PREVIEW Southern Section - Boys TF Athletes To Watch

CA 100-meter record-holder and double CIF-State champion Rodrick Pleasant leads a long list of top returning boys in the Southern Section.

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An incredible 16 individuals from the Southern Section return after advancing to the 2022 State Meet a year ago, and 12 of those accounted for 18 medals as top-six finishers! And that doesn't include Upland hurdler Kai Graves-Blanks, the 110m hurdles champion and 300m hurdles runner-up, who moved to Florida for his season season.

Even with that, condensing the list of elite returning boys and focusing on our top stars in the Southern Section, like what we witnessed with the girls, was a challenge!  Below, please find a sampling of some of the many returning senior boys track and field standouts in the CIF-SS. 


Royal, Sr.


Headed off to Cal Poly-SLO in the fall, the senior was a surprise at the 2022 State Meet with his third-place finish in the 1600 meters. Timing his peak perfectly with a 4:11.89 lifetime best in that final, he placed fourth at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.  His 9:04.65 for the 3200 meters is also among the best in the section.  


Sierra Canyon, So.


In 2022, he established a new all-time California freshman class record for the 100 meters by rolling to a 10.45 a week after racing to the CIF-SS Division 1 title.  While just missing advancing to the State Meet Final, he has since moved and will compete for Sierra Canyon in Div. 4 in 2023.   


Upland, Sr.


The last remaining cog in that Upland hurdle machine, he saved his best for last when he earned the silver medal at the 2022 State Meet in the 110 hurdles.  At Friday's prelims, he rolled to a wind-legal best of 14.05.  He was also a State Meet finalist in the 300 hurdlers and comes into 2023 with a best of 38.75.  


Redondo Union, Sr.


The only underclass boy to make the medal stand at the 2022 State Meet in both throws, Deines (pronounced Di-nes) will matriculate to the University of Pennsylvania this fall.  His 198-11 effort in the discus from the State Meet is the second-best in the nation while his 63-5.25 best in the shot put is fifth in the nation of all returners.  



Long Beach Wilson, Sr.


The section's second-best returner in the 800 meters (1:52.71), he placed sixth at the 2022 State Meet in the event. Also bringing his sub-49 split leg speed into play from the 400 meters, he has been critical in the success of the Bruin's 4x400 State Meet relay squads the past two seasons!  


Mater Dei, So.


The only freshman to advance to the state meet final in 2022, his 6-8 lifetime best from the CIF-SS Masters Meet ranked him as on top of the national list for the Class of 2025.  As the Div. 2 champion in the event, he also placed second at the divisional finals in the long jump with a wind-legal effort of 22-10.5 which also places him as one of the best in the section.  


Long Beach Wilson, Sr.


With unmatched versatility that ranges from 110 hurdles all the way up to the 800 meters, Lewis has already established a school record of 37.41 in all-comers action for the 300 hurdles last month.  He placed fourth at the 2022 State Meet while also earning points as a Div. 1 finalist in the higher hurdles. With a best of 48.34 for the 400 meters, he is the defending Moore League champion in all three events.


Mater Dei, Sr.


Returning with the top wind-legal time in California (14.02) for the 110 hurdles, Lyght placed fifth at the 2022 State Meet in the event.  The defending CIF-SS Div. 2 champion in the event, we expect to witness marked success in the 300 hurdles, where in his first season in the event, he impressed with a 39.02.  He will also play a crucial role in the Monarch's 4x100 relay.  


Millikan, Jr.


Parra's sophomore track season primarily focused on the 3200-meter run where he won six of 10 races and ran an 8:54.17 PR at Arcadia, won the CIF-SS Div. 1 title (9:09.40), placed second at CIF-SS Masters (8:59.87), and placed sixth earning a State Meet medal, running 9:01.66. He ran his mile PR of 4:13.23 at Mt. SAC and this past cross country season, Parra placed sixth in the D-I race at the State Meet.  He broke 9:05 for the 3200 meters on five separate occasions in 2022.


