TRACK AND FIELD Central Section Year in Review


Central senior Jeremiah Walker takes the handoff for the anchor leg of the 4x400-meter relay at the CIF-State Championships. Walker needed to catch one runner to give the Grizzlies the team title and he did just that. (Pat Rhames photo)

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The last time the Fresno Central boys' and Clovis North girls' track and field teams competed, their respective 4x400-meter relay teams were producing signature performances in the May 28 CIF-State Championship Meet's final events.

Anchored by the state's best individual 400-meter runners, seniors Jeremiah Walker and Takiya Cenci, they each gave their team something to celebrate.

The Grizzlies' second-place relay finish, with an ailing-but-committed Walker making a critical pass of the Long Beach Wilson anchor, was good for a Central Section-best time of 3 minutes, 14.78 seconds and eight critical team points to seal Central's narrow 41-40 victory over Upland and capture its first boys' CIF-State Track and Field Championship team title.

Cenci, meanwhile, rallied to pass L.B. Wilson's girls' anchor to lead the Broncos to the 4x400 state title event win with a section-best 3:45.38. The 10 team points gave Clovis North enough to be CIF-State runners-up in the team standings to Gardena Serra (37-32).

As Walker and Cenci went, so, too, did their teams.

Both ran the same events -- a leg of the 4x100 and 4x400 relays and the 200 and 400 individually. Walker, who skipped the 4x400 relay at the Day 1 prelims but was still eligible for it on Day 2, did all four events on Day 2. He won the 400 individual State title in 47.49 and ran a leg on the 4x100 relay team that also won the State title (41.36) with Cameron Tarver, Elijah Lindsey and Imari Conley. Walker left the race on crutches and went directly to the medical tent for treatment. He finished sixth in the 200m in 21.42 (+2.4). Walker scored 13 points individually and another 18 as part of both relays.

Cenci competed in three Day 2 State events after running in four on Day 1. Clovis North's 4x100 relay did not advance to the final, but Cenci won the State 400 title in 54.01 (her PR) and finished second in an extremely windy 200 in a personal-best time of 23.78 (+4.6) prior to the 4x400 relay victory. She accounted for 18 points individually and another 10 with the relay win.

The Central Section had another solid showing at the CIF-State Championships, the first such State Meet since 2019 when two Central Section teams, Buchanan girls and Clovis North boys, captured state team titles. Missing two years due to COVID-19 pandemic and lingering protocols, 2022 was a chance to get California's track and field season back to normal.

In all, the Central Section qualified 90 athletes in individual events and 12 relay teams for the CIF-State Meet. After Day 1's prelims, the section still had 37 individuals and six relays competing for State titles.

Central Section State title winners (excluding the two each won by Central's Walker and Clovis North's Cenci) were:

-- Clovis junior Christopher Caudillo won the 1600 title in 4:10.72.

-- Caruthers junior Nailea Fields won the girls' discus title with a top throw of 157 feet, 1 inch.

-- Clovis junior Sydnie Vanek captured the girls' long jump championship with a top effort of 20 feet 8.50 inches (+3.1).

-- Clovis East senior Feyi Olukanni earned the girls' shot put title with a top toss of 44 feet.

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Jeremiah Walker - Fresno Central, Sr.

Jeremiah Walker, who will attend San Jose State in the fall, won CIF-State titles in the 4x100 relay (running second) and the 400, while finishing sixth in the 200 and anchor on the 4x400 relay. His four-event performance at the State meet helped Central win its first CIF-State team championship. Walker's PR in the 400 came on day one of the State meet in 46.81. His 200 PR (20.80) came in the T.R.A.C. League finals. Central's 4x100 relay, which had the state's top time of 40.63, went under 41 seconds multiple times this season. The 4x400 relay's PR came in the State final in 3.14.78, which was also a Central Section top mark.


Christopher Caudillo - Clovis, Jr.

