Del Norte senior Hannah Riggins dropped the 800 meters, where she is the San Diego Section record-holder, to focus the rest of her track and field season on the 1600 meter run and the 4x800m relay.
San Diego Section Championships
at Mt. Carmel HS
Girls - Field at 9 a.m., track at 10 a.m.
Boys - Field at 2 p.m., track at 3 p.m.
Advancement to the CIF-State Finals May 26-27 at Buchanan HS: Top three (3) placers in each final shall qualify (the exception being two (2) teams advance in the 4x800m relay). Individuals and relay teams not among the auto qualifiers may also advance by hitting or bettering the State Meet at-large standards.
SAN DIEGO - It figures that one of the events attracting the most attention heading into the CIF-San Diego Section Championships on Saturday at Mt. Carmel High is the girls 1600.
Although it has been a while since Sammy Silva of Our Lady of Peace captured the event in the 2009 State Championships, over the years there have been six titlists from the border city with Kira Jorgensen grabbing three of them for first Vista and then Rancho Buena Vista between 1987-1989.
That actually gave San Diego four consecutive gold medals in the event as Grossmont's Darcy Arreola won in 1986.
In a split-gender schedule that is totally unique to the San Diego Section, the girls kick off the meet with selected field events starting at 9 a.m. and the first running event at 10. The boys go from 2 p.m. until 7.
Why split the two?
Meet director Mike Cummings of Valley Center High said there were numerous complaints lodged when it was all one meet that finished late meaning some of the girls who had the prom that night had to choose between the two or run and then move even faster to make the prom.
Actually, the uniqueness of the schedule makes it so some parents do not have to sit for 10 hours and the girls have the spotlight exclusively on them.
Here is a look at 10 (really 11) events that are extra special:
When your section record-holder drops that event to focus on this plus a relay, you know it's important. That's just what Del Norte's Hannah Riggins did, opting to skip the 800, where she has run 2:06.69, for the 1600 where she was fifth in the state a year ago (4:46.97) and has a best this season of 4:46.36.
That's not even the top mark as La Costa Canyon's Gioana Lopizzo sped to a 4:45.94 en route in the mile at Mt. SAC. And then there's the two freshmen, La Jolla's Chiara Dailey (4:48.62) and Eastlake's Jaelyn Williams (4:48.82), not forgetting state Division I cross country champion Tessa Buswell (4:50.81) of Poway.
BOYS POLE VAULT
While Garrett Brown's section record of 17-2 in 2021 appears pretty safe, there will be some serious competition between a pair of 16-footers. Torrey Pines' Joey Weisman soared 16-feet for the first time in the prelims while Sage Creek's Jacob Emerson topped 16-0 ¼ to win the Winter Championships way back in February and has been steady at 15-9. Both are juniors.
Someone to watch very carefully is the state's top sophomore, University City's Kai Anderson, who scaled 15-6, tying Emerson for first place, after topping 15-4 in the Western League championships. Clearly in this event, youth will be served.
All you need to do is look at the prelim marks to see this will be special. La Jolla's Payton Smith laid down the gauntlet in the Division 3 prelims at 24.30 with Madison's Amirah Shaheed clocking a 24.47 in a different heat.
Then you add in Mt. Carmel's Tianna Ruskovich (24.74) and another of that crazy good freshman class, Ily Barclay of Steele Canyon (windy 24.79), and the stage is set for a very fast race that probably won't be affected by the winds that pick up in the afternoon.
OK, this one doesn't figure to be that close but the mystery element is if Helix's Adren Parker will go all-out or just cruise. If Parker goes for it, his own section record of 46.63 would appear doomed, and he has the 4x100 relay as a warmup.
For many, this will also be a chance to see Hilltop's Malachi McCoy, who has come on late in the season to post a 48.52, which should make quite a race with Mt. Carmel sophomore David Slaughter (48.61) for the second spot.
GIRLS 300 HURDLES
Even with the loss of defending State Meet champion Kapiolani Coleman of Cathedral Catholic with a broken ankle, this event figures to be very strong. Torrey Pines' senior Karina Janik (42.38) won this event a year ago before going on to capture the bronze medal at state.
Having run 42.19 this year, she could be pushed under 42-seconds by the sophomore duo of Carlsbad's Morgan Herbst (43.56) and San Diego's Anisa Bowen-Fontenot (44.12). The story here is this is Herbst's first season of running the hurdles and Bowen-Fontenot brings 14-second 100-meter hurdle speed to the chase.
Always one of the highlights of any track meet, this event figures to be close even with the loss of Helix freshman Brandon Arrington (10.68) to injury.
If steady wins, La Costa Canyon senior Jason Wells fits that description with a wind-legal best of 10.69 at Mt. SAC and a windy 10.55 in last week's prelims. Less than a blink back is University City's Aaron Fruge (10.70) with veteran speedster Xavier Rodriguez of Bishop's (10.83) ready to drop time.
The question becomes who can recover the quickest from what figures to be a scorching 1600.
Lopizzo, who got caried along to a section record 9:59.08 at the Arcadia Invitational, is the clear favorite but that Eastlake freshman Williams (10:12.76 in a dual meet) is a fearless front-runner and if she decides to run here, state cross country runner-up Dailey (10:24.48) is the wildcard.
Torrey Pines' Ryan Thomas (4:07.90) and Point Loma's Manuel Correia (4:09.83) should have quite a battle here. Both have speed with Correia (1:51.44 in the 800) having a slight edge over Thomas (1:52.04).
Correia is usually a front-runner but he showed a blazing finish in beating Thomas at Escondido. So, did Thomas learn from that experience to not let Correia get close?
GIRLS 4x800 RELAY
The new event should be interesting with state No. 2 and section record-setter Del Norte (9:00.77) looking to get under the 9-minute barrier. To be as fresh as possible, Riggins is focusing on this and the 1600 exclusively. So, the question is where will Emily Russo, who qualified in the 1600 and 3200, run?
Paige Echsner, who improved to 2:12.36 in the 800, ran both the 800 and 1600 in the prelims and her sister, Ella, ran the 1600.
One of the domino effects of Coleman's injury is a key leg on Cathedral Catholic's 4x400 relay is now missing, which could very well result in the Dons using their deep and talented 800 meters in the 4x800 relay.
GIRLS HIGH JUMP AND POLE VAULT
OK, we cheated.
State high jump leader Lizzie Tarczy of Scripps Ranch (5-9) has been uber-consistent this season and in this event, that's as good as gold. Not that Tarczy will lack competition as Poway's Breeze Czapinsky has cleared 5-7.50 and Maranatha Christian's versatile Kelly De Jong is steady at 5-4.
With defending State Meet pole vault champion Jathiyah Muhammad competing on the club level this season, the event is wide open statewide and San Diego again has serious challengers. La Costa Canyon's Iliana Downing cleared 14-feet in the league finals to take the state lead and Poway's Avery Hilliard went 13-3 in the Division I prelims which would be No. 3 in the state. Downing is one of only seven girls in the U.S. to clear at least 14 feet this season. She is tied for sixth in state history and one of only eight girls ever in CA to clear 14-0 in the pole vault.
Veterans like De Jong (12-7), Rancho Bernardo's Lilia Montiel (12-6) and Del Norte's Paige Echsner (12-6) should make this a hot competition with the state at-large mark of 12-3 in the mix.
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CIF-SAN DIEGO SECTION GIRLS AND BOYS TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplitCA
Photos by James Huenink and Raymond Tran