CIF-STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS - Boys and Girls Distances Preview

Next up in our series previewing the 2023 CIF-State Track and Field Championships by event group, we focus on the three distance events.

In the 800m and 1600m events, the top three in each heat, and the next fastest times to total twelve (12) at Friday's prelims will advance to Saturday's finals. The 3200m is a finals-only event to be held Saturday night.

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800-Meter Run

State Meet record - 1:46.45, Michael Granville (Bell Gardens/SS) 1996

Current State Leader - 1:49.19, Xai Ricks (Long Beach Poly/SS)

2022 State Championship Race

Despite California boasting the two fastest boys in the nation, neither is competing this weekend. With that, the title is up for grabs as when using seasonal bests, only one second separates our top seven competitors. It will come down to who has the hot hand and is able to muster up enough energy for this two-day grind.  

Ambodai Ligons (Cathedral/SS) - Checking in with the second fastest time in the field, he controlled the pace in winning the CIF-SS Masters Meet (1:51.95) and comes in the hottest in the group. With his seasonal best of 1:51.15 from the Arcadia Invite, he captured the CIF-SS D-3 title the week before. He will take out the pace and after last weekend, should be more confident than any in the field.

Noah Ray (Buchanan/CS) - The University of Arizona-bound senior has run a seasonal best of 1:51.97 and comes in hot off his win on this same track from last week's Central Section Championships. He was a state meet qualifier for 1600 meters in 2022 and owns a lifetime best of 4:09.68. He seeks crucial team points here while we will also see him back on his state-leading 4x800 squad

Lamarr Kirk, Jr. (Long Beach Poly/SS) - Third at the CIF-SS Masters Meet (1:53.00) last week, his seasonal best is 1:51.37. He claimed the CIF-SS D-1 title two weeks ago and has consistently been under 1:54 on five occasions this Spring. He is also seeking valuable team points that could come into play before he hits the track to support his 4x800 squad as well.

Marcel Francis-Mitchell (Wilson-Long Beach/SS) - A California State Meet medalist from a year ago, the senior placed fourth (1:53.50) at last week's Southern Section Masters Meet. With a seasonal best of 1:51.75, he has dipped under 1:55 on eight separate occasions this season.

Joseph Lighthall (Hughson/SJ) - The Sac-Joaquin Section champion comes in with a seasonal best of 1:51.95. Off to BYU in the Fall, and equipped with 47.85 leg speed for 400 meters, he was seventh at last year's state meet and crossed with the relatively easy win at last week's CIF-SJ Finals in 1:53.41.

Tarron Johnson (Vista Murrieta/SS) - Coming in with the top seasonal best of 1:50.93 from the APU Meet of Champs, the senior has been in the 1:53-1:54 zone for the past five races. He was runner-up at the CIF-SS D-1 race before placing sixth at the CIF-SS Masters Meet last week.

Other top podium contenders: Taj Clark (San Clemente/SS), Manuel Correia (Point Loma/SD), Parker Long (Piedmont/NC), Aidan Ransom (Edison/CC), Elijah Williams (Edison/CC)


1600-Meter Run

State Meet record - 4:00.26 German Fernandez (Riverbank/SJ) 2008

Current State Leader - Brayden Seymour (Newbury Park/SS) 4:07.16

2022 State Championship Race

The State Meet title is up for grabs when reflecting on the heat sheets, only two seconds separate the top seed and the 11th qualifier! Several sub-4:10 boys have opted to focus on the 3200 meters and with 2022 defending champion, Chris Caudillo of Clovis (CS), shutting it down for the season -- this one is anyone's guess as to the favorites.

Ryan Thomas (Torrey Pines/SD) - A State Meet finalist in the 800 meters in 2022, the BYU-bound senior now toes the line with the top seasonal best (4:07.90) in the field.  He comes in equipped with a 1:52.04 seasonal best for 800 meters as he captured the San Diego Section Championships last week at 4:10.35.  

Manuel Correia (Point Loma/SD) - One of the few to attempt the 800/1600 double, the senior laces it up with a 4:09.83 lifetime best from the Mt. SAC Relays. He placed second at the CIF-SDS title last week (behind Thomas) with a solid 4:10.65 clocking as his 1:51.44 best for 800-meters is the best in the field.  