Christopher Caudillo, who ran the 800, 1600 and 3200, won the State title in the 1600 in 4:10.72. His PR in the event is a 4:03.83, set back in March. He won the 1600 at the T.R.A.C. League finals and Central Section Masters Meet. In the 3200, Caudillo finished third in the CIF State final in 9:00.11. His PR, 8:45.19, was fourth best in California and came at the Arcadia Invitational. He won T.R.A.C. and Masters titles in the 3200. His best effort in the 800 came in winning the Central Section Division I title in a PR time of 1:54.77 (CA 5, National 8th).



Nick Godbehere - Shafter, Sr.

Nick Godbehere, attending Cal-Berkeley in the fall, got his one and only opportunity to compete in a CIF State Meet. He finished seventh in the discus with a top throw of 189 feet, 2 inches and was 11th in the shot put with a 51-9.75 top toss. Prior to State, Godbehere won nine of 15 discus events, including titles in the SSL Championships, Central Section Division 2 and the Central Section Masters Meet. His discus PR was 189-5 at April's Patriot Games. In the shot put, he won nine of 14 events, including the SSL title, Central Section Division 2 title and Masters Meet title. His shot put PR was 63-4.25 at the Gateway to Track and Field Invitational.


Hilton Green -- Buchanan, Jr.

Hilton Green put together a strong season in the pole vault, hanging right with the CIF State champion at the end. Green finished second in State with a top effort of 16-5, equally a PR mark he reached when winning the T.R.A.C. League title. Green did have three attempts at 16-9 at State, too. Green won 11 of 14 pole vault events he competed in, won the Central Section Division 1 and CS Masters Meet titles. 


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Takiya Cenci - Clovis North, Sr.

Takiya Cenci, who will head to USC in the fall, had a solid year all around. She won a State title in the 400, was second in the 200, and anchored the Broncos' 4x400 relay to a State championship to help Clovis North finish as the State team runner-up. Cenci was spectacular in the 400, going 8-0 in her races. Cenci's PR time of 53.19 in April stood as the state's top mark the rest of the way (No. 7 nationally). She ran under 54 seconds numerous times, although her State final time was 54.01. She got her PR in the 200 State final in 23.78. She ran four events on Day 1 of the State Meet. She was one of a few athletes who competed in the last CIF State Meet in 2019, finishing eighth in the 400 as a freshman. 


Grace Hutchison - Buchanan, Jr.

Grace Hutchison was the Central Section's top finisher in the CIF-State Meet's 1600, doing so in a personal-best time of 4:47.04 that led all other Central Section runners. Earlier in the year she won the Central Section Division 1 1600 title. Hutchison also ran in the 3200 State final, finishing 17th in 10:55.70, far off her PR time of 10:17.80 that came at the Arcadia Invitational. She won the Central Section Masters' 3200 in 10:33.70. While she did not advance to CIF meets in the 800, her best time was a 2:12.25 at the West Coast Relays. 


Feyi Olukanni - Clovis East, Sr.

Feyi Olukanni, who will attend and compete for UC San Diego in the fall, captured the CIF-State shot put title with a top toss of 44 feet. Though her PR in the event came a few weeks earlier in winning the T.R.A.C. League title with a 44-5.50, the State win marked her 14th shot put win in 17 meets. She also won the Central Section Division 1 title and the section's Masters Meet. In the discus, she finished third in the State Meet, earning her PR mark of 154-2 in the final. She won 12 of 17 discus events entered, winning the T.R.A.C. League title, the Central Section Division 1 title and the section's Masters Meet title.


Sydnie Vanek - Clovis, Jr.

While the long jump title at the CIF-State Meet was not fully secured, just yet, Sydnie Vanek removed all doubt on her sixth and final attempt. Her jump of 20 feet, 8.50 inches (+3.1) bested her previous jump by 3 inches, was a PR for her and finished the year as the top mark in California and fourth nationally. Prior to the State Meet, Vanek had jumped over 19 feet in consecutive weeks to win the T.R.A.C. League title, the Central Section Division I title and the section's Masters Meet title.

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Ryan Blystone is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplit

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