RECAP CIF-SS Division 1 Prelims Provide the Fireworks

The battle for Southern Section D-1 supremacy between Long Beach powers Poly and Wilson survived Saturday's preliminary test with flying colors en route to targeting next week's division final throwdown.


MISSION VIEJO -- One of the toughest elimination rounds of competition for prep track and field takes place every season at the Southern Section Division 1 Prelims. With that, those projected to advance onto next week's finals did so with Long Beach Poly advancing the most qualifiers along with all four of their relays.

The Poly Jackrabbits are the favorite on the boys side going into next week's CIF-SS all-division finals at Moorpark HS and will be seeking their first title plaque since 2019. This would be the Jackrabbits 11th title in school history as they had an unprecedented run of titles from 2001-07.  

Junior Xai Ricks put on a show in his 47.04 lifetime best effort for the 400 meters, only to come back to win his heat (21.10w) for the 200 meters.

Equally as impressive was senior Cameron Rhone who advanced in the 1600 meters (4:16.43) only to come back with a huge breakthrough performance of 1:52.16, improving by over three seconds from his previous best. In that same heat of the 800 meters, teammate Lamarr Kirk Jr. was just off his shoulder at 1:52.49. Freshman Malachi Dawson advanced in the 100 (10.61w) and 200 (21.76) as did fellow classmate Noah Smith for the 400 meters (49.20) and 200 meters (21.66w). Senior Javon Hampton qualified in the 100 (10.73) and long jump to give Long Beach Poly ample scoring opportunities going into next week's action.

Other standout performances from the Division 1 prelims on the boys' side, include Jordan junior Jordan Washington. In complete control all throughout, he led both his relays to the finals while also excelling individually in the 100 meters (10.44) to go along with a 21.18w in winning his heat for the 200 meters.  

Also excelling in the sprints, Cajon senior Jeyquan Smith looked sharp. After anchoring his 400-relay squad to the top time of the day (41.83), he advanced in the 100 meters (10.43) for the third straight season while winning his heat in 21.23 for the 200 meters.  

In impressive fashion, Long Beach Wilson senior Marcel Francis-Mitchell advanced in the 400 (49.30) and 800 meters (1:55.30) while helping his 4x400 squad easily move on with their 3:18.48 effort.

In the distances, Great Oak junior Gabriel Rodriguez dropped a monster last lap to win his heat (4:15.72) before coming back to also advance in the 800 meters (1:54.48). His teammate, sophomore Westin Brown joined him for the 1600 (4:16.51) while advancing in the 3200 meters (9:14.92) as well.

Highland senior Matthew Donis advanced in both longer distances while Crescenta Valley senior Parker Simmons (9:08.12) and defending champion, Millikan junior Jason Parra (9:08.18) won the first heat in a wire-to-wire performance.

Shining in the horizontal jumps, Vista Murrieta senior Obi Nwafor easily advanced with the top marks in the long jump (22-7.75) and triple jump (46-4.75). Cajon sophomore Keith Cotlage (22-6.75 and 46-3.25) also moved on.

Vista Murrieta and Cajon are the top prospects to battle for the runner-up plaque next weekend and those jumps could be the deciding factor.

In the throws, Redondo Union senior Kai Deines easily advanced onto both throws along with Warren senior Jaylon Wells and Alta Loma senior Santiago Cerda.

For the hurdles, Upland senior Davis Davis-Lyric captured both his heats in the 110 hurdles (14.03) before coming back to dominate with a 39.33 effort. The UCLA-bound senior has run the fastest time in California this season for the 110 hurdles and is only one of two boys to break 38 seconds in the longer hurdles.

Referencing those hurdles, Loyola junior John Mueller had a career best day in advancing in both hurdles but his effort in the 300 hurdles (38.09) moved him to fourth in the state while his 14.66 was a lifetime best for the 110 Hurdles.

Rancho Cucamonga has come on strong in recent weeks, primarily off of the legs of sophomore Cameron Sermons and Daniel Wimbush. The former advanced in the 100 (10.63) and 200 (21.53w) and the former advanced in the 110 Hurdles (14.81) and 300 hurdles (38.72) with both propelling their 400 relay squad (41.96) forward as well.

Chino Hills junior Donnie Parish quietly had one of the standout days on the schedule as he advanced in the 100 (10.54w) and 200 (21.81w) along with the long jump (22-0.5). He also assisted in his 400 relay squad (42.02) advancing as well.

Other sprinters to advance in the 100 and 200 included Paloma Valley senior Jason Deal (10.58w/21.26) and Quartz Hill sophomore Adonyss Currie (10.52w/21.71).

On the girls side, the title also looks through the city of Long Beach, but on this end of the spectrum, Wilson will be right there fighting for Poly for the crown. After a clean day where everybody projected to advance did so, Wilson goes in as the favorite to capture their first title since 2006.

Wilson senior Aujane Luckey advanced back to the finals in both the 200 (24.18w) and 400 meters (55.86). In a very deep field of the 300 hurdles, Kaylin Edwards (43.68) and MaNia Tidwell (44.74) moved onward as they also did in the 100 hurdles with 14.20w and 14.79w marks, respectively. All three buoyed their relay squads as they opened up the meet with a 46.82 top time for the 400 meters and closed the meet with a 3:51.02 top mark as well.

