REVIEW: CIF-SS Top 10 Track & Field Girls Highlights

It was a historic season for girls in the Southern Section led by (l-r) Jade McDonald, Dalia Frias, Mia Barnett, and Paige Sommers. (Photos by Lizette Adams, Raymond Tran, and Jeffrey Parenti)

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What a year for the Southern Section girls!  After losing their 2020 season, these girls and teams made up for it with several record-breaking performances that will be forever remembered!  

1) Paige Sommers Set New National Record
The Westlake senior is headed off to Duke University this fall. But before doing so, she established a new national record in the pole vault as her 14-9 clearance on her home track at the Marmonte League Finals was one of THE premier highlights across the nation. Sommers captured her third CIF-SS divisional title in the event as well in establishing a new CIF-SS Division 1 record clearance at 14 feet.  To cement her legacy, Sommers also was given the honor of qualifying for the 2021 Olympic Trials in Eugene this past month.  

1) Mia Barnett Unleashes a Season for the Ages
Transferring to Crescenta Valley in early 2020 but having that season put on hold, Barnett focused on her overall strength. In doing so, that provided the foundation for, arguably, the most productive distance season of any prep in Californian history. Her 4:37.58 performance ranks third all-time on the California charts to stand right beside her 9:52.23 solo effort that ranks fourth in state history for the 3200 meters. Putting her on another level in prep lore is her 2:07.31 effort in the 800 meters (13th all-time in the CIF-SS). All three marks were California leaders for 2021 while she is the only girl in state history to be ranked in the top 30 in all three events. She heads off to the University of Virginia this fall.   

3) Dalia Frias' Breakout Campaign
Seemingly off the radar and in Barnett's shadow, the Mira Costa junior ended with one of the most productive distance campaigns in any one season in Southern Section history! Joining Barnett, Frias became only the fifth girl in California state history to break 2:10, 4:50, and 10:20!  Yep - we did the research!  This coming from a young lady that had not gone under 2:22 for the 800 going into April. She goes into 2022 with a resume that boasts 2:09.43, 4:45.92c, and 10:15.61 headlines!  Over the last month of the season, Frias broke 4:47 on three separate occasions to finish off one of the best California prep seasons ever.  

4) Jade McDonald's Legacy
Despite losing the 2020 postseason, McDonald moves onto the University of Iowa as one of the most heralded track and field athletes in Southern Section history. In helping bring back the Division 1 title to Long Beach Poly, she scored 32 of the team's 60 points all on her own!  In claiming two more titles to go along with two third-place finishes, she ran the count on top-three finishes up to 10. Also helping lead Mater Dei to the Division 2 title in 2018, she graduates with four divisional individual titles, three silvers, and three bronze. The two-time State Meet finalist finished 2021 as the only girl in the state ranked in the top 10 in four individual events (100m hurdles and 300mH as well as the long jump and triple jump).  

5) Oaks Christian Sets New Southern Section Team Record
Breaking the CIF-SS record for the most points (148) earned by a team at a divisional final, the women of Oaks Christian cranked out a whopping 156.3 on their way to claiming another Division 4 championship!  Led by Jahzara Richardson, Brooklyn Courtnall, and Raeshell Austin, they scored 72 points altogether in the sprints and relays. Even the distance program got into the action by complimenting those three with 29 additional points. This was their sixth team title in the last eight seasons! 

6) '21 Yields Long Beach Poly its 21st Team Title
As mentioned in detail above, Jade McDonald was the catalyst behind earning this one as the Jackrabbits won their 21st CIF-SS Division 1 title. This was their first title since 2017, after having earned an unprecedented nine titles in a 10-year span going back to 2008.  Aside from McDonald's 32 points, Zharia Taylor claimed the high jump title while Aniyah Wyche placed second in the 100 meters to cement the victory.  

