102nd CIF-STATE TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
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In the most talented field ever put forth for the event in State Meet history, this truly lived up to the billing. Coming into the race, only one girl had ever ascended under the 4:39 in State Meet history, and that number rose to four!
Coming through the first three laps, Mira Costa (SS) senior Dalia Frias took charge with the pacing chores up front, coming through with 69-71-72 splits for a 3:31 with Ventura (SS) freshman Sadie Engelhardt, Newbury Park (SS) senior Samantha McDonnell, and Chino' (SS) senior Mia Chavez all in tow.
With 200 meters to go, Engelhardt made the definitive move ahead of Frias, holding on for the 4:36.67 for the second-fastest time ever in State Meet history. With a late surge that fell just short, Frias crossed in 4:37.09 to earn the silver, with McDonnell third at 4:37.37, moving her up as the fifth-fastest girl in California State history.
With a performance that would have captured seven of the last eight State Meets, Chavez' 4:41.71 placed fourth to make this the fastest all-Californian race in state history! That front trio posted the second, third, and fourth fastest times ever in State Meet history.
With almost everybody in the field posting lifetime bests, Del Norte (SD) junior Hannah Riggins earned the fifth-place medal posting a five-second improvement at 4:46.97 to move into the San Diego Section All-Time Top-10 list.
Meanwhile, Buchanan (CS) junior Grace Hutchison closed strong with a lifetime best at 4:47.04 with freshman teammate Sierra Cornett coming in at 4:48.80. Buchanan becomes only the seventh program in California history to have three girls under 4:50, with all three coming in the past several seasons.
Engelhardt returned as the favorite for the 800 meters, but the 800/1600 double, with the Friday afternoon prelims scheduled, is one of the toughest doubles to accomplish. Only Kathy Costello, in 1975, achieved the feat of capturing both events.
With Chino's Mia Chavez joining her, it was La Canada's Arielle Mackenzie that took the group through under 31 seconds for the first 200 and an aggressive 47-seconds at 300 meters.
Engelhardt made her move just before the bell to move crossing through the first lap at 62.4. But, taking her cue was JW North (SS) junior Mackenzie Browne.
Fighting the wind on the back straight Engelhardt continued surging to separate from the pack. Browne accepted the challenge and moved ahead with 250 meters to go. Once Browne made her definitive move coming into the last straight, she held on for the state title in a lifetime best effort of 2:08.66.
The Ventura freshman crossed in at 2:09.64 for the most impressive 800/1600 double in State Meet History. Coming back to even surprise herself, Chino's Chavez also pulled off one of the best doubles in State Meet history with her 2:11.04 third-place performance.
Katella's Ashlynn Viramontes closed out with a 2:12.58, fourth-place finish with Clovis North (CS) senior Tatum Zinkin coming through at 2:13.19 while Poway (SD) sophomore Tessa Buswell claimed the last medal with a 2:13.75.
Fighting the stiff winds became more of a challenge than the competition at times during this one. Albany (NC) senior Sophia Nordenholz taking charge and breaking the breeze at times for the pack behind her, paced through the halfway point at 5:02.
By the sixth lap, three girls broke away - Nordenholz, Montgomery (NC) freshman Hanne Thomsen and Newbury Park's McDonnell. With the Albany senior continuing to fight the wind, perhaps more so than the two behind her, Thomsen comfortably sat back, bidding her time.
With 700 meters to go, Thomsen fell back from the front two while Nordenholz put in a surge that seem to break free. The freshman made her decisive move with a little more than 350 meters and despite Nordenholz fighting to keep pace, ran away for the 10:06.89 state championship and new lifetime best!
Thomsen broke the Montgomery school record, previously held by Sara Bei in 2001 while her performance also established a new Freshman State Meet record for the 3200, beating Sarah Baxter's 10:13.00 from when she won the 2011 State Championship.
Nordenholz battled to the line for a 10:10.46 for a season-best effort while McDonnell came through with a 17-second lifetime best at 10:12.76, breaking a 40-year school record in the process!
