CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION - DIVISION 4 FINALS
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CARPINTERIA -- There was a noted celebration soon after Gardena Serra High's boys' 4x400 relay team won the final heat race of the day at last Saturday's CIF-Southern Section Division 4 Preliminaries meet at Carpinteria HS.
Members of Serra's girls relay teams ran around and mobbed their fellow-winning teammates, delightfully screaming, laughing, and using their cell phones to capture the festive moment. There were also a few who made a broom sweeping gesture, too.
Winning, no doubt, brings joy. Serra's boys and girls relay team had good reason to display some enthusiasm. Serra won all four relay heats it entered and each was the top qualifying time among five heat races for the 4x100 and 4x400. No doubt, a repeat of the relays sweep would give the Cavaliers great confidence during the May 14 CIF-SS Division Finals at Moorpark High School.
"It's a team thing, we're all in it together and that's the best part," said Serra junior sprinter Jordan Washington, who ran anchor on both girls' relays and also won her individual 100- and 200-meter heat races.
Washington (pictured) has an all-conditions 100-meter dash best of 11.63 (3.7 meters-per-second) that leads the state.
Rodrick Pleasant, the top qualifier and defending division champion in the individual 100- and 200-meter dash events, anchored Serra's boys 4x100 heat win.
"It's a really great opening race, a very exciting race. It gets you going," said Pleasant, a junior whose 100m best of 10.39 (3.7) ranks CA No. 5, and his 21.16 (1.4) best in the 200m ranks CA No. 3 for wind-legal times.
Serra often fields the relay teams to beat and help their teams contend for success. Cavaliers teams have the all-time Southern Section Div. 4 times in all four relay events. Winning relays means big team points to win meets and division titles.
Washington and Pleasant will be counted on to do more than anchor relays on Saturday, but with a relays sweep repeat, both teams' chances of winning Division 4 overall team titles is much better, too.
Oaks Christian boys and girls teams have had a stranglehold on Division 4 championships lately. The boys have won the last five titles, dating back to 2016 (COVID-19 canceled the 2020 season). The Lions have won six of the last seven girls' division titles.
Serra is not a stranger to CIF division title success. The boys team has won 14 Division 4 titles since 1994. Serra boys also won consecutive division titles in I-A (1980-82) and Division 3 (1996-99) before settling into Division 4 title wins (2000, 2002-05, 2007-13). Serra boys won state titles in 2000 and 2013, too. The boys were division runners-up in 2014, 2015, and 2021.
Serra's girls' program has won six Division 4 titles, the last one in 2018 when it won both division and state titles. Serra also won the division in 2003 and 2009-12 with runner-up finishes in 2004, 2017, and 2019. The 2012 division title was also followed by a state championship.
Perhaps some of Serra's championship past is fueling the present. First-year head track coach Alexis Faulknor, a 2012 alumna, was a four-time league and CIF champion. She won a state title in the long jump and ran on the state-winning 4x100 relay en route to the Cavaliers' first girls' state title in 2012.
A decade later, Faulknor's Serra teams are in contention for division titles and, perhaps, more. MileSplit's Mark Gardner has done a mock-up this week for the division finals based on CIF prelims qualifying results. By his calculations, Serra's girls project to win by three points. Serra's boys project to win by 14.
MILESPLIT CIF-SS DIVISION 4 TEAM PROJECTIONS
1) Junipero Serra 75
2) Oaks Christian 72
3) St. Mary's 57
4) Muir 32
5) Paraclete 29
6) Sierra Canyon 25
7) St. Margaret's 24
8) Archer School for Girls 20
9) Mayfield 20
10) La Salle 19
10) Rosary Academy
Others: Bishop Diego, Cate, Santa Ynez, Viewpoint
1) Junipero Serra 88
2) Oaks Christian 74
3) Alemany 49
4) Ontario Christian 32
5) Crean Lutheran 28
6) Big Bear 26
7) Crespi 22
8) La Salle 20
9) Rim of the World 20
10) Foothill Technology 19
Others: Brentwood, Chadwick, Maranatha, Villanova Prep
Serra's girls' division final qualifiers: Courtney Sanco (800, 1600, 4x400); Sienna Claiborne (400, 300 hurdles); Jordan Washington (100, 200, 4x100, 4x400); Brazil Neal (100, 200, 4x100, 4x400); Mia Flowers (100, 4x100); Juanita Parr (800, 4x400); Jaiya Fletcher (4x100); Zoe Tramble (Long jump); and Zakiyah Wilson (Long jump).
Serra's boys division final qualifiers: Jamar Bell (4x100, long jump); Darrian Anderson (4x100); Cordell Montgomery (4x100, 4x400); Deven Lewis (200, 400, 4x100, 4x400); Elijah Flores (400, 4x400); Roderick Pleasant (100, 200, 4x100); Jaylin Franklin (100, 200, long jump); Otis Harrison Jr. (300 hurdles); and Dakoda Fields (4x400, long jump).
Oaks Christian's division title streaks could be in jeopardy, but the Lions are formidable. Elijah Gipson is qualified in three events (100m, 110m hurdles, and 300m hurdles where he is the defending division champion) on the boys' side. He is joined by two relays, one other in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, four pole vaulters -- including defending D-4 champion Jake Reed -- and one each in the 400 and 800.
For the girls' team, sophomore Niya Clayton (pictured) qualified in four events (100, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4x400). Oaks Christian also has two competing in the 3200 -- led by sophomore standout Payton Godsey whose 10:19.05 ranks CA No. 8 -- another in the 300 hurdles (freshman Eleanor Borchard), the defending division champion in the pole vault in senior Tenly Kuhn, and one athletes each in the 400, 800, and long jump.
A successful title defense will take everything Oaks Christian has to hold off Serra. Oaks Christian boys did win their 2014 and 2021 titles with Serra as the runner-up while the girls' 2017 and 2019 teams topped runner-up Serra.
Imagine if it comes down to the last relay race on Saturday. Serra has the edge based on times this year, Oaks Christian won't back down. And that's the way it should be when a championship is on the line.
The post-race celebration should be equally memorable, too.
Ryan Blystone is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit
Photos by Ryan Blystone, Jeffrey Parenti, and Raymond Tran.