TRACK AND FIELD Sac-Joaquin Section Year in Review


Davis senior Zachary Ayers crosses the finish line to win the 3200-meter title at the CIF-State Meet. (Pat Rhames photo)

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Following a cross country season in which he won a Sac-Joaquin Section title, was a top finisher at State, and ran in the Eastbay Nationals, Davis High senior Zachary Ayers had a slow start to his outdoor season.

And a fast finish. 

The Air Force Academy-bound Ayers was battling a persistent case of plantar fasciitis before finding the same stride that took him to a fifth-place finish at the CIF-State Cross Country Championships in late November where he broke up Newbury Park's attempt at a mind-blowing 15-point finish.

After missing most of the track season due to his injury, Ayers caught fire in the postseason and set his sights on running sub-9 minutes for the 3200 meters, a feat he accomplished for the first and only time in his high school career in running away with the CIF-State championship in a PR of 8:56.93.

Ayers was the only athlete from the Sac-Joaquin Section to win a title at the State Meet, held May 27-28 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis. But he wasn't the only medalist. 

Ayers was one of five boys and one relay team to earn a medal with a top-six finish at State. The SJS had eight girls win 10 medals plus one relay team on Championship Saturday at the event held at Buchanan HS. 

Ayers' senior teammate Ray Oldham, earned a third-place medal in the high jump (6-5), the Rocklin boys 4x400m relay team anchored by senior Nathan Kent, earned a fourth-place medal after running a section-best mark of 3:15.72, Turlock senior Ian Strode placed fifth in the pole vault (15-9), Jesuit junior Brandon Moreno was sixth in the 1600m (4:12.58), and Lodi junior Maceo McDowell was sixth in the long jump (23-3.75/3.8). 

St. Mary's senior Cameron Fields walked away with three medals for a runner-up placing in the triple jump (38-9.75/3.3), a sixth-place finish in the 100m after running a section-best 11.80 (3.3), and as part of the 4x100m relay team that placed third (46.78). 

Stockton Lincoln junior Y'Vette Harris won two medals by placing second in the 100m hurdles with a section-best 14.12 (0.7), and with a fifth-place finish in the 300m hurdles (43.19). 

Christian Brothers junior Keilee Hall also won a medal in the 300m hurdles, running 43.57 for sixth place. 

Other girls medal-winners from the SJS were Oak Ridge senior Alison Sahaida, who was third in the pole vault (13-5), El Camino senior Sariyah Horne, who was fourth in the discus with a section-best mark of 152-0, Del Camp senior Nyla Baker, who was fourth in the shot put (41-4.50), Weston Ranch junior Galadriel Mellion, who was sixth in the shot put (41-00.50), and Bear River senior Julia Pisenti, who was sixth in the discus (143-11). 

We celebrate the success of those who made it through the long spring season to compete at the State Meet. But not all of the elites in the SJS were able to get that far.

The story of disappointment for some of the area's brightest stars allowed for the emergence of a new crop of athletes poised to take their place next year. Six of the 14 individual event winners at the two-day SJS Masters are non-seniors, including Harris in the hurdles and Mellion in the throws. The boys returners for 2023 aren't as deep but include McDowell in the long jump, Moreno in the 1600m, and Hughson junior Joseph Lighthall, who reached the State Meet final in the 800m.

The SJS Division 1 Championship meet in mid-May saw two of the best in the state in their respective events go down with injuries that would keep them from continuing their season and reaching the State Meet where they were projected to end up high on the podium.

Jadyn Marshall (St. Mary's, Sr.) is one of the top hurdlers in the United States, unfortunately, a hamstring injury while running the 4x100 Relay at the D-1 Section Finals ensured he would not repeat his freshman appearance at State despite PRs of 13.35 in the 110-meter high hurdles (in winning the prestigious Texas Relays), 36.73 in the 300m hurdles (4th in the Texas Relays) and 54.12 in the 400m hurdles (1st at the Stanford Invitational). Though Marshall was not able to add a State Championship to his many laurels, he is a UCLA football/track commit who will surely make his mark for the Bruins. 

