La Costa Canyon's Garrett Brown (left) and Poway's Maxwell Jefferson led a group of San Diego Section boys who excelled despite an abnormal outdoor season. (Angel Pena photos)
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Considering all of the minefields and roadblocks San Diego Section boys track and field athletes had to clear, 2021 was pretty successful.
This was a year without a single invitational of more than four schools, the cancellation of the CIF-State Meet midway through the season, the elimination of the section championships as they had been contested for decades, and the introduction of three divisions on a one-time basis.
At the last minute, the top nine competitors from the three divisional meets were invited to an Open Championship and a week later, Arcadia High played host to a season-ending meet called the California State Championships that looked like it in some ways and not in others.
It seemed most of the section athletes focused on the three divisional meets but those who pushed beyond fared well.
Consistent through it all was Stanford-bound pole vaulter Garrett Brown who cleared 17-feet three times, the last at 17-2 in the Division I championships, eclipsing his own section record of 17-0.75 set at the Chandler Rotary Invitational in Arizona.
He also cleared 17-1 in a dual meet, part of 23 meets in which he participated since January. Brown was also one who seemed to be focused on the Division I championships as he cleared just 16-2 in the San Diego Open and 16-6 at Arcadia.
Brown was the state's lone 17-footer this year, leading the rest of the state by eight inches, and one of only six over that barrier nationwide.
STATING HIS CASE
Since the Arcadia meet replaced the CIF-State Meet, the SDS had two more outstanding finishes as the Mission Hills 4x100 relay team and Poway 110-meter high hurdler Maxwell Jefferson mined for gold in the meet.
But Marshall was injured in the NorCal Championships and Graves-Blanks did not participate in the finale at Arcadia, so Maxwell seized his opportunity and rolled to a season-best 14.23. Had that been the state final, it would have been only the second-ever high hurdle champion from San Diego, the other coming 83 years earlier when San Diego High's John Beinwaner won the 120-yard highs in 15.3 (no electronic timing back then).
QUARTET ON A MISSION
All of the top teams were lined up to compete in the always-popular 4x100 relay, including Rancho Cucamonga (41.20), Fresno Central's all-non-senior team (41.25), and the Santa Ana Mater Dei quartet, anchored by junior Domani Jackson who later in the meet equaled the state's all-time fastest time of 10.25 in the 100m.
Mission Hills garnered barely a mention.
But, as so many USA Olympic teams have learned, sometimes the race goes to the team with the best passing of the baton, and in this regard, Mission Hills was flawless.
Quince Chapman, who had never led off the relay before this season, got out of the blocks well, passing to Lamar Smith who put the Grizzlies in front. Nick Capezzone, who admittedly loves running turns, kept Mission Hills in front and Kyle Smith, no relation to Lamar, held off Mater Dei, 41.56 to 41.57.
Rancho Cucamonga (41.67) and Central (41.68) made it four teams within 0.12.
FUTURE IS BRIGHT
--Cathedral Catholic's Bryce Brock, who pulled a hamstring in the Division 2 prelims, will return after running a 10.56 at the Arcadia Invitational in May.
--Coming back for his junior year will be La Mesa Helix's 400m specialist Adren Parker, who sped to a 48.05 in the Division I prelims, won the Open championship but skipped the season finale at Arcadia.
--Distance runners Bryce Gilmore of Sage Creek (4:13.39/8:58.82), Levi Taylor of San Marcos (1:55.24/4:14.91), and Francis Parker's Kenan Pala (4:20.77/9:02.92) should start making loud noise this fall in cross country.
--Eastlake's Justin Cardoza cleared a section-best 6-8 in the SD Open high jump and with a full season, could be challenging 7-feet, while Titan teammate Brandon Buu, the top triple jumper at 45-4, could have some big jumps in the future.
--The Imperial Valley will return weight event mavin Guillermo Lopez, from El Centro Southwest, who hit 54-feet in the shot and 166-4 in the discus. El Camino's Hawkin Miller is back to push Lopez with bests of 53-2 and 153-6.
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Steve Brand is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the San Diego Section editor.