PREVIEW Southern Section - Girls TF Athletes To Watch

Two returning State Meet event champions, Sadie Engelhardt (left) and Mackenzie Browne, lead the list of CIF-SS returning girls track and field stars to watch in '23. Engelhardt won the 1600m title and placed second to Browne in the 800m race (pictured above).

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With a tough task at hand, we are profiling the top returning girls in the Southern Section for the 2023 season. Keep in mind that 28 underclass Southern Section girls advanced to the State Meet finals a year ago, with nine advancing in two events!  We accepted the challenge of acknowledging and recognizing the top returning girls!  


Vista Murrieta, Jr.


With a wind-legal best of 19-6, she placed fifth at the state meet while also equipped with a 39-6 wind-legal best in the Triple Jump, she placed sixth as one of a few to earn medals in the meet as a whole.  She was the only girl in the section to advance to the finals in both events. 


JW North, Sr.


The returning state champion in the 800 meters roared to her lifetime best of 2:08.66.  After placing behind Sadie Engelhardt the two previous weeks, she was able to bring home the win.  Her time ranks third in the state of all returners while she also possesses a 56.30 for the 400 meters to go along with a 4:53.75 for the 1600 meters.


Quartz Hill, Sr.


The Arizona State-bound senior has transferred from Golden Valley to Quartz Hill.  She was the CIF-SS Masters Meet champ for the 200 meters and captured the Division 2 title with a wind-legal best of 23.82.  She also is the section's top returner (53.69) for the 400 meters.  


Long Beach Wilson, So.


As a freshman, she advanced to the CIF-SS Masters Meet in the 400 meters and the 300 Hurdles.  But once she focused solely on the latter, she witnessed a solid improvement with her 43.16, a fourth-place finish at the state championships. She was crucial in also propelling her squad to the silver medal in the 4x400 relay.  


Ventura, So.


The defending state champion in the 1600m and runner-up for the 800 meters, she is already arguably California's most successful distance prep ever.  With a 4:35.16 for the mile, she set a national class record while leading the nation and establishing a new state record.  For the 800, her 2:05.66 is the tenth-fastest in state history and to boot, her 9:50.69 was a national class record and fourth fastest in state history.  Yep, and with three more seasons to go!


Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Sr.


UCLA bound, she was the only female thrower to earn top-3 medals in both throwing events at the 2022 state meet.  In the discus, she earned the silver and owns a best of 157-1, which we saw her uncork at the state meet prelims.  With a lifetime best of 42-3 from 2021, she placed third in the Shot Put and is the defending Division 3 champion.  


Mission Viejo, Sr.


Headed off to USC this Fall, she returns with the top wind-legal performance (40-9) in the Triple Jump from the 2022 season while also earning the CIF-SS Div. 2 title.  Unfortunately, the wind of last year's state meet wreaked havoc on her during the finals as she was favored to win after Friday's prelims.  Gatlin also returns as one of the section's top long jumpers to boot.  


Oaks Christian, Jr.


Coming into the season off of a monster Cross Country campaign, she earned the fifth-place medal in the 3200 meters at the state meet a year ago.  Equipped with a 10:19.05 lifetime best for the 3200, she also owns a 4:51.14 best for the mile.  She also impressed in the preseason with a 4:54 split on her squad's Distance Medley Relay at the Winter Championships.  


King, Sr.


The most successful horizontal jumper at the 2022 state meet, she captured the gold in the Triple Jump with a 40-2.75w lifetime best.  Matriculating to USC this Fall, she placed second at the state meet in the Long Jump with a 20-4w effort.  She is the defending CIF-SS Division 1 champ in both events.  Hope has also cleared 5-3 in the High Jump.  


Castaic, Jr.


Transferring to nearby Castaic, she earned the silver in the High Jump at the 2022 state meet.  Already clearing a lifetime best of 5-10.25 at the Winter Championships, she also rolled to an eye-popping 38.20 to capture the 300 meters as well. She placed ninth at the state meet in the Long Jump and owns a lifetime best of 18-10 while she also qualified to the CIF-SS Masters Meet in the 200 meters last year.


Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, So.


One of the few sophomores on our list, she captured the CIF-SS Masters meet with a 43-6 effort in the Shot Put before placing second at the state meet.  In the event, she was the top frosh in the United States.  In the Discus, she just missed by less than a foot while her 134-0 best ranked her as the sixth-best in the nation for the Class of 2025.


Long Beach Wilson, Sr.


Headed to Arizona State in the Fall, the veteran advanced to the State Meet final in 200 and 400 meters.  Earning a bronze in the 400 and equipped with a lifetime best of 53.83 when she won the CIF-SS Masters meet, she also placed third in the 200.  She will play a key role in both of the Bruins' relay squads which included her running the third leg on Wilson's second-place squad at the state meet.


Orange Vista, Sr.


Advancing to the California State Meet in THREE events, she placed sixth in the 100 Hurdles and recorded of wind-legal best of 14.30 at Friday's prelims.  She won the CIF-SS Masters Meet in a wind-aided 14.03.  With an eighth-place state meet finish in the Long Jump, her resume includes of 19-3.75 wind-legal jump at the Masters Meet while she also goes into 2023 with a 5-6 lifetime best in the High Jump, where she just missed the state meet final last year.


Serra, Sr.


Off to Oregon in the Fall, her personality shines almost as bright as her postseason times from 2022 where she led her squad to the California state team title with the win in the 200 meters.  Earlier, she placed first in the 100 meters after also leading her 4x100 relay team off to victory.  She is one of the top returners in the nation with her 11.57w best in the 100 and 23.68w lifetime best for the 200.


Etiwanda, Jr.


Shining bright and leading her Etiwanda girls' basketball team to one of the best in California, Robinson came out slowly in 2022.  But, once the postseason hit, we witnessed almost a two-foot improvement and a fourth-place medal at the state meet in the Triple Jump.  With a 39-5.5 wind-legal best, she surprised many considering that she placed seventh at the Div. 1 final two weeks earlier.    


Serra, Sr.


With CIF-SS Division 4 titles in both the 100 and 200 meters, she, along with Brazil Neal, led the Serra program to the state team title.  Anchoring their squad (46.08) to the victory to kick off the state meet, she earned the bronze in the 100 before adding several more points to the cause with her sixth-place finish in the 200.  She is the second fastest returner in the state (11.55) while her 23.68 is the fastest returning mark in the state.

MORE STARS TO WATCH: Sarah Ajayi (ML King, Sr.); Janelle Avilez (Etiwanda, Sr.); Anna Chittenden (Mira Costa, Sr.);  Niya Clayton (Oaks Christian, Jr.);  London Davis (St. Bernard's, Jr.); Ta'ahja Fann (Golden Valley, Sr.); Aspen Fears (Vista Murrieta, Jr.); Jaiya Fletcher (Serra, Jr.); Ailish Hawkins (Newbury Park, Sr.); Taylor Hofland (Los Alamitos, Sr.); Jocelyn Hoggard (Burroughs-Ridgecrest, Sr.); Siena Lambert (J Serra, Sr.); Morgan Maddox (Culver City, Jr.); Arielle McKenzie (Calabasas, Jr.); Allura Markow (Dana Hills, Sr.); Kayla McBride (Ayala, Jr.); Madisyn Negro (Murrieta Valley, Sr.); Emily Psarras (Mission Viejo, Sr); Breija Stredic (JW North, Sr.); Amara Thomas (Valley View, Jr.); Jessica Thompson (Harvard Westlake, Sr.); Joelle Trepagnier (Culver City, So.); Jillene Wetteland (Long Beach Poly, So.);  Amia Witt (Chaminade, Jr.);  Maya Woolforde (J Serra, Fr.)

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Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, popular announcer and regular contributor to MileSplit

Photos by DeAnna Turner, Josh Barber, Daniel Hernandez, Jeffrey Parenti, Raymond Tran, and Dan Tyree.