Braden King (Jesuit '22 Distance) is another athlete who had an outstanding season but was the victim of a freak accident in leaning for the tape in the 1600m at the D-1 Finals. The fall left him unable to compete at the SJS Masters or at State where he would have brought among the fastest PRs in both the 1600 and 3200. A winner both on the track and in the classroom, the Yale commit finished the season with PRs of 4:12.64 in the 1,600 and 8:56.07 in the 3200. 

With King sidelined, Moreno emerged the SJS Masters 1600 title and go on to medal at the State Meet.

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SJS athletes who had a mark at State Finals


800m - 7. Joseph Lighthall (Hughson, Jr.) 1:55.28 (section-leading mark).

1600m - 6. Brandon Moreno (Jesuit, Jr.) 4:12.58.

3200m - 1. Zachary Ayers (Davis, Sr.) 8:56.93; 14. Nathan Short (Folsom, Jr.) 9:10.43.

4x400m Relay - 4. Rocklin 3:15.72 (section-leading mark).

High jump - 3. Ray Oldham (Davis, Sr.) 6-5.

Long jump - 6. Maceo McDowell (Lodi, Jr) 23-3.75 (3.8); 9. Kyran Bell (Rocklin, Sr.) 22-06.50 (2.1); 11. Jeontay Berry (Sierra, Sr.) 21-9.50 (1.1).

Triple jump - 7. Jonathan Taylor (Edison, Sr.) 45-9.25 (3.5).

Pole Vault - 5. Ian Strode (Turlock, Sr.) 15-9; 11. Kyle Burns (Oak Ridge, Sr.) 14-7.

Discus - 10. Steve Mai (Enochs, Sr.) 175-3.

Shot put - 12. Abayomi Babalola (Enochs, Sr.) 50-11. 


100m - 6. Cameron Fields (St. Marys, Sr.) 11.80 (3.3) (section-leading mark)

200m - 8. Mikelia Strong (Fairfield, Sr.) 24.84 (4.6)

3200m - 7. Riley Chamberlain (Del Oro, Sr.) 10:36.30; 13. Katie Kopec (Whitney, Jr.) 10:43.13; 14. Cate Joaquin (St. Francis, Sr.) 10:49.23

100m hurdles - 2. Y'Vette Harris (Stockton Lincoln, Jr.) 14.12 (0.7) (section-leading mark)

300mH - 5. Harris 43.19; 6. Keilee Hall (Christian Brothers, Jr.) 43.57

4x100m relay - 3. St. Mary's 46.78; 8. Whitney 48.75

High jump - 8. Jasmine Severo (Golden Valley, Sr.) 5-4

Triple jump - 2. Cameron Fields (St. Mary's) 38-9.75 (5.3); 8. Juliana Roberson (Whitney, So.) 37-10.0 (2.7)

Pole vault - 3. Alison Sahaida (Oak Ridge, Sr.) 13-5

Discus - 4. Sariyah Horne (El Camino, Sr.) 152-0 (section-leading mark); 6. Julia Pisenti (Bear River, Sr.) 143-11; 7. Galadriel Mellion (Weston Ranch, Jr.) 138-4

Shot put - 4. Nyla Baker (Del Campo, Sr.) 41-4.50; 6. Mellion 41-00.50; 11. Pisenti 38-7.50

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Jadyn Marshall - St. Mary's (Stockton), Sr. 

Despite an injury cutting short his season, there is no denying that Marshall was among the best hurdlers in the United States and one of the all-time best from the Sac Joaquin Section. His PRs are 13.35 in the 110m high hurdles and 36.73 in the 300m hurdles.


Zachary Ayers - Davis, Sr.

The Air Force Academy-bound Ayers followed a SJS Division 1 and SJS Masters titles with a State Meet championship in the 3200m, running his first sub-9 to win in 8:56.93. He also won the section D-1 title for 1600m running a 4:13.81 PR.


Ray Oldham - Davis, Sr.

