RECAP San Diego's CIF-State Meet Veterans Earn Return Trip


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SAN DIEGO -- Leave it to the athletes who were in Clovis four years ago for the last CIF-State Meet to rise to the occasion at the San Diego Section championships and qualifying meet Saturday at Mt. Carmel High.

Poway's Alyssa Bean, who was 400-meter dash qualifier as a freshman in 2019, claimed San Diego Section titles in the 400 in 54.96, the 200 in 24.25, and she anchored the victorious 4x400 relay that ran 3:19.19.

Although they didn't win, she was also a member of the Titans 4x100 relay team that clocked a 49.03 for the third and final ticket in that event for a trip to next weekend's State Meet at Buchanan HS in Clovis.

So, which event does she think will give her the best chance to win a state gold medal?

"Right now the 400 is my favorite," said Bean, who is headed to San Jose State. "I've really grown to love it. But State will be a challenge for sure."

That's because Clovis North's Takiya Cenci, who has run 53.19, will be waiting as the hometown favorite.

"Actually, I finished second to her last year in the (unofficial) state meet in Arcadia," said Bean. "I'll need to run a lot faster."  

The San Diego Section is allotted three automatic qualifiers to the State Meet, with additional qualifiers possible by hitting the state's at-large qualifying standard. 

The other veteran of State Meet competition before COVID hit, Scripps Ranch's Aaliyah McCormick, who was a member of the Falcons victorious 4x100 relay team and is the current state leader in the 100-meter hurdles with a windy 13.46 and a legal 13.61, easily won that event in 13.82 ahead of San Diego's Charlize James' 14.03 and Cathedral Catholic junior Kapiolani Coleman's personal record 14.05.

Although she came back and finished second in the 100-meter dash in a PR of 11.76 seconds to the 11.66 by Madison sophomore Amirah Shaheed, McCormick will probably be the section's top prospect in that event after Shaheed pulled up after 75 meters in the 200 with a hamstring injury.

"That time (13.83) is OK, I'm saving it for State," said McCormick. "I want to go sub 13.50 at State. I'm very proud of how I did here but at State I'll go all-out. And I got a PR in the 100, too."

There was no shortage of quality performances although another potential state finalist, Lincoln senior sprinter Jalil Tucker, who had run 10.54 and 21.15, pulled up with 15 meters remaining in the 100m and will next run at the University of Oregon after playing football for the Ducks.

It was not ideal weather for a section championship -- cold and moist -- but there were season-best in nine boys and six girls events.

Here were some of the standouts:

 --Helix's Adren Parker lowered his best in the 400 to 47.31 winning handily, but he really raised eyebrows when got the baton anchoring the 4x400 relay team in third place and ran a 46.6 to help the Highlanders clock a 3:19.19.

--State pole vault leader Lexi Evans of Scripps Ranch became the first girl to top 14-feet this season when she hit that mark on her first attempt before failing three times at 14-2 using a different pole. (Dublin sophomore Jathiyah Muhammad also cleared 14-0 yesterday in winning the North Coast Section title.)

--Each year it seems the Imperial Valley has one athlete stand out and this year it was Guillermo Lopez of Southwest El Centro who won the boys discus with a section-leading 174-5.

--Although she couldn't match her 2:09.54 best, another Poway standout, Tessa Buswell, captured the 800 in 2:11.09.

--For all-around effort, though, it was hard to match Mission Bay 10th-grader Brandon Cheeks II who won his division in the high jump at 6-8, equal to the best mark of the day, placed second overall in both the long jump at 23-2 and the triple jump at 45-0.25, as well as winning his 110-hurdle division in 15.58 seconds.

--Francis Parker's Kenan Pala and Sage Creek's Bryce Gilmore both elected to go head-to-head in the 3200, dropping the 1600. It looked like Gilmore (8:53.23) was just stalking Pala and Patrick Henry's Preston Bowlds. But when Gilmore made a move with two laps to go after a relatively modest pace, Pala refused to let him pass. Gilmore surged a couple more times and Pala refused to be passed until with a lap to go, he made a move, and over the final 200 meters he sprinted away displaying new-found speed raising his hands in victory in 9:04.04, with Bowlds (9:06.03) catching Gilmore (9:06.50) for second place.

--State shot put leader Kennedy Clarke easily won her best event at 42-feet and added a victory in the discus at 133-2 in less than ideal conditions.

--Poway's Mackenzie Rogers had an interesting day when she won the girls' 1600 in a PR 4:48.75 and came back in the 3200 where La Costa Canyon's fresh sophomore Gioana Lopizzo matched her stride for stride over the last five laps before edging away to win in 10:25.46 to Rogers' 10:26.82.

--Unsung Quinn Harder of San Marcos ran away from the boys 800-meter field over the final 300 meters to win in 1:51.90.

--One of the major upsets in the meet came in the girls' 300-meter hurdles where Torrey Pines junior Karina Janik handed state-leader Coleman a rare loss, winning in 42.28. James was second in 42.71 and Coleman (42.19) advanced to state at 43.07.

Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit

Photos by Phil Grooms and James Huenink