TRACK AND FIELD Southern Section Girls Year in Review


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A return to the California State Championships could have not gone better for the girls of Serra than what transpired in 2022.  Despite the Southern Section only capturing five gold medals at this year's State Meet, in the end, the Cavaliers of Serra ascended to the top to capture the team championship!  

It was the unlikely star in Serra junior Brazil Neal that emerged as the hero at this year's State Championships. Over the 2022 season, Neal only won ONE race -- that being the 200-meter final at the State Meet which sealed the state team title! Neal had played runner-up to teammate and fellow junior Jordan Washington all season long. But, in Clovis -- she earned the silver in the 100 meters before running away with the upset victory in the 200 meters. Washington placed third in the 100m, and sixth in the 200m, earning her squad nine points. Beforehand, with a seasonal best of 46.08, the junior duo combined with sophomores Jaiya Fletcher and Mia Flowers for the upset win over Golden Valley.  They were the only team to run a seasonal best in the final.  

The Southern Section star that shined most was Ventura freshman Sadie Engelhardt.  With her season still not fully complete, no girl has ever dominated the distance landscape quite like she has in this 2022 inaugural campaign.  She established new all-time California records in the 1500 meters, and the 1600 meters, while also crashing into the top-10 lists for the 800m and 3200m.

Against the most talented field assembled, Engelhardt pulled off the win in the 1600 meters with the second-fastest time (4:36.67) in State Meet history. She went in already owning the California state record for the distance at 4:33.29 at the Arcadia Invite, and just last weekend, further solidified her standing in prep lore with a 4:11.79 for the 1500 meters. More on the freshman phenom later. ...

Any other year, Mira Costa senior Dalia Frias and Newbury Park senior Samantha McDonnell would be the featured stars in the distances!

The Duke-bound Frias went into the California State Meet to renew her friendly rivalry with Engelhardt for the state title in the 1600 meters.  But the freshman simply had too much with Frias running out of real estate and taking second in the third-fastest time (4:37.09) ever in State Meet history.  But, we have more to share with Frias below. ...

McDonnell also graduates as one of the top distance preps in California history with her historic 2022 campaign. Headed off to the University of Alabama, her third-place, 4:37.17 performance elevated her to fifth in CA history for the 1600 meters. Earlier in the season, she posted a 2:08.33 but it was McDonnell's third-place, 10:12.76 effort in the 3200 meters that truly moved her into elite company as she joins Ventura's Engelhardt, Mia Barnett (Crescenta Valley), and Alex Kosinski (Oak Ridge) as the only four in state history to run under 2:09, 4:40 and 10:15! 

And ... hot off the presses, the senior improved her mile time with a 4:38.44 performance at the Brooks PR meet on Wednesday in Seattle!   

Also of note is the season that Chino senior Mia Chavez assembled. In Engelhardt's shadow in placing second in the 800 and 1600 meters at the CIF-SS Division 2 finals, the University of Arizona-bound senior was at her best at the State Meet with an eight-second personal best of 4:41.71 to place fourth before returning to place third in the 800 meters in one of the best doubles in State Meet history.

With Engelhardt and Chavez shining in their 1600/800 doubles, it was JW North junior Mackenzie Browne who also earned one of the five gold State Meet medals in 2022. She made her move ahead of Engelhardt with 250 meters and held on for her lifetime best of 2:08.66 for the state title. Capping off a successful season that included the CIF-SS Division 1 title two weeks earlier, Katella senior Ashlynn Viramontes placed fourth.

The Southern Section sprinters took center stage at the State Meet as Serra captured the State Championship off of two individuals and their 4x100 relay squad.

In that same 400 relay, Long Beach Poly placed fifth, just ahead of Culver City in sixth.   

Long Beach Wilson junior Aujane Luckey had herself quite the State Meet as she placed second in the 400 meters before returning to earn the bronze in the 200 meters. Her 53.83 season best ended up being the third-fastest in the state.  

Without the services of one of their top athletes, the Bruins settled for second in the 4x400 relay, despite finishing the 2022 season with the top mark in California. Their 3:43.87 from the Mt. SAC Relays was the fastest in California for the season.

Also representing the Southern Section in that 1600-relay final, Culver City posted their season best of 3:48.68 to place third with Calabasas earning fourth place while also matching their 400 relay effort, Long Beach Poly crossed in fifth.  

In the 400 meters, behind Luckey, Glendora senior Maya Shinnick placed third with San Clemente senior Caroline Hawkes earning the fourth-place medal. Meanwhile, Culver City sophomore Morgan Maddox earned the sixth-place medal.  

