RECAP Aaliyah McCormick Shines at Escondido Invitational


Scripps Ranch senior Aaliyah McCormick set a meet record in the 100m hurdles and won the 100m dash at the Escondido Invitational. (James Huenink photo)

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ESCONDIDO -- When three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers won her state title in the 100-meter hurdles while attending Sweetwater High in 1984, she also won the 100-meter dash and remained one of the world's best in both events.

Scripps Ranch's Aaliyah McCormick brought back those memories when she not only set the meet record in the 100-meter hurdles at 13.95 seconds, she came back to capture the 100-meter dash in 11.86 at the Escondido Invitational Friday night at Escondido High.

McCormick exploded out of the blocks in the 100, leaving Madison High sophomore Amirah Shaheed a step behind and Shaheed, who had run 11.89 earlier in the season, was unable to close the gap, finishing second in 12.16 on the cold, damp evening.

It was a personal record for McCormick for the 100, aided by a legal 1.5 mps breeze.

Earlier, McCormick took down the meet record with that 13.95, erasing the 14.17 run by Valley Center's Hannah Nealis in 2016.

She added a third race, the 300-meter hurdles, where she again won in a PR, 43.39.

On an evening where Poway sophomore Tessa Buswell dipped under 5-minutes in the 1600 to beat teammate Mackenzie Rogers at 4:55.52 to 4:58.52 and Torrey Pines junior Ryan Thomas lowered his PR in the 800 to 1:53.28, McCormick's ironman performance stood out.

Asked which race she thought was best, she answered: "All of them."

For McCormick, setting the meet record was just the start of a long evening.

"My coach put me in all three events to get me ready for State," said the University of Oregon-bound senior. "I was happy to be under 14 (for the sixth time in her career). I want to keep getting better."

It was just a week ago that she set her third section record, clocking a 13.77 to win the Mt. SAC Relays. There, she had Charlize James of San Diego High right behind to push her. Not this time.

Getting her usual fast start, she was clear of her rivals after the first hurdle and appeared to be cruising to the win.

In the 100, she took such a big lead after the first 10 meters that not even Shaheed could make up the difference.

While some thought she might drop the 300 hurdles after the two big wins, she wanted to run the longer race and bolted into the lead with three hurdles to go and then survived chopping her steps on the final barrier for the victory over Torrey Pines' Karina Janik, who was second in 43.59.

"I wasn't looking for a time," said McCormick of the 300s. "But getting two PRs and a record is great. I'm really looking forward to state. In fact, I can't wait to get to practice Monday and get better."

McCormick went to the California State Championships as a freshman in the 4x100 relay, which Scripps Ranch won.  But no individual events.

She was expected to challenge in 2000 but COVID halted the season prematurely and last year there was no official state meet, so she is driven.

The same could be said of Buswell, who stayed right behind Rogers until 200 meters remained and then used her 2:09.54 800 speed to beat her Titans teammate to the tape.

"I still prefer running the 800," said Buswell. "In that race you run 62 or 63 and then just go."

Buswell has lofty goals in the 800. "2:05 or 2:06," was her answer for how fast she believes she can run in her favorite event-maybe as soon as this year's state meet.

The San Diego Section girls 800 record is 2:08.00 by Mt. Carmel's Lesley Noll in 1985.

"Maybe I can set that record, too," said Buswell.

As for Thomas, he stayed back the first lap but when he made a move with 300 to go, no one could keep up.

"I did that at Mt. SAC a week ago, going with 300 left, and it felt good," said the Falcons junior. "I knew we'd go out pretty hard but I didn't want to take the lead and then get passed. By State I want to be at 1:51 or better."

The meet was missing several of the top competitors who opted to sit out prior to league, section, and state but even one of the front-runners struggled.

Lexi Evans of Scripps Ranch is No. 1 in the state pole vault with her 13-feet, 8-inch clearance, but she didn't come in until 12-3 and missed all three attempts, handing the gold medal to Fallbrook's Rose Wagner, who cleared 11-9.

"I was blowing through my pole," said Evans. "I should have used my 145-pound pole."

Later it was announced that there was an error in the standards for the top group, resulting in several no-heights.

Evans, who shook off the performance, was asked about the 1-7 finish by the San Diego athletes last week at Mt. SAC.

"It's insane how good the section is and it's due to the North County Vault Club our vaulters were or are part of," she said. "In the end, though, I think it'll be me and Ali (Del Norte's Allison Leigh who has gone 13-7) at State." 

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Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit with a concentration on the San Diego Section.