CCS Section Trials and Finals Preview - TRACK by Jordan Cheng
Since its conception in 1966, the Central Coast Section semifinals and finals have consistently produced some of the best times and athletes in California. From the one-woman army of Wendy Brown (Woodside '84) to the incredible sprinting prowess of Calvin Harrison (North Salinas '93), CCS has seen its fair share of phenomenal athletes, with this year being no different.
The defending CCS 100m and 200m champion, Evan Johnson of Stevenson (photo to the right courtesy of his Twitter page), produced incredible late-season marks of 10.41 (w+2.4) and 21.54 (w+2.3), with his 100m tieing Tony Miller (Riordan '89) for #2 CCS all-time. Johnson is the fastest short sprinter in CCS over the past 2 decades, only surpassed by CCS 100m record holder Rubin Williams (Valley Christian '02). Going into trials and finals, the question that lingers is whether or not Johnson can break Miller's meet and CCS record of 10.37!
Other athletes in the short sprints include Nyziah Hunter of Salinas, who goes to Gilroy with a personal best of 10.62 (w+3.6), Andrew Fu of Harker, who has remained consistent over the course of the season with marks of 10.82, 22.18, and 23'0.5 feet in the long jump, Jakson Berman of Valley-Christian who won the annual CCS Top 8 Invitational with times of 10.88 and a 22.01 run at WCAL league championships, Sione Laulea of Junipero Serra, who made his appearance onto the scene known with times of 10.90 and 21.83 run at WCAL championships, Braden Harrison of Los Altos who ran a .4 second PR of 21.98 at SCVAL DAL division finals,
Juliette Kosmont of Santa Catalina placed 2nd at CCS finals in 2021 and looks to take her revenge this year, having already run 12.01 (W+4.5) and 25.55 run into a -1.0 headwind. Vanessa Su goes to Gilroy with a personal best of 12.12, and hopes to lead her team, Lynbrook, to its 2nd CCS team title in school history after placing 2nd as a team in 2021. Chika Nwachukwu of Silver Creek will attempt 4 events, running the 4x100, 100h, 300h, and 100m, and with a mark of 12.29, she should be counted among the favorites to win the short sprint, and Daryana Hall of Valley-Christian saw big personal bests at the WCAL championships and will be going to CCS with marks of 12.30 and 25.39.
The defending 400m and 800m champion, Yutaka Roberts of El Camino, will not be contesting the 400m at CCS this year, having opted to drop the event, which he has run 48.12, in favor of the 800m, in which he has a personal best of 1:51.04, run from wire to wire at the top 8 invitational, and will be chasing Rick Brown's (Los Altos '70) 52-year-old meet and CCS record of 1:50.0. Jeremiah Earby of Menlo-Atherton saw a massive personal best at the PAL league championships, running 48.75. Wil Brenan of Los Gatos goes to CCS with a time of 49.51, and the SCCAL league finals saw a fast race with Caleb Womack of Santa Cruz winning in 49.68, with runner ups Sam Freeman of Scotts Valley and Brodey Staley of Soquel both going sub-50 with personal bests of 49.79.
Hannah Rutherford of Mountain View goes into CCS as the favorite in the 400 with a time of 55.88, run at the Top 8 Invitational. Rutherford also owns marks of 12.25 and 25.00 (W+3.2). Despite Rutherford's fast marks, Anjali Yella of Harker has shown herself to be a clear threat for the 400 and 200 titles, having run 56.79 and 25.14. Alice Tsioutsiouliki of Archbishop Mitty goes to CCS with a 57.84 run at Arcadia, and Lillian Kaelber of St. Francis, who was on the phenomenal St. Francis team of 2021 that won the team title, returns as a threat in the 400 and 800 with times of 57.97 and 2:12.95.
The boys 800 has one of the strongest events in CCS, including Yutaka Roberts of El Camino, Jeremy Kain of Scotts Valley, who is also the favorite in the 1600 with a time of 4:07.77 run at Arcadia, Furious Clay of Crystal Springs Uplands, Ben Pinkel of Bellarmine, Trent Nosky of Aptos (dropped), Justin Pretre of Menlo (dropped), and Varun Saraf of Homestead, all of which have already run times under the CIF at-large of 1:54.54. The boys 1600 is equally fast, with Jeremy Kain of Scotts Valley, Aidan Dimick of Carlmont, Harrison Dance of Saratoga, Justin Pretre of Menlo, Tanish Chettiar of Bellarmine, Mateo Fesslmeier of Palo Alto, phenomenal freshman Carson Hedlund of Pioneer, who broke Colin Peattie's (Bellarmine '21) still fresh CCS freshman 1600m record of 4:16.83 with a time of 4:14.64 at the Stanford invitational, Trent Nosky of Aptos, and Grant Morgenfeld of Palo Alto also all having run times under the CIF at-large of 4:14.91. The boy 3200 is set to be as fast as the 1600 and 800, with 3 having already run times under the CIF at-large, and 3 more primed to do so.