ML King junior Alyssa Hope headlined the Southern Section in capturing the state title in the Triple jump after earning the silver in the Long Jump. More on Ms. Hope later. ... 

With one of the strongest groups in section history where ten girls advanced over the at-large standard in the Long Jump to advance!  Upland senior Caelyn Harris ended her fine career with a third-place medal while if you remember in 2019, she captured the state title as a freshman.  Golden Valley senior Kylee Davis, who ended the season with the top wind-legal mark (20-4.5) in the state for 2022, placed fourth while Vista Murrieta sophomore Alyssa Alumbres earned the fifth-place medal.

In the triple jump, with Hope earning the gold, Etiwanda sophomore Alaya Robinson placed fourth. Los Alamitos senior Mackenzie Kirk ended in fifth with Vista Murrieta's Alumbres placing sixth to earn her second medal. Unfortunately, Mission Viejo junior Jada Gatlin was unable to get a mark on Saturday after bounding out to a 40-9 at Friday's prelims. That mark ended as the top performance in the state for 2022.

In there was a weak spot for the Southern Section girls in 2022, the rest of California dominated the headlines in the hurdles. Orange Vista junior Kailah McKenzie was the sole medalist at the State Meet placing sixth in the 100 Hurdles. Upland sophomore London Davis recorded the fastest wind-legal time in the section for 2022 at Friday's prelims (14.00) but one hurdle mishap was enough for her to place ninth.

With the section's only finalist in the 300 Hurdles, we did witness one of the step-up performances in Long Beach Wilson freshman Kaylan Edwards, who posted a seasonal best of 43.16 to earn the fourth-place medal at the State Meet.  Nationally, she ended as the fourth for the Class of 2025.

Special recognition goes out to Redondo Union senior Eve Divinity. After placing sixth in the Long Jump and fearing that she might not be able to compete in her other two individual events due to an injury suffered while jumping, she came back with her two best performances of 2022 with fourth-place finishes in the 100 (11.74w) and 200 meters (24.03w).  Keep in mind, that she was the last to qualify in both sprints at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.

The trio from Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks dominated the throwing scene in the Southern Section for 2022.  Advancing all three (senior Hope Gordon, junior April Fontenette, and freshman Aja Johnson) to the State Meet in the Shot Put was one for the record books as they also owned the top three marks for 2022 in the section.

At the State Meet, Johnson placed second in the Shot Put and leave 2022 as the top freshman (43-6) in California. Meanwhile, Fontenette earned two medals with her runner-up finish in the Discus and a third-place finish in the Shot Put. Her 157-1 lifetime best came at Friday's state meet prelims. Also earning a medal was Roosevelt senior Karyssa Owens.

In the High Jump, competitors fought against some of the toughest winds in meet history. Tying for second place, Golden Valley sophomore Meagan Humphries just missed the state title a week after flying up over the 5-9 bar at the CIF-SS Masters Meet. Meanwhile, Calabasas sophomore Amia Witt tied for fourth place, rebounding back from a tough showing when only placing fifth at the CIF-SS Division 3 finals two weeks earlier.

In the pole vault, only one girl earned a medal at the State Meet as Murrieta Valley junior Madisyn Negro tied for sixth. Along with Vista Murrieta sophomore Aspen Fears, the two became the 11th and 12th girls in section history to clear 13-2 this past season.  

Done in by the dreaded honest effort rule at the State Meet, we cannot conclude with highlighting the season turned in by Roosevelt senior Naomi Johnson. Although not allowed to compete, her 53.87 and 23.69w finished 2022 as the fourth fastest in California. She captured both titles at the CIF-SS Division 1 final while leading her team to the third-fastest time (3:46.13) in California in 2022 for the 1600 relay.

Disappointed with the finish to her finish as well, Golden Valley senior Adonijah Currie had a superb season. Her 23.45w best was the fastest under all conditions in 2022 while earlier at the Mt. SAC Relays, her 53.69 was the second-fastest in the state. She also anchored the fastest 400-relay team for 2022 as her squad rolled to a 45.82 at Friday night's State Meet prelims.

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Brazil Neal - Serra, Jr.

This one was tough as several others came into the State Meet with stronger resumes, including teammate Jordan Washington, but in the end, the reality is that Neal's performances were THE reason why her squad won the State Team Title!  She was the only one to earn two golds at the State Meet (200 meters and 400 Relay) while capturing the silver in the 100 meters as well.  She may have ended the season with the third-best wind-legal marks (11.71 and 23.86) for both short sprints, but her ability to elevate her game at the most crucial, and stressful, point in the season made the difference.

Jumps/Pole Vault

Alyssa Hope - King, Jr.

