This article was updated 4/17/21 at 11:45 am
MISSION VIEJO -- Coming all together in the last week and receiving approval from the county to hold the meet, Mission Viejo High School was the site of the 2021 Orange County Championships!
Meet director and longtime hall-of-fame distance coach at Esperanza, Rich Medellin, and the coaching staff and administration at Mission Viejo High School jumped through all the proper hoops to make the Orange County version a reality.
The Orange County Championships traditionally serve as a last chance opportunity for those in the county to get in an invitational before league finals but on a whole other level, it is also an opportunity for huge team bragging rights -- at least until the following year!
After obviously being canceled in 2020, the boys of Mater Dei (SS) prevailed over Aliso Niguel (2019 champs) by capturing the 4x400 relay in a season-best 3:25.79. In outscoring the Wolverines by only 2.25 points (60.0-57.75), that final relay allowed the Monarchs to leapfrog to the team title. That time also elevated them up to the top time in Division 2 for CIF-SS. Mater Dei is currently ranked third in the division as a team (we will reveal our team rankings this week)!
Individually for the boys, the top performance was turned in by Dana Hills junior Jai Dawson. Returning back under 1:57 for the 800 meters for the first time in two years, his 1:53.79 is a lifetime best and the sixth-fastest time in the Southern Section.
The only double-winner on the day came in the ring with Anaheim Canyon junior Travis Zavala. Improving by a whopping 14-feet, his 162-8 effort moved him into the top ten list for the Southern Section. Ranked third in the section, he won the Shot Put in an effort of 53-1.25.
Servite's Max Thomas continues to shine in 2021! In a great matchup with two of the section's finest in the 100 meters, the junior ran away from Aliso Niguel's Charlie Jarvis to the 10.81-10.91 victory. With Thomas off to represent his school's soccer team, Jarvis came back to capture the 200 meters later in the day with a wind-legal personal best of 22.02, moving him into the top 10 in the section.
Northwood's Miles Carter bounded his way to a lifetime best of 47-6 in the triple jump to remain atop the Southern Section list under all conditions! He also placed second in the long jump. Sonora's Ian Jones also impressed with his 45-5.5 measurement in the triple jump (unfortunately, there were no wind readings from the meet!).
Aliso Niguel junior Brennan Foody captured the 3200 meters (9:29.56) after placing runner-up to Foothill's Grant Sweningson. The Foothill junior moves into the top five for CIF-SS Division 2 in rolling to a seasonal best of 4:20.02 to Foody's 4:22.89.
One of the top 300-meter hurdlers in California, Carson Kaminski of Trabuco Hills came back from a runner-up finish in the 400 meters to capture his primary event (38.69). Ranked fourth in Division 1, he was impressively pushed to the line by Brea Olinda's Peyton Kilheffer. The senior eclipsed the 39-seconds for the first time in crossing in 38.97. (seventh in the Southern Section).
For the varsity girls, Mission Viejo defended its home turf with the impressive 80-50 gap between the Diablos runner-up Dana Hills and third-place Santa Margarita (44 points). Mission Viejo is currently ranked fifth in Division 2.
On the girls' side, expectations were high in the 800 meters with several of the best in the section lining up. It did not disappoint as Fountain Valley's Kaho Cichon improved by over two seconds for the victory in a 2:11.16 lifetime best. Moving up to fifth in the Southern Section, Chichon led the entire way and ran away from a very talented group, headed by Katella's Ashlynn Viramontes. The Katella junior came into the season with a lifetime best of 2:23.28 and with a strong last half, closed for a 2:13.18 lifetime best. Santa Margarita's McKenna Bradley also improved down to a 2:14.01 with her third-place finish.
On the oval, one of two double winners among seeded events was turned in by San Clemente's Caroline Hawkes. The junior
rolled to a 57.36 victory in the 400 meters and turned the trick once again in the 200 meters (25.38). She retains her hold as the third-fastest in the Southern Section for the 400.
The other girls' double winner was Emily Richards, a senior at Aliso Niguel, who won both the 1600m and 3200m. In the four-lap race, Richards dropped 4.5 seconds off her previous PR in running a school-record time of 4:55.21, edging out JSerra's Georgia Jeanneret (4:56.04) over the final half-lap. That time moves Richards into the top 10 in the state. While the JSerra freshman controlled the early pace with a 2:23 opening half, Richards patiently sat back with the chase pack before overcoming the six-second deficit over the last 400 meters and outmaneuvering Jeanneret down the stretch.
In the eight-lap race, the UC San Diego-bound Richards, coming off a big PR at Arcadia (10:28.37) ran away from the field to win in 10:49.45. Kendall Saeger, a senior at Santa Margarita, was second in 11:05.20.
With two of the best in the Southern Section locking up, Mission Viejo's Sara Pettinger was also a double-winner in the shot put and discus. As the current section leader in the discus, she held off Trabuco Hills' Abby Klinge (third in the Southern Section) despite her 141-6 seasonal best. Coming out of her home ring with 43-7.75, she was able to withstand Orange Lutheran's Rebel Tuinuknafe and her lifetime best of 42-2.5 effort.
Pettinger's victories paved the way to Mission Viejo's team's title. The Diablos also claimed the top two spots in the 100 meters with Haley Johnson (12.74) and Emily Psarras (12.77). Sophomore Jada Gatlin came through with the victory in the Triple Jump to compliment her third-place medal in the Long Jump. The four girls and their 54 points would have been enough to win.
A great battle ensued in the Pole Vault with Dana Hills' Avery Karner prevailing with the win, as the competition came down to misses. With all three clearing the 11-6 bar, Aliso Niguel's Dylan Beveridge and Santa Margarita's Nathalie Barnes had earlier misses while Karner was clean until the final 12-foot bar. These were lifetime bests turned in by Karner and Barnes.
Up next for most of these stars will be their league finals. All heavy favorites to qualify to the CIF-SS postseason will compete at their respective divisional prelims on the weekend of June 5 with their divisional finals the following weekend.
Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the Southern Section editor.
Photos by Patrick Corsinita and Daniel Hernandez.