Hillary Studdert of Palo Alto opted to drop the 1600, in which she has a personal best of 4:51.44, to run the 800, where she ran her CCS-leading time of 2:10.41 at the Stanford invitational. Samira Kennedy of Castilleja (file photo above), who is a threat in the 1600 and 800 with times of 4:49.37 and 2:10.72 is backed up by her devastating kick and 400 best of 57.69. Lauren Soobrian of Los Altos will be a threat in the 1600, in which she has a personal best of 4:55.19, and is the clear favorite in the 3200, where she won the Top 8 Invitational with a time of 10:22.79. Kaiya Brooks of Crystal Springs Uplands and Bella Peretti of Pioneer have both had strong showings in the 3200, with personal bests of 10:32.59 and 10:36.27, respectively. The aforementioned Lillian Kaelber of St. Francis demonstrates St. Francis's incredible depth in the 800, with teammates Sabrina Zanetto and Hinako Yamamoto having run times of 2:13.12 and 2:16.12, respectively. Kaiya Brooks of Crystal Springs Uplands, Bella Peretti of Pioneer, Ella Fadil of Los Altos, and Julia Soderbery of Sacred Heart Prep all go to CCS with a double in the 1600 and 3200 in mind, each having registered a mark in the CCS top 10.
Ben Kin Ho Tsang of Independence will attempt to add another CCS hurdles title to Indepence's strong history in the hurdles, but Shawn Toney of Los Altos, Kathir Balakrishnan of Fremont, and Miles Roberts of Leland aren't far behind, with all having run between 14.33 and 14.48. Toney is also the clear favorite to win the CCS title in the 300 hurdles after the unfortunate DQ of Fremont's Balakrishnan, but the race for the next 2 spots to states is set to be intense with Kin of Independence, Daniel Chen of Gunn, William Rainey of Bellarmine, Peter Olson of Junipero Serra, and Fillipi Montes of Gunn, who started the season at 44.65 and recently ran 40.78, all grouped closely.
Chika Nwachukwu of Silver Creek goes into CCS as the clear favorite in the short hurdles with a personal best of 14.63, but Trisha Sharma of Fremont, Elizabeth Churchill of Aptos, who also has a personal best of 5'8 in the high jump to tie for CCS #1, Tiana Osunah of Archbishop Mitty, Laniah Simpson of Evergreen Valley, and Shayana Tomasetti and Madeline Yamamoto, both also of Silver Creek, will race for the next 2 spots to the state meet in what will be an extremely competitive race. The 300 hurdles were set to be a 3-woman race for most of the season between clear favorite Alison Tjoe of Lynbrook, Trisha Sharma of Fremont, and Sharona Schwab of Gunn, but Nwachukwu's 45.75 at BVAL League finals put her in contention as well. Tjoe's 44.92 puts her far ahead of the competition, but Jalyn Harrigan of Saratoga, Melia Middleton of Christopher, and Tiana Osuna of Archbishop Mitty will all attempt to pull off an upset on the other 3 CCS leaders.
The boys 4x100 will be a close race between all involved, with Valley Christian, Junipero Serra, Los Altos, Archbishop Mitty, Lynbrook, Bellarmine, San Benito Hollister, and Harker all having run within half a second of each other. The 4x400 is set to be equally close, but Junipero Serra, who has won 6 of the past 7 CCS 4x400 titles in a row, and led by sprinter Sione Laulea, always runs the right time - at the right time - and will attempt to do so again.
Lynbrook (Malcolm Slaney photo from Stanford Invitational) goes into the girls 4x100 as the clear favorites, having broken a 44-year-old school record with a time of 47.82, with #2 CCS team Silver Creek having run 48.63. Valley Christian and St. Ignatius will battle for 3rd with times of 49.32 and 49.41 respectively, but both could be upset by Archbishop Mitty, St. Francis, Soquel, San Benito Hollister, and Saratoga, all of who have run between 49.76 and 50.32. Defending 4x400 champions St. Francis, who won the event last year with a time of 3:52.85, are the favorites to run away with the event again, having already run 4:03.97 anchored by 400 and 800 runner Lillian Kaelber. Lynbrook has the #2 CCS time of 4:05.24, and will attempt to close out the meet with an equally good placement to secure their team title, with Archbishop Mitty, Los Altos, Sacred Heart Prep, and Castilleja all following closely behind.
Each year, as CCS track athletes travel down to Veteran's memorial stadium in Clovis, CCS field athletes follow closely behind. This week and next week's CCS trials and finals will see the best field athletes in the section go head-to-head to vie for section championships and state berths.