Serra, Sr.


Creating tremors resemblant to an earthquake last May, Pleasant shattered the all-time California record for the 100 meters with his wind-legal 10.14 performance at the CIF-SS Masters Meet!  His 20.40 wind-legal best from the Div. 4 final also places the University of Oregon-bound football star as the top returner in the United States.  While the two-time defending Div. 4 champion in both sprints, he looks to be the first sprinter to win back-to-back State Meet titles in both sprints since Khalfani Muhammed (Notre Dame, SO) in 2013.   


Long Beach Poly, Jr.


Everybody else on our list advanced to the 2022 State Meet Finals, but Ricks has been a dynamo this past month and cannot be excluded. Equipped with a 48.16 best as a sophomore in 2022, in the past four weeks he unleashed a 47.27 indoor mark in late January only to come back to establish a national indoor/outdoor record for the 600m with his monster 1:16.13 performance.  He returned for a runner-up effort of 33.23 for the 300 meters.  


Newbury Park, Sr.


Headed off to the University of Northern Arizona this fall, no other underclassman displayed as much range in state history as what we witnessed in 2022. Sahlman rolled to a 4:01.34 for the mile, translating into a sub-4:00 effort for the 1600 meters and moving him up to sixth in state history. While he placed fourth at the State Meet in the 800 meters, his 1:48.91 sees him atop the national list!  Let us not also overlook the fact that he owns a 8:48.28 best for 3200 meters ... and he won the cross country title at Team Nationals on a 5,000-meter course in Portland!


JSerra, Sr.


The defending state champ in the discus also returns as the top thrower in the United States for the event. Taking advantage of a generous headwind at the 2022 State Meet, the whole field uncorked personal bests with See's 203-10 ranking as the best in the nation for underclassmen. Headed off to the University of Oklahoma in the fall, also watch for his incredible improvement in the shot put where he already measured out to 60-8.5. 


Long Beach Jordan, Sr.


Playing a huge role in Jordan's CIF-SS Division 2 team title in 2022, Stevens continued onward to earn a spot on the medal stand with his sixth-place finish in the 300 hurdles at the State Meet with a lifetime best of 38.10.  After claiming the divisional title, he returned right back to take fourth in the 200 meters (21.63w).  He also anchored his squad to the state meet in the 4x100 relay.  


Long Beach Jordan, Jr.


As a sophomore, the star burst onto the scene, doubling up with victories in the 100 and 200 meters, and leading the Panthers to the Division 2 team title.  He continued to roll with a runner-up medal at the State Meet for the 100m and a fourth-place finish in the 200m. With a resume of 10.31w and 20.93w, Washington returns as one of the top juniors in the nation.  

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OTHER STARS TO WATCH FOR: Tiger Bachmeier (Murrieta Valley, Sr.); Jaelon Barbarin (Simi Valley, Sr.); Brendan Cho (Heritage Christian, Sr.); Dylan Curtis (Redondo Union, Sr.); Leo Davis (Newport Harbor, Sr.); Matthew Donis (Highland, Sr.);  Anthony Flowers (South Torrance, Sr.); Jeremy Frank (Thousand Oaks, Sr.); Nate Frazier (Mater Dei, Jr.); Javon Hampton (Long Beach Poly, Sr.); Cole Hoegl (Crossroads, Sr.); Josh Jornadal (J Serra, Sr.); Lamar Kirk (Long Beach Poly, Sr.); Adam Laycock (Westlake, Sr.); Zach Lewis (Pacifica - GG, Sr.); Roman Mendoza (Santa Margarita, Sr.); Alex Skalmowski (Servite, Sr.); JeyQuan Smith (Cajon, Sr.)

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

Photos by DeAnna Turner, Daniel Hernandez, Raymond Tran, and Dan Tyree.