RECAP D-4 Prelims Set Stage for Oaks Christian-Serra Battle

Junior Niya Clayton led the way, advancing in four events to lead the Oaks Christian girls at the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 Preliminaries on Saturday at Carpinteria. The Lady Lions will be aiming for a seventh title in the past nine years when they take the track at the all-division finals next Saturday at Moorpark HS.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Parenti/California MileSplit 

CARPINTERIA -- The girls track and field team battle in Division 4 of the CIF-Southern Section has been dominated by two schools over the past decade: Oaks Christian and Serra - Gardena. 

So results from Saturday's D-4 prelims at the picturesque outlier of a venue at Carpinteria HS should come as no surprise that the storyline to next week's division final is just how epic will be the battle between the Lions and Cavaliers? 

Oaks Christian has won six of the last eight plus three runner-up finishes since 2011. Serra is the reigning division - and CIF-State - champions, having won two of the last four titles, six overall since 2009, with two second-place showings since 2017. Plenty of history between Serra and OC, teams that went 1-2 last spring.

While reigning CIF-State 200-meter champion Brazil Neal led Serra, which pushed through eight athletes in 15 spots plus two relays into this Saturday's all-division finals at Moorpark HS, Oaks Christian had an even better showing on a pristine day on the south edge of Santa Barbara County.

The Lions, led by a young stars Niya Clayton, Payton Godsey, Rayah Rodriguez, and Eleanor Borchard, qualified 12 individuals in 22 slots and two relays, coving the meet program in every event except the triple jump and both throws. 

Clayton, a junior, advanced in four events (100m, 200m, 100mH, and 4x1). Godsey, also a junior, rolled through in the 1600, 3200 and 4x4. Rodriguez, a freshman, was impressive in the 200m, 400m, 4x1 and 4x4. Borchard advanced in both hurdles, the 400m and 4x4. 

Serra's sprint crew -- despite an earlier-than-desired wake-up call the morning after prom -- did its job getting Neal, junior Mia Flowers, and seniors Zakiyah Wilson, Sadia Green and Sienna Claiborne through in nine spots across the three events. But what the Cavs lack in the distances, they hope to make up for with strong relays, jumps and throws from senior Jordyn Brooks (long jump and triple jump), junior Jaiya Fletcher (long jump, also 100mH), a freshman Lo'Ani Atofau (both throws).

It's downright obnoxious just how dominant these two programs have been on the boys side in the 21st Century. Since 2000, Serra has won 13 D-4 boys team titles and placed second twice. In that time span, Oaks Christian has won seven and place second another seven times. 

Oaks Christian had one six times in the previous seven seasons before Serra ran off with the title last spring. A return to the top for the Lions seems more certain after Saturday, when the Cavaliers boys struggled early, hit hurdles, and failed to advance either relay. 

Senior sprint superstar Rodrick Pleasant did his thing in the 100m (10.40/2.2) and 200m (20.89/1.2) but his absence in the opening relay was felt. Joining Pleasant at the all-division final will be senior Rylin Bembury in the 110m hurdles and sophomore Tre Harrison in the 300mH. Full stop. Bembury hit the penultimate hurdle in the 300s and had to walk across to finish. Harrison hit the last hurdle in the 300s but was able to maintain just enough balance before falling to the track over the finish line. Despite that bit of drama, his 40.32 was the fastest of the meet. 

Oaks Christian, like the girls, should dominate by 1,000 paper cuts. The Lions have 11 individuals into 14 finals spots plus two relays. Junior Lexington Leffall and Deshonne Redeaux advanced in both short sprints, sophomore Chase Hansen had the top 400m qualifying time (49.05), and senior Ethan Smith rolled through in both long distances. Among others headed to Moorpark aboard the OC Express are senior Ethan Bergman and sophomore Mateo Romero, who both advanced in the pole vault. 

Other standouts among the girls included Archer School senior Treasure Brown with the top marks in both the discus throw (138-4) and shot put (39-7.25), United Christian Academy senior Tamara Aimufia with the top horizontal jumps, 19-3.50 in the long and 38-10.50 in the triple. 

Neal had the top qualifying time in the 100, (11.75) but it was OC's Rodriguez with the best in the deuce (24.57). La Salle's Mia Reid had the top mark in the 100m hurdles (14.53) and the No. 2 time in the 300mH (45.75). Rosary Academy freshman Jada Faison was fastest in the 300m hurdles (45.66) and also advance in the 100mH and long jump. Webb frosh Nicole Samson is the top qualifier in the 800m (2:19.43), Ontario Christian junior Rachel Aguilar is the top qualifier in the quarter (56.89) and Buckley sophomore Lorelei Barrett ran the fastest 1600m (4:59.19) and had the No. 2 qualifying time in the 3200m (10:58.40). 

Other boys standouts included Cate junior Sebastian Sutch with the top time in the 1600 (4:19.96) and the No. 2 time in the 800m (1:58.21) just behind La Salle's Alex Alvarez (1:57.83), Foothill Tech senior Jonah Billings in the 3200m (9:19.52), and Alemany senior Collin Joyce had the top marks in both horizontal jumps, 22-8.25 in the long and 45-6.50 in the triple. 

Jeffrey Parenti is the California State Editor for MileSplit

Photos by Jeff Parenti