Levente Palvolgyi (Woodside Priory/CC) - Coming into the postseason with a 4:18.32, the senior pulled off the upset at the Central Coast Section Championships with his breakout 4:10.17 performance. As of last weekend, he was not ranked in the Top 100 for California but is now in the State Meet podium conversation!

Anthony Fast Horse (Ventura/SS) The junior checks in with the top seasonal best time of 4:08.48 from the APU Meet of Champs in March. He has been consistent the past three weeks, including his fifth-place finish at the CIF-SS Masters Meet (4:12.65).

Andreas Dybdahl (Santa Barbara/SS) Coming into the season with a 4:24.00 best, the junior has elevated into one of the best in California, highlighted by his 4:09.75 performance from the Mt. SAC Relays. He was second two weeks ago in the CIF-SS D-2 final (4:13.23) before his 4:12.41, fourth-place finish last week at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.

Westin Brown (Great Oak/SS) - The sophomore was a surprise winner at last week's CIF-SS Masters Meet as he zig-zagged his way between the competition over the last 100 meters for a lifetime best of 4:11.50.  He prefers to sit behind the competition but has developed more confidence over the last 300 meters.

Aydon Stefanopoulos (Los Gatos/CC) - The sophomore has emerged as one of the best in California coming off 4:10.66 and 9:00.33 lifetime bests at last weekend's CIF-CCS Finals.  He comes in hot and one of the few in the field to improve last weekend after coming in with a 4:12.41. 

Sebastian Sutch (Cate/SS) - With only a 4:19.57 best on his resume, in the past two weeks, the junior emerged with a 4:11.84 best to place second at last week's CIF-SS Masters Meet. The week prior, he rolled to a 4:13.24 to win the CIF-SS D-4 title. Coming into the season, his best was 4:41.44!

Carson Hedlund (Pioneer/CC) - Another underclassman, the sophomore is a State Meet veteran already. He placed third in that uber-competitive CCS Finals with a lifetime best of 4:11.16.  

Lucas Cohen (Albany/NC) - Second last weekend at the CIF-NC Meet of Champions (4:12.18), he captured the Sacramento Meet of Champs last month with a lifetime best of 4:09.97.

Other top podium contenders: Tom Bell (Mt. Carmel/SD), Micah Grossman (Ventura/SS), Emmanuel Hernandez (Cathedral/SS), Alex Lamoureux (College Park/NC), Brandon Moreno (Jesuit/SJ), Justin Pretre (Menlo/CC), Gabriel Rodriguez (Great Oak/SS)


3200-Meter Run

State Meet record - 8:34.23, German Fernandez (Riverbank/SJ) 2008

Current State Leader - 8:46.50, Jason Parra (Millikan/SS)

2022 State Championship Race

Like the girls, we are headlined by a strong underclass crew. Altogether, nine boys have dipped under the nine-minute line of demarcation for this one while eight others have crossed in under 9:05!  This one almost always is a negative-split affair from those that reach the podium coming through 4:30-4:35 before kicking over the last 800 meters!

Evan Noonan (Dana Hills/SS) - The sophomore has been sensational and after dropping the 1600 meters to focus solely on this event, he erupted with a 57-second last lap to scrape off 10 seconds from his previous best at 8:49.38, tying the CIF-SS Masters Meet record! In 2022, his best was 9:52.52.  With 400 to go, if he is within striking range of the lead pack, watch out!

Carter Spradling (Clovis East/CS) - With the fastest 1600 (4:07.64) in the group, the junior is about as tough as they come, toeing the line with an 8:50.79 seasonal best from Arcadia.  Familiar with the track, he captured the Central Section Championships last week at 9:04.97 while he also checks in with the experience of placing tenth at last year's State Meet.

Jason Parra (Millikan/SS) - The junior is our top returner as he earned the sixth-place medal in 2022 and owns the top time in California at 8:46.50. He has eclipsed the 9:10 mark seven different times this year and is undaunted in his pacing up front through the early stages of the race. Expect the junior to take the group through around 4:25

Matthew Donis (Highland/SS) - The senior veteran advanced for the second year in a row. Coming off a 9:00.57 effort at last week's CIF-SS Finals, his seasonal best is 8:52.91. He also advanced in the 1600 meters but dropped the event so he will be racing on fresh legs and ready for the fight.

