Burroughs) - pole vault; Seth Johnson (Cajon) - hurdles/jumps; Phillip Jefferson (Long Beach Wilson) - sprints/hurdles; Carson Kaminski (Trabuco Hills) - hurdles; James Wright (Great Oak) - throws; Isaiah Marecheau (Oxnard) - sprints; Jack Wright (Great Oak) - pole vault; Steven Marks (Cathedral) - sprints; Joshua Schuld (Beckman) - distance; Zachary Winger (Calabasas) - hurdles; Kai Graves-Blanks (Upland) - hurdles; Elijha Ellis (Golden Valley) - jumps.
- - -
ATHLETES BE SURE TO CLAIM YOUR MILESPLIT PROFILE
- - -
Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the Southern Section editor.