RECAP Winter Champs Showcases Distance Talents!

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The 2023 edition of the CA Winter Championships did not disappoint as like we witnessed in most of the events, across the board, the distance talents on display also created their own fireworks!

(Athletes compete in winter meets unattached or as part of a club but we list high schools for identification purposes.)

Arguably the day's top performance came from the girls of Oaks Christian!  Focused solely on stealing the show in the Distance Medley Relay, they brought three separate squads but the Lions 'A' team smoked the track to an 11:47.11 effort, which is the 15th fastest time of any group in California state history!  Anchored by Payton Godsey's 4:53.6 on her 1600-meter leg, and bookended by Grace Geyer's 3:42.5 for the opening 1200-meter leg, only three other squads have run faster in the past decade.  Freshman Raya Rodriguez rolled to a 57.2 split on the 400, while Eleanor Borchard raced uncontested on her impressive 2:13.8 leg of the 800 meters!  For further context, that time would have placed fourth in the nation in 2022 with this, before the regular season has even begun.  

Earlier in the morning, the girl's 1500 meters also stood out.  Headed off to Oregon in the fall, Dana Hills (SS) senior Allura Markow did the pacing chores, leading a trio that included La Costa Canyon (SD) junior Gioana Lopizzo and Etiwanda (SS) senior Janelle Avilez.  Stripping themselves away from the rest of the field midway through, Markow and Lopizzo switched with one another up front.  But, in their shadows, Avilez patiently timed her move with only 50 meters to go to edge the two veterans at the line with a new meet record of 4:29.45!  Coming into this season, her lifetime best is 5:10.07 with her effort here equating to a sub-4:50 effort!  Lopizzo's 4:30.01 and Markow's 4:30.08 also eclipsed the previous record held by Fatima Cortes of Great Oak (2018, 4:30.55).

With the 4x800 relay being added to the California State Meet, we received a preview of several squads eyeing to earn the first medals in the event in late May! 

Shattering the all-time California state record in the event last June, JSerra Catholic (SS) reminded everyone that they are not going anywhere in capturing the event in 9:22.83.  Junior Brook O'Brien anchored with a 2:18.1 to break it open over a tough Chino Hills (SS) squad that placed second in 9:32.73.  

The boys' version of the 4x800 featured Menlo easily breaking the previous meet record (Great Oak, 2019 - 8:02.91) in rolling to a 7:56.14.  Runner-up, Great Oak, also dipped under the old record in their 8:02.75 performance.  But, it was Justin Pretre's 1:55.50 anchor that headlined as he ran away from Great Oak's Gabriel Rodriguez over the last lap to finalize the deal.   

In a day littered with new meet records, the boys' 3000 meters was more competitive up front as Palo Alto (CC)  junior Grant Morgenfeld and Hayden Owen of St. Francis (SS) peeled away from the pack to shadow one another the last two laps. With a new meet record of 8:32.30, Morgenfeld made his decisive move for the win coming off the curve.  With his time equating to a 9:10 over 3200 meters, Owen's 8:35.73 effort was a true step-up performance as it equates to a sub-9:14.  His lifetime best is 9:33.53.  

Perhaps more impressive in Grant Morgenfeld's 3000-meter performance is that he also established a new meet record in the 1500 meters at 3:55.56 - except, Menlo's Justin Pretre was able to hold on for the 3:54.37 record with his 58.0 last lap split!  Central Coast Section rivals with both schools located less than three miles from one another, both remained within arms reach of one another than entire race!   To boot, Emmanuel Hernandez (3:57.81) of Cathedral (SS), Great Oak's Mark Cortes (3:57.90), and San Clemente's Juan Chantaca (3:58.00) also shined.  

In the girls' 3000 meters, Marjourie Lopez of Shadow Hills (SS) continues to reveal her development with a wire-to-wire victory.  Her 10:02.88 just missed the meet record of 10:00.05 (Claire Graves, Citrus Valley, 2017). Her time converts to a sub-10:48 effort for the 3200 meters while just two years ago, her personal best was 11:47.95.  Arcadia's Reena Hsieh (10:14.89) and Corona del Mar's Melisse Djomby-Enyawe (10:15.50) also impressed in claiming the next two spots.

In the Boys' Distance Medley Relay, Patrick Henry (SD) moved away from Rancho Cucamonga (SS) for the 10:51.84 victory.  Sophomore Lukas Wolf shined with a 4:27.2 on the 1600-meter anchor leg to bring home the win. 

If the Winter Championships were any indication of what awaits in the California distances for 2023, put on those seat belts and enjoy!  

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

Photos by Josh Barber and Jeffrey Parenti

Interviews by Ryan Blystone and Jeffrey Parenti