Those will be big events next week as Wilson projects to score over 25 points in the hurdles and another 18, combined in both relays.

Poly excelled as well but did experience a major casualty in the discus, where they were penciled in to score at least six points at next week's final. Aside from that, senior Kennadi Reed won her heat (14.52w) of the 100 hurdles and came back to repeat the feat with a 44.57 in the 300 hurdles. Junior Anise Becker placed second in her heat but with the third-best time (43.71) overall in the 300 hurdles after rolling to a 14.62w qualifying effort earlier on.

Both supported their group in the 400 relay where they won their heat at 47.12 and they also cruised to a qualifying performance (3:57.85) in the 1600 relay. Junior Mai Ricks came up big with her 40-9.5 effort in the shot put. In trying to pull an upset over Wilson, they will also lean heavily on sophomore Jillene Wetteland, who looks to defend her title in the high jump.

Orange Vista senior Kailah McKenzie easily advanced in the 100 hurdles (14.30w) and looks to defend her title in the event. For the third year in a row, she also reserved a spot for next weekend in the high jump and long jump. She is tied for the state lead in the high jump at 5-9 and leads the state in the long jump (20-8) under all conditions.  

While both Orange Vista relays also advanced, senior Mercy Ehiemere raced to a lifetime best of 55.08 to earn lane five for the 400 meters next week. 

One of the more impressive performances of the entire day came from Santiago sophomore Rylee Blade as she easily advanced in winning both her heats of the 1600 (4:52.87) and the 3200 (10:38.29). But, in that 3200, she seemingly jogged through the halfway point at 5:35 only to come back with a 5:03 on that second half.

Etiwanda senior Janelle Avilez went along for that same ride with Blade, cruising in with 5:35-5:08 negative splits in the 3200 meters. She also qualified for the 1600 meters at 4:54.59.

Claremont junior Denise Chen advanced in both the 1600 (4:58.46) and 3200 (10:44.44) for the third year in a row. Both were seasonal best efforts. Huntington Beach junior Makenzie McRae qualified in both as well (4:58.67 and 10:38.92).

Arcadia sophomore Reena Hsieh impressed in advancing in the 1600 meters (5:00.73) and the 800 meters (2:15.83). Also advancing in both was Peninsula senior Aishling Callanan (2:16.85 and 5:04.94)

In the throws, Camarillo looks to headline as sophomore Trinity Tipton and senior Ava Crouse both advanced in both the shot put and discus. Tipton came away with the top mark of 139-6 in the discus.

In the shot put, Etiwanda senior Camryn Alo measured out to 43-0 to move her up to third in California. Also off the track, her teammate sophomore Alaya Robinson excelled in advancing in the long jump (18-5.5) and the triple jump (38-7.25).

Staying with the Baseline League theme in the horizontals, Upland senior Simone Smith will join Robinson as she excelled in the long jump (18-1.5) and the triple jump (37-9.75).

Also advancing in both those same events but for the second year in a row, Vista Murrieta junior Alyssa Alumbres (17-11 and 37-5) to continue on her trek back to the state championships in three weeks.

Working our way back to the sprints, Ayala junior Kayla McBride was sharp in her 24.07 wind-legal win to earn lane five for the 200 meters after she had already advanced in the 400 meters (55.35). In both races, she will battle the aforementioned Luckey of Wilson but also Quartz Hill senior Adonijah Currie who seemingly cruised to a 56.60 for the 400 meters before coming back to win her heat in the 200 (24.35).

Currie propelled her 400-relay squad to the finals with a seasonal best of 47.45 along with teammate sophomore Sanaiya Watkins who also advanced in two events, the 100 hurdles (14.59w) and the 300 hurdles (43.56).

Redondo Union junior Lela Divinity looks to defend her title in the 300 hurdles, as she advanced with a 44.22 after also moving forward in the 100 hurdles (14.61w). Los Alamitos sophomore Alene Washington will join her in both events as she rolled to 14.98w and 45.34 efforts.

Roosevelt senior Dakota Minor was also a double qualifier in automatically advancing with wins in the 100 (11.96w) and 200 (24.12w). She anchored her squad to a 47.90 qualifying effort as well.

The Lakewood duo of sophomore Amaya Rice and junior Jai'ya Jones also advanced in both the 100 and 200 meters. Both also spurred their 400 relay team into next week's finals with a 47.29 effort.

And last, but not least, with one of the top performances of the day, Claremont junior L'Mio Edwards motored home with a 2:10.62 lifetime best for the 800 meters.   

We also want to recognize that it took 11-6 to advance to the finals in the girls' pole vault!  That had only happened one other time (2018) in CIF-SS history!   Five girls from the Southwestern League pushed the cause, including defending champion, Vista Murrieta junior Aspen Fears

Look for our CIF-SS Division 1 Finals preview to come later this week!

Recap by Mark Gardner | Interviews by James Escarcega | Photos by Josh Barber