The California State Champion in the Triple Jump and runner-up in the Long Jump was as consistent as any all throughout 2022.  She captured CIF-SS Division 1 title in both events while bounding out over the 40 feet watermark on five separate occasions throughout the season.  In the Long Jump, she won the Arcadia Invitational, and after April hit, she measured out over 19 feet in eight separate competitions. She was the first girl to finish in the top two spots at the State Meet since Agoura senior Tara Davis in 2017.  All the while, she cleared 5-3 in the High Jump to add to her impressive resume.


April Fontenette - Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Jr.

With her 157-1 effort at Friday's prelims and returning with a 155-8 runner-up effort at the State Meet, she was the only girl in the section to eclipse the 150-foot threshold in 2022.  And while she may have only been the third-best Shot Putter on her squad, she came up big in earning the bronze medal that same weekend in the event. In California, only one other earned medals in both throwing events in Clovis!  


Sadie Engelhardt - Ventura, Fr. \ Dalia Frias - Mira Costa, Sr.

No distance prep has ever had the season Engelhardt has put together in 2022 in California, and arguably national, history!  To leave the season with a 2:05.66 for the 800 meters, a 4:11.79 for the 1500 meters backed up by a 4:33.29 for the 1600 meters while ALSO, running a solo 9:50.69 for the 3200 meters. Are you kidding me!?!?  She established freshman national records for the 1600 and 3200 meters with time in the latter ranking third in state history!  We all continue to marvel at her poise and racing style which is unlike what we have ever seen before. For those, that question how the next three years will unfold... just take a step back and simply appreciate the performances she put forth these past several months!  

Well, well, well ... talk about someone inserting themselves at the last minute!  Based on her 9:50.70 national record-setting performance at the Brooks PR Two-Mile, there was simply no way we could leave Frias off the top of the proverbial podium.  
The Duke-bound Frias kicked off the season with a 9:59.94 solo performance to become only the ninth girl in California state history to eclipse the 10-minute barrier.  Weeks later, she unleashed a kick for the ages in running down Engelhardt to establish the California state record for the mile in 4:35.06!  Along the way, she fit in a solo 2:09.88 effort but she leaves the season holding state records in the mile and now, the 3200 meters!

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Roosevelt captured its second title in three seasons. With Naomi Johnson leading the way with her victories in the 200 and 400, along with Karyssa Owens capturing the Discus, it came down to the 1600-relay. After having placed second in the 400 relay to begin the meet, Johnson anchored her squad to the runner-up finish to leapfrog defending champion Long Beach Poly for the 61-60 title!  


Golden Valley was the most heavily favored coming into the CIF-SS Finals, they stayed true to form by doubling up on Culver City with a 86-43 victory to earn their first-ever divisional championship. Individual titles from Kylee Davis (High and Long Jump) and Adonijah Currie (400) along with their win in the 400 relay, along with Meagan Humphries providing 16 additional points - the Grizzlies had this one clinched halfway through.   


In one of the most thrilling team competitions in recent history, Calabasas held on for its first-ever team championship. The Coyotes went into the final event down to defending champs, Harvard Westlake, 73-70.  With J Serra sitting at 69 points, Calabasas pulled out the victory to pull out the 80-79 title!  With 40 points in the sprints paving the way, bookended by victories in both relays - Rachel Bir's title in the Triple Jump also played a huge role.   


Serra continued to push all the right buttons, by as we witnessed in Divisions 1 and 3, this one also came down to the final relay!  Matching their win in the 400-relay earlier, they moved away to the 83-78 over Oaks Christian to capture their first title since 2018 while they also earned titles from 2009 to 2012.  Jordan Washington earned titles in the 100 and 200, with Brazil Neal taking second in both to combine for 36 points with Sienna Claiborne also adding 12 more to go along with the 20 earned in the relays.  

(Based on results from CIF-SS Finals, Masters Meet, and the California State Meet combined)

1) Long Beach Wilson - 46
2) Golden Valley - 45
3) Serra - 44
4) Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks - 42
5) Roosevelt - 38
6) Long Beach Poly - 30.5
7) Ventura - 21
7) ML King - 21
8) Newbury Park - 19
10) Vista Murrieta - 18
11) Orange Vista - 17
12) Mission Viejo - 16
12) Monrovia - 16
14) JW North - 15
14) Oaks Christian - 15

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Mark Gardner is a teacher, in-demand announcer, former coach, and regular contributor to MileSplit
Photos by DeAnna Turner, Doug Bouma, Daniel Hernandez, Dan Tyree, Jeffrey Parenti, and Pat Rhames