PREVIEW: Top Returning Boys in the Sac-Joaquin Section

2022 Sac-Joaquin Section Track and Field - Top Boys To Watch

Jadyn Marshall was a double winner at Arcadia last May, winning both the 110-meter hurdles and 300m hurdles during a junior season where he was undefeated in 14 races across both distances. (Raymond Tran photo)

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The Sac Joaquin Section is the second largest in the state of California with almost 200 member schools and a history of success at the State Meet level, particularly in the distance and field events.

When the SJS boys toe the line for the 2022 CIF State Track and Field Championships on May 27th and 28th, it will have been three long years since the last one in 2019.

California is arguably the most competitive state when it comes to track and field, from the sprints, to the field events to distance races, to finish on top typically takes performances among the best in the U.S.

As in years past, there is no shortage of distance talent in the SJS, but the emergence of Nathan Kent as a top-class sprinter gives hope that a SJS sprinter could be in the mix for multiple medals at the State Meet. Additionally, Jadyn Marshall is one of the top all-around athletes in the state and undoubtedly has his eyes on a hurdle double at the State Meet. 

Let's take a closer look at some of the top returning boys in the SJS (listed alphabetically).

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Zachary Ayers (Davis, Sr.) - Distance

Ayers is coming off a breakthrough cross country season that saw him finish fifth in the CIF-State Division I race, breaking up the Newbury Park run at a perfect 15-point score. He followed that up by qualifying for the Eastbay National Cross Country Championships where he finished in 21st place. The Air Force Academy commit has PRs of 4:19.30 in the 1,600 and 9:08.40 in the 3,200. He is a strong bet to go below 4:10 in the 1,600 and 9:00 in the 3,200 before the season is over. 

Kyle Burns (Oak Ridge, Sr.) - Pole Vault

His 14-6 PR from last spring ranks tied for ninth among returners statewide, however his 15-8 clearance at the National Pole Vault Summit in Reno last month is the second-highest jump among all returning boys in CA. With Burns, Turlock senior Ian Strode, Placer senior Austin Wanlass, and Davis senior Will Siemens leading the way, the pole vault competition in the SJS will be one to watch.

Broen Holman (Sonora, Fr.) - Distances

In addition to holding a 5K road race age-group world record, Holman also came in eighth in a competitive D-IV race at the CIF-State Cross Country Championships. With several top-notch upper-class distance athletes in the SJS, getting to the State Meet at the end of May might be a stretch, but don't be surprised if he is in the mix at the section Masters Meet in either the 3,200 or 1,600. 

Nathan Kent (Rocklin, Sr.) - Sprints

Kent, a highly sought-after football player who was recently named to the 1st team All-Metro squad and Offensive MVP of the rugged Sierra Foothill League, is headed to the Naval Academy. He has PRs of 10.73 in the 100, 22.68 in the 200, and 47.47 in the 400, all achieved during the pandemic shortened 2021 season. 

Braden King (Jesuit, Sr.) - Distances

King completed a successful cross country season that saw him finish 10th in the Division I race at the CIF-State Meet and a first-place finish in the Silver race at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships. The Yale University commit has PRs of 8:56.89 in the 3,200 and 4:16.93 in the 1,600. 

Sean Lacey (Bella Vista, Sr.) - Distances

Lacey is one of several distance runners who will be vying for a State Meet spot and his 8:57.13 PR in the 3,200 from the 2021 Arcadia Invitational indicates that he would be one of the favorites to get one at the SJS Masters Meet. 

Jadyn Marshall (St. Mary's, Sr.) - Hurdles

Jadyn follows his brother Jamal (Arizona State '24) as one of the top hurdlers in the United States in addition to being the highest-rated football player in the SJS as a 4-star wide receiver. The UCLA signee was a double winner at the 2021 Arcadia Invitational with PRs of 13.76 for the 110HH and 36.77 in the 300 hurdles. 

Ray Oldham (Davis, Sr.) - Jumps

He is the top returner in the section and one of the top high jumpers in CA after clearing 6-6 at the NorCal Championships last June. He cleared 6-4 to win at Golden West and 6-4 again for second at the unofficial state championship.  He's also a sprinter with an 11.07 (1.5) PR in the 100 meters, which ranks No. 4 among SJS returners.

Kellen Steplight (Vacaville, Sr.) - Distances

Steplight is one of the few athletes on this list to have competed in a State Meet. He qualified in the 1,600 as a freshman where he finished with a PR of 4:16.90 Steplight endured a long layoff due to injury, but was working his way back to fitness by the end of the recently completed cross country season. If he is able to get back to fitness and remain healthy, lowering that PR and getting back to the State Meet are distinct possibilities. 

Daniel Winters (St. Mary's, Sr.) - Distances

Winters is another runner with the kind of times and season-over-season improvements to make a run at a State Meet berth. His PRs of 4:13.89 for the full mile and 8:58.02 for the 3,200 meet the existing at large qualifying times for the state meet in those events.  

Dan Tyree is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA with a focus on the Sac-Joaquin Section.

MileSplitCA editor Jeffrey Parenti contributed to this report.