Oldham did it all for Davis, competing in the 100, 200, 4x100, and long jump, though his best event was clearly the high jump where he finished tied for second place at the CIF-State Championships with a clearance at 6-5 just short of his PR of 6-8. Oldham was the choice over Edison senior Jonathan Taylor, who capped a fine year in his specialty of the triple jump by winning at SJS Masters and reaching the State Meet final where he placed seventh.


Abayomi Babalola - Enoch, Sr.

The Sac Joaquin Section Masters champion in both the shot put (53-10 PR) and discus (185-2 PR) will be taking his considerable talents to the Ivy League where he will be a linebacker on the Dartmouth University football team. 

Babalola was the choice over the Yuba City pair of juniors, Noah Dunham (50-5) and Nick Afato (49-0), who will be the top two returning shot putters in the SJS after finishing second and third at the SJS Masters. 


Rocklin 4x400

Isaac Ja, MacGregor TeSelle, Kyle Hall, and Nathan Kent deserve a special mention as the late-season addition of Kent was the final piece needed to put together this SJS Masters winning relay. The quartet went on to the State Meet and placed fourth in the final in 3:15.72 where anchor Naval Academy commit Kent brought it home in a blistering 45.60


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Y'Vette Harris - Lincoln, Jr.

Harris saved the best for last as she was the runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles at the State Meet (14.12), an event where her SJS colleague Giselle Kirchner (Rocklin, So.) finished fourth just .03 back of Harris. Harris also made the podium in the 300m hurdles, placing fifth in 43.19.


Riley Chamberlain - Del Oro, Sr.

The Brigham Young University commit ends her high school career as one of the most decorated distance runners in Sac-Joaquin Section history. Among her laurels are two State Cross Country division titles and one runner-up medal, as well as a Stanford Invitational title in the 3200 (10:14.56) and a PR of 4:47.13 in the mile. 

The graduations of Chamberlain, State Meet 3200 finalist Cate Joaquin (St. Francis, Sr.), Tatiana Cornejo (St. Francis, Sr.), and Ava Maier (Oak Ridge, Sr.) could make it seem like next year will be a rebounding year for the girls distance contingent out of the SJS, but rising stars like Whitney junior Katie Kopec (10:34.95/3200) and Granite Bay junior Carly Foster (5:06.39/1,600) as well as the anticipated return McClatchy junior Anna McNatt, the D-1 State Cross Country champion who has run 4:57.20 for 1600 on the track, ensure that the legacy of strong distance competitors from the Sacramento area continues. 


Cameron Fields - St. Mary's Sr.\

Alison Sahaida - Oak Ridge, Sr.

We almost had to come up with a new category for Cameron Fields, the do-everything star from the Stockton school, who competed in four events at the CIF State Championships and came home with three medals. Her top finish was in the triple jump where she was the runner-up, with a best of 39-5. She anchored her Rams 4x100 relay to a third-place finish in 46.78 and also placed sixth in the 100m dash (11.80). Fields will be attending Harvard University where she was recruited to play rugby. 

Sahaida emerged as one of the state's elite pole vaulters and placed third at the State Meet with a clearance of 13-5. She had a PR of 13-9, is one of only 10 girls in CA to vault at least 13 feet and one of only 13 girls nationally to clear at least 13-9. 


Galadriel Mellion - Weston Ranch Jr.

Mellion capped a great junior season by doubling up at the Sac-Joaquin Masters in the shot put (40-4) and discus (137-6), then followed up that performance by finishing sixth in the shot put and seventh in the discus at the State Meet.


St. Mary's 4x100

The top finishing SJS relay team for the girls was the St. Mary's Rams quartet of Clay Kendall, Kori Fields, Ryen Scott, and Cameron Fields, who moved past several teams on the last two legs to finish third at the State Meet in 46.78. That gave multiple discipline star Cameron Fields the first of what would be three State Meet medals.

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Daniel Tyree is a regular content contributor to MileSplit.

MileSplit State Editor Jeffrey Parenti contributed to this report.

Photos by DeAnna Turner, Daniel Hernandez, Dan Tyree, and Pat Rhames