RECAP CIF-CS North’s Top Athletes, Depth Shine at Area Meet




CLOVIS -- A CIF-Central Section Area meet is many things, but primarily it is a test of an athlete's season survival. Finish among the top three places in one of four area meets being held this week and you automatically advance to the June 19 CIF-CS Finals, aka Valley Championship.

But beyond 12 guaranteed spots, the remaining six to fill out an 18-person event field are up for grabs. Clovis East High School hosted the North Area meet Wednesday. Two other Area meets Wednesday were held at Exeter High (East) and Nipomo High (West). Liberty High in Bakersfield hosts the South Area meet Friday, June 11.

Getting that top-three time, height or distance is key for all athletes, but a team's depth, or having an athlete qualify in multiple events is especially critical to team scoring chances at the section championships.

The North Area meet, in which the top nine place finishers in each event are eligible -- but not guaranteed to advance to the section championships -- featured a variety of impressive achievements.

The Central High boys had nine personal-best performances and its 4x100 relay-winning team set a school record. Cameron Tarver, a junior, won the 100 in 10.63 seconds (+3.3), recorded a PR in winning the 200 (21.25, +2.1w), and ran the second leg of the 4x100 relay-winning team's 41.25 mark. He took second in the long jump with a 21-feet, 8.5-inch effort.

Another star Grizzlies runner, Jeremiah Walker, won the 400 meters in 48.98, was on the winning 4x100 relay, the second-place 4x400 relay (3:22.38) and he finished second in the 200 (21.31).

Clovis High's boys had five PRs among its top-nine finishers and a few double event winners. Senior Ayden Merrihew swept the discus (172-0) and shot put, even recording a PR in the latter at 57-01.5. Sophomore Christopher Caudillo won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races, setting a PR in the 1,600 with a 4:09.67. His win in the 3,200 (9:18.05), was more than 10 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

Another multi-talented Cougars performer was Nathan Johnson. He won the long jump in a PR of 22-4, finished second in the 100 (10.67), third in the 200 (21.43), and was on the Cougars' fourth-place 4x100 relay.

Bo Olsen, a distance runner for Buchanan, won the 800 in 1:56.88, finished second in the 1,600 (4:15.27), and had the second leg of the Bears' 4x400 relay winner (3:22.32).  

The boys pole vault was the last event of the day, but the key reason for its lengthy run was because Clovis North boys pole vaulter Cyprus Rice cleared 16 feet, 3 inches to lengthen the school record he's held much of the season. His effort Wednesday surpassed his previous PR of 16-1.

"It feels like I'm flying," said Rice, a senior, when describing how he felt on his newest record-setting mark. "The wind really helped today, the tailwind was nice."

Rice is second in the state to Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (SD) pole vaulter Garrett Brown (17-1 PR), but Rice said his new mark is a positive step. Rice is motivated with more meets to come, saying he's hopeful of going three to five inches higher and that he'd love the opportunity to try 17 feet. He will compete at the section championship and the alternative state meet set for Arcadia HS on June 25-26.

Several multi-event performers shined during the girls' portion of the meet. 

Clovis North junior Takiya Cenci, won the 200 (24.03, +3.5W) and 400, in which she set a personal-best time of 54.36 seconds (CA No. 2). She ran the third leg of the Broncos' winning 4x400 relay (3:52.45) and was the third runner on the second-place finishing 4x100 relay (47.70).

Clovis East High junior Feyi Olukanni recorded two victories, earning a personal-best mark to win the discus in 144 feet, 6 inches, and a 38-9 to win the shot put. Coming into the meet, Olukanni said one goal was to hit the 140-mark consistently. She had two throws in the final round that met the criteria, the PR and another at 142-3.

"I felt I really got my technique together, it's been coming along," Olukanni said of her discus performance.

Advancing to the section finals means she'll likely compete against two of the state's best discus throwers, Bakersfield Liberty High's Faith Bender (170-9.5) and Bella Rigby (163-9).

"I like progressing because you meet more competition and it's more people to push you," she said. "If you have people to push you, then you're going to push yourself."

Buchanan and Clovis North both showed signs of the depth needed to compete for the girls section title.

While Cenci's PR and win in the 400 was notable, Bronco teammates Tiara Adeniji and Maya Cordoba finished second and third, respectively. Adeniji, a senior, ran a season-best time of 56.58. Cordoba, a freshman, went 57.95.

Central sophomores Riley Costales and Taleeah Hoggatt finished one-two and both notched PR times in the 100-meter hurdles. Costales won in 14.93 and Hoggatt crossed the finish line in 15.04. Hoggatt also had a PR and finished second in the 300 hurdles in 46.52. 

Buchanan and Clovis North's distance runners put on a depth clinic in the 3,200 and 1,600. The Bears swept the 3,200's top three spots with Sydney Sundgren (10:52.96), Morgan Hutchison (10:56.84) and Grace Hutchison (11:03.50) running as a pack for most of the race. Buchanan had five runners finish among the top nine places. Clovis North took the other four spots among the top nine.

In the 1,600, Clovis North's Miliana Perez won the race in 4:49.58, but Buchanan, led by runner-up Sundgren and her PR time of 4:49.67, had five runners among the top seven places. Perez's teammate, Ashlyn Leath, was fourth. 

Lauren Fowler of Buchanan put together a string of good performances. The Central Section's leader in the 100 won in 11.79 seconds, ran the anchor leg of the Bears' winning 4x100 relay (47.50) and finished second in both the long jump (18-7) and 200 (24.03).

More examples of Buchanan's depth came courtesy of seniors Helen Chu and Alexa Dandridge, and junior Maddie Passmore. Chu won the triple jump in 38-4.5, was third in the long jump (18-4) and fourth in the 100 hurdles (15.47, PR). Dandridge won the 300 hurdles in 44.92 and was third in the 100 hurdles (15.12). Passmore was on the winning 4x100 relay, second in the triple jump (37-1), fourth in the 100 (a PR time of 12.66) and was fifth in the long jump (17-6).

The CIF Central Section championships, known best among area athletes and coaches as a "valley championship" meet, will be held at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium June 19.


Ryan Blystone is a freelance writer and regular contributor to MileSplitCA. 

All photos by DeAnna Turner.