7) Asjah Atkinson Shines
The UC Berkeley-bound senior shined when it counted most in leading her St. Anthony squad to the Division 4 runner-up plaque. In claiming titles in both hurdles, to go along with winning the long jump, that brought her overall total to SEVEN gold medals earned in her career. Of course, there would have been more with a 2020 postseason but the two-time State Meet finalist was a perfect three-for-three in her career for the 100m hurdles! Atkinson ended the season with the top wind-legal performance in the long jump (19-5) to go along with the fastest wind-legal mark for the 100m hurdles in the Southern Section.

8) JW North is Back!
After claiming nine team titles between 1995 and 2007, the Huskies brought home their 10th championship in 2021. Despite their heavily favored 400-relay team dropping the baton, the group was unstoppable at the Division 2 final. Raykiyat Olukoju established herself as one of the best in California with titles in the 100m and 200m, while teammate Idara Ibekwe placed second in both events. Olukoju ended the season with the fastest wind-legal 200m in the state (23.89). Meanwhile, Makayla Browne and sister McKenzie earned an additional 14 points in the distances while a two-second improvement saw Breija Stredic earn herself the title in the 300m hurdles (45.09). 

9) Harvard Westlake Earns Division 3 Title
Despite some scheduling overlaps with some of their top stars the week prior, Harvard Westlake brought home their third divisional title in the school's history. They last won in 2014 to go along with their 2011 title. Leading the charge was the formidable pair in freshman Anna Jennings and junior Adrienne Usher. The two combined for 42 points as the Wolverines scored 10 or more points in five different events while also bringing home the victory in the 400-relay. Jessica Thompson earned the silver in the pole vault as did Daniela Quintero in the 1600 meters.  

10) Aujane Luckey's Breakout Season 
The Long Beach Wilson sophomore was a victim to the 2020 season so we did not see her coming!  But she did more than make up for it in rolling to a 53.94 victory in the 400m at the Division 1 finals. In helping her squad capture the 400-relay in the fastest time in California (46.53), she also led her 4x400 squad to the second-best time (3:47.79) in the state. Her 24.20 wind-legal effort in the 200 meters was the third-fastest in the state. Luckey comes back in 2022 as the sixth-fastest returner in the United States.

The 800-meters was stacked! - Chino's Mia Chavez burst onto the national spotlight with her victories in the 800m and mile at the Arcadia Invite in early May. On the same track in June, Chavez moved into another gear with a 2:08.12 victory at the CA State Championship meet. But she was not alone!  Fountain Valley's Kaho Cichon crossed in 2:08.86, the aforementioned Frias at 2:09.43, and La Canada's Ellaney Matarese come through with a 2:09.79. With Mia Barnett rolling to a 2:07.31 earlier in April, the Southern Section featured the top six in California for the 800 meters!

Sam McDonnell's Music City Mile - Traveling out to Nashville in early June, the Newbury Park junior made the most of the trip. She went in with one of the top times in the nation with a 4:48.21 effort for the mile from late March. McDonnell sat back within striking range and then unleashed over the final 100 meters for the come-from-behind victory, crossing in 4:43.11!  Converted to the 1600 meters for a 4:41.47, that performance puts her No. 11 on the all-time Southern Section list.  Going into 2022, she is the eighth-fastest returner in the nation.  

Kennedi Porter Ends on a High Note - The Etiwanda senior stepped up in the postseason, bringing home Division 1 titles in the 100- and 200-meter sprints. Going in as the favorite for 100 meters, Porter left no doubt with her 11.82w victory. In the 200 meters, Porter pulled the upset in also earning the title as she ran down the competition for a lifetime best of 24.39.  

Sara Pettinger Claims Two Division Titles - The Mission Viejo senior claimed the Division 2 titles in the discus and shot put. Ending the season with the 159-0 best in the discus, she ranked atop the Southern Section list. With her 44-3 performance in the shot put, she ranked second in the section and third in California. 

Mark Gardner is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the Southern Section editor.