MARMONTE LEAGUE FINALS
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WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- High school track and field league finals in the California Interscholastic Federation serves as the first step in a lengthy post-season qualifying process that will lead a very select few to the State Championships a month from now.
League championships are as much a qualifier as they are an eliminator, shutting down the season for those who aren't among the top finishers or don't hit their divisional qualifying standard.
On Thursday at the Marmonte League Finals, there were plenty of qualifiers for a league whose six teams are scattered across all four of the CIF-Southern Section enrollment-based divisions. And there were two very notable athletes who ran meet-record times but then scratched out of any further high school competition this spring.
Newbury Park senior Colin Sahlman, the top distance runner in the country, and teammate Lex Young, who along with twin brother Leo, are the distance runners in the junior class, will not continue on to face the five-meets-in-five-weeks gauntlet required to compete at the CIF-State Finals out of the huge Southern Section, Panthers coach Sean Brosnan said.
"Colin Sahlman and Lex Young have decided to bypass the CIF this year," Brosnan said.
"They made the decision to run some open (races) later on and not run CIF. I'm excited to see what they can do."
Sahlman, who will compete collegiately in cross country and track at Northern Arizona beginning in the fall, and Young, are scheduled to compete at a Sound Running event next Friday at San Juan Capistrano JSerra HS, with other open events planned in May and into June.
Young's twin, Leo, had been sidelined with a viral infection, he did not compete on Thursday and is not expected to compete again this spring, Brosnan said. Young had been off for 2 1/2 weeks, Brosnan said "at this point to ramp back up for June, he could do it but why? We , decided as a coach and athlete, to shut it down and get ready for cross country training this summer."
The foursome of Sahlman, his younger brother Aaron Sahlman, and the Young twins had a jaw-dropping cross country season, leading to a national team title, and individual title for Colin Sahlman. Track season has been almost as impressive, with a record time in the 3200, and a sub-4 mile indoors for Colin, and national-leading times in the 1600m and mile for Leo.
On Thursday at the Westlake HS track, Colin Sahlman took the line in two races, ran under meet record time in both, and acknowledged that it was his final time competing in a Newbury Park singlet.
"We're not doing CIF this year, at least Lex and I aren't," Sahlman said. "We wanted to come out here and still represent our school at the league championship. ... We wanted to come out here and do it for our school and for our team and help, in the (3200-meter race) especially, help pace some guys get to CIF qualifications, which we did."
He and Lex Young ran away from the pack in the 1600m, with Sahlman crossing in 4:08.26 and Young in 4:08.58. Later, the two went solo again in the 3200m, with Young crossing first in 9:00.70 and Sahlman next in 9:01.02.
While those two will not move on, the rest of the Panthers boys and girls athletes are planning to continue on as far as they can get, with taking the line at the State Finals in their crosshairs.
That group includes Aaron Sahlman, who won the 800m in 1.52.52 with senior teammate Adam Olson second in 1:55.20.
On the girls side, Alabama-bound senior Samantha McDonnell, trained through the meet while running league-championship times of 4:51.94 for 1600m, 2:14.32 for 800m, and 10:36.99 for 3200m. Brosnan said she would continue running all three at least into next Saturday's CIF-SS Division 1 Prelims at Trabuco Hills HS.
McDonnell's teammates Morgan Nygren (4:58.97) and Ailish Hawkins (5:01.11) were the next two across in the 1600m. Westlake freshman Kenna Bradley (2:24.41) and Oaks Christian sophomore Elyse Grant (2:25.06), were next across in the 800m.
In the 3200, Oaks Christian sophomore Payton Godsey (10:43.53) was second, Agoura senior Georgia McCorkle (10:44.18) was third, and Newbury Park's Hawkins (10:44.70), Nygren (10:53.82), and freshman Tiffany Sax (10:57.10) each went under the qualifying standard.
Newbury Park is the only team in the league that competes in Division 1. Agoura, Thousand Oaks, and Westlake are in D-2, Calabasas is in D-3, and Oaks Christian is the perennial team to beat in D-4. The Southern Section maintains divisions through the May 14 all-division finals at Moorpark HS before the State Meet-qualifying Masters Meet at the same venue on May 21. Oaks Christian has won the last five D-4 titles on the boys side and six of the last seven on the girls side. Thousand Oaks won the boys title last year.
Calabasas gave notice to the rest of D-3 to watch out for the Coyotes' girls, who swept the relays and had six other event champions. That group included a sprint sweep by senior Zanae Woods, who won the 100m in 12.11 (0.6) and the 200m in 24.63 (1.3). Sophomore Zoe Ray won the 400m (56.37) and placed second to Woods in the 200m (25.40/1.3) with sister Lahela Ray third (25.40).
McDonnell was one of two triple event league champions. The other was Thousand Oaks senior Lauren Thai, who swept the hurdles and won the long jump (18-01). She ran PRs in both hurdles, 14.58 in the 100m barriers, and 45.26 in the 300s.
The host school, Westlake, got a throws sweep by junior Ariella Per, winning the discus with a best of 113-06, and the shot put at 34-00.50.
On the boys side, senior Taylor Johnson was the leader, running on both winning relay teams, placing second in the 200m (22.23) and winning the 400m (49.63) as a part of a 1-2-3 finish for Westlake with sophomore Ife Orekoya (45.33) and junior Marcus Nortey (50.91) next across.
The Westlake boys also clustered near the top of the 200m, behind champion James Crawford of Agoura, who ran 22.01 (1.2), Johnson placed second, Orekoya third (22.60), and Brandon Orlow fourth (22.74).
Senior Elijah Gipson accounted for two of three boys event titles for Oaks Christian. Gipson won the 100m (10.75/0.3) and the 300m hurdles (40.49). The other league championship or OC came from senior Jake Reed, who had an eight-inch PR of 15-9 to win the pole vault. It was his first time over 15 feet in six meets since going 15-0 and 15-1 in mid-March.