This was the first time in State Meet history that three girls broke 10:13! When you consider the wind, which the athletes admittingly struggled with, this was one of the classics in California State Meet lore.
Los Altos (CC) junior Lauren Soobrian rolled in with a 10:24.25 for fourth, with Oaks Christian (SS) sophomore Payton Godsey closing well for the fifth-place 10:25.31. Claiming that the last medal was La Costa Canyon (SD) sophomore Gioana Lopizzo (10:30.93).
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Taking a much more conservative approach than what we witnessed in the Girls 1600 meter final, Levi Taylor of San Marcos (SD) took the group through at a relatively pedestrian 2:08 for the first half. Surging and with jostling and going back and forth through that third lap, Santiago (SS) senior Tyler Kaan took over and was leading at the bell at 3:12 but with Clovis (CS) junior Christopher Caudillo matching that same surge.
Over the last 250 meters, it was Caudillo taking control with a 58-second last lap, riding home with the victory in 4:10.72. Scotts Valley (CC) senior Jeremy Kain challenged the junior down the stretch to close with a runner-up 4:11.40 clocking.
Sitting in the back of the pack for the first two laps and ninth going into the final lap, Royal (SS) junior Jonah Bazerkanian posted a lifetime best of 4:11.89 to earn the third-place medal. Levi Taylor earned the fourth-place medal at 4:12.32 with Agoura (SS) senior Ethan Godsey (4:12.72) placing fifth. Jesuit (SJ) junior Brandon Moreno closed well with a 59-second last lap to record a new personal best of 4:12.58 to earn that last medal.
Accustomed to racing from the front and despite the swirling winds that began to take over, Thacher (SS) senior Ellis Delvecchio led from the very start. Seemingly allowing him to gap the field, the senior came through in an eye-popping 52.87.
Battling the wind on the backstretch alone, the field closed in on our leader with that charge led by Dana Hills (SS) senior Jai Dawson. But, in a war of attrition of sorts and holding on, the rest of the field ran out of real estate to watch Delvecchio hold on for the wire-to-wire victory in 1:50.82.
Dawson came in for second at 1:51.28 while fast charging Jacob Snodgress of San Marcos (SS) posted a lifetime best of 1:51.32 to earn the third-place medal. Newbury Park (SS) junior Aaron Sahlman placed fourth at 1:51.42 while Santa Ana Foothill (SS) senior Jacob Robison dropped another second off her lifetime best for the 1:51.90, fifth-place finish.
The Southern Section claimed all six medals in this one.
The uncharacteristic windy conditions that prevailed at this State Meet through the second half of the meet made it much more challenging for the field. For the first half of the race, the majority of the pack stayed together with Chico (NS) senior Mario Giannini controlling the pace early on.
Who would be the first to make a move? That was Big Bear (SS) senior Max Sannes and he crossed with 800-meters to go with a 10-meter lead. Emerging from the chase pack was none other than his future teammate at the Air Force Academy, Zachary Ayers of Davis (SJ). Once Ayers made his move with 400 to go, he did not look back, holding off the field for the 8:56.93, state championship performance!
What was materializing behind him was a huge group looking to chase him down! Moving up from seventh with 250 meters, fast charging Newbury Park (SS) senior Daniel Appleford closed to place second at 8:58.42 while Clovis junior Christopher Caudillo earned the third-place medal with a 9:00.11. Both admitted soon after the race that they regretted waiting too long to make their final kicks.
From a 10:14 runner in 2021 to placing fourth at the State Meet, Harvard Westlake' (SS) senior Will Sheehy rolled in with a 9:00.57 while Yale-bound senior, Kenan Pala of Francis Parker (SD) placed fifth at 9:01.57.
Millikan (SS) sophomore Jason Parra stayed right in the mix throughout, placing sixth in 9:01.66, just ahead of Big Bear's Sannes (9:01.97). This was Parra's eighth time, breaking 9:10 this season.
Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, popular announcer, and a regular contributor to MileSplit
Photos by DeAnna Turner, Daniel Hernandez, Pat Rhames, and Dan Tyree