Of his 13 competitions this season, Jacob Kiesman of Valley Christian has thrown over 50 feet in all 13, making him not only the favorite for the shot-put title with his best of 57'5, but also one of the most consistent throwers in the section. However, Joseph Harbert of Archbishop Riordan follows closely behind with his throw of 54'6.5, and with him narrowly taking second place versus Kiesman at WCAL league finals, the throw-off between the two at CCS will be a competition to watch for. Mateo Garcia of Santa Clara travels to CCS trials with a personal best of 48'4.5 for 3rd in the section, but Clayton King of Monte Vista Christian and Jack Raney of Bellarmine follow closely behind with their bests of 47'8.25 and 47'2.25. Sophomore Kyler Headly of Silver Creek and Clayton King of Monte Vista Christian are set to have a close battle in the discus, with Headly having thrown 150'1 for #1 in CCS, while King has thrown 150'0. Derek Taylor of Silver Creek, Liam Brennan of Santa Clara, and Tobey Lau of Palo Alto all follow with personal bests ranging from 146'9 to 147'9.
The underclassmen-dominated girls shot-put is set to be a close competition for all involved, with junior Jocelyn Alexander of San Benito Hollister taking the #1 spot in the rankings with a best of 37'10 while freshmen Nicole Steiner of Los Gatos and Golda Demby of Del Mar are ranked #2 and #3 with their marks of 37'9 and 36'7. Chloe Morelle of Los Altos and Peri Durbin of Notre Dame have both thrown 36 feet, putting them in contention for a trip to the state meet. On the other hand, Ningning O'Brien of Homestead is the heavy favorite in the girls discus with her throw of 136'10 at SCVAL league finals, not only winning the competition by 30 feet but also putting her 18 feet ahead of the #2 thrower in the section! While nothing is ever guaranteed in the sport of athletics, her lead over the competition in Gilroy should give her an easy section title and a trip to the state meet, where O'Brien, ranked 6th in the state, will compete for a spot on the podium. Jocelyn Alexander of San Benito Hollister, Layla McGee of St. Francis, and Golda Demby of Del Mar will compete for the next spots to states with their personal bests of 118'11, 118'5.5, and 117'4.
In addition to being a phenomenal hurdler, having won the CCS top 8 invitational with a time of 14.58 in the 110 hurdles, Miles Roberts boasts the #1 high jump in CCS with a height of 6'6, with Luke Buddie of Woodside and Adrian DiLena of St. Ignatius in second and third with their heights of 6'5 and 6'4. Adam Berg of Willow Glen takes the 4th height of 6'3, but the 5th height of 6'2 is occupied by 6 people - making for an interesting jump-off in GIlroy. Logan Lehnert of St. Ignatius leads the pole vault rankings with his 14'6, with William Floyd of Menlo second at 14'3, and Erik Dodge third with a vault of 14'2.5.
Much like Roberts of Leland, Elizabeth Churchill is both a phenomenal hurdler and high-jumper, having run 15.10 in the 100 hurdles at the top 8 invitational, and having jumped 5'8, which is tied with Hannah Slover of Los Gatos for the #1 high jump mark in CCS. Melanie Castelli of Notre Dame, Clara Fan of Monta Vista, and Lillian Thrasher of San Benito Hollister all follow with their marks of 5'5.25 and 5'4 for Fan and Thrasher respectively. In pole vault, Jonelle Scott of Soquel leads the section rankings by a sizable margin with her mark of 11'6. Abigail Goetz of Sequoia and Emily Zamora of Willow Glen follow with their marks of 11'1 and 10'6.
Among the many impressive performances at CCS Top 8, Jurrion Dickey of Valley Christian's 23'9.25 long jump was one of the best, both because it placed him atop the CCS long jump rankings and because he PR'd by an astonishing 2 feet! Paul Rivera of Palma ties for 2nd place in CCS rankings with Andrew Fu of Harker, who took 2nd place at top 8 with his jump of 23'0.5. Joshua Kung of Los Altos comes in 4th as the only other person to have jumped above 21 feet with his best of 22'0.75, and Johnnie Barbie of Menlo-Atherton and Rishi Tella of Palo Alto follow with their marks of 21'7 and 21'6.75. While Zachary Taylor of Westmont has jumped 45'6 this season, his absence at the BVAL league meet means that the current leader in the CCS triple jump is Ethan Lavina of Salinas at 45'0.5. Kingsley Okoronkwo of Christopher, Andrew White of Lynbrook, and Monroe Barnum of St. Ignatius follow with their jumps of 44'2, 43'5.5, and 43'3, making Lavina the favorite for the CCS title.
Already tied for CCS leader in the high jump, Elizabeth Churchill of Aptos is also the heavy favorite in the long jump with her jump of 18'10.75. Sophie Schwartz of Westmont, Ashna Krishnamurthy of Saratoga and Jessi Barry of Valley Christian join Churchill as the only others in the section to have jumped 18 feet, with their jumps of 18'1.25, 18'1, and 18'0.5. Additionally, Barry is also the CCS leader and reigning CCS champion in the triple jump, and with her jump of 37'6 into a headwind at the WCAL league finals putting her nearly a foot in the lead in CCS rankings, she looks primed to repeat the title. Jackie Acosta of St. Ignatius follows with her jump of 36'7.5, and Megan Mackenzie of Los Altos, who jumped 38 feet in 2021, returns to form with her jump of 36'5.25 at the SCVAL league finals.
Jordan Cheng is an assistant coach at Gunn HS.