Bille Issa (West Ranch/SS) - The senior is off to attend Cal Poly-SLO and also brings the experience of advancing for the second year in a row. Runner-up to Noonan last week, he dropped his lifetime best of 8:57.68. Every one of his efforts this season has consistently been in the 9:00-9:10 range as he placed 12th at last year's State Meet.

Parker Simmons (Crescenta Valley/SS) - The UC Santa Barbara-bound senior drove the pace in the latter portions of last week's CIF-SS Masters Meet to cross at 9:02.90. His lifetime best of 8:53.77, like most in this race, came from the Arcadia Invite as he has been consistent since.

Joshua Bell (Templeton/CS) - The junior brings his 8:55.52 lifetime best from the Arcadia Invite back to the same track where he placed second at the CIF-CE Championships (9:05.53). Relatively speaking, he has only 'punched it' on several occasions this season and seemingly, with more in the tank.  

Other top podium contenders: Juan Chantaca (San Clemente/SS), Evan Markelz (Mountain View/CC), Ethan Miller (Monte Vista/NC), Sean Morello (Albany/NC), Emmanuel Perez (Cathedral/SS), Roland Ruckmann-Barnes (Granada/NC), Aydon Stefanopoulos (Los Gatos/CC).

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800-Meter Run

State Meet record - 2:02.66 Amy Weissenbach (Harvard Westlake/SS) 2011

Current State Leader - 2:03.07 Mackenzie Browne (JW North/SS)

2022 State Championship Race

In a field featuring eight girls with sub-2:10 lifetime resumes, this looks to be as exciting as we witnessed in 2022.  Only one girl has ever claimed the 800 and 1600 titles in the same season, going back to 1975 when Kathy Costello achieved the feat.  Ventura sophomore Sadie Engelhardt looks to join her. Nine of the top 10 in California will lace it up this Friday while eleven girls broke 2:11 at their respective qualifying meets last week!  

Mackenzie Browne (JW North/SS) - The senior's 2:03.07 is the time in the United States while her performance from the Arcadia Invite ranks as the third-fastest in California prep history. Dropping the 1600 meters last week, she looked comfortable in her 2:07.49 effort to win the CIF-SS Masters Meet and poised to defend her title from last year!

Sadie Engelhardt (Ventura/SS) - The sophomore ran 2:06.71 on this same track last month while her lifetime best of 2:05.66 ranks 11th on the all-time state list. With the two all too familiar with one another, she did earn the nod against Browne in capturing the CIF-SS Div. 2 crown two weeks ago (2:08.48).

Tessa Buswell (Poway/SD) - The Poway junior rolled to the win at the San Diego Section Championships with a lifetime best of 2:08.30. Third-fastest in CIF-SD history, her previous best had been 2:11.01 while this also came on the heels of her running 4:48.76 earlier in the meet for the 1600 meters, which she has dropped.

L'Mio Edwards (Claremont/SS) - The junior transfer sat out all of March but has been on a roll this past month with three sub-2:11 efforts the past several weeks. She won the CIF-SS D-1 title (2:09.45) two weeks ago and placed third at the CIF-SS Masters Meet (2:09.82) last week.

Keaton Robar (Newport Harbor/SS) - The standout sophomore improved from a 2:16.32 in 2022 and has answered each challenge in 2023. She has hovered right around her 2:09.13 best from the Arcadia Invite with five other sub-2:11 performances this season.

Cate Peters (Monte Vista/NC) - The Stanford-bound senior is coming off winning the North Coast Section Meet of Champs (2:12.77). With a lifetime best of 2:06.89 (fourth-fastest in section history), she also comes equipped with a 54.72 lifetime best for 400 meters.

Sabrina Zanetto (St. Francis/CC) - The sophomore dropped a 2:10.35 last week to pull the upset and capture the Central Coast Section Championships. Scraping off two seconds from her previous best, she comes in as confident as anyone in the field.

Other top podium contenders: Dominique Abbott (JW North/SS), Dominika Janik (Torrey Pines/SD), Georgia Jeanneret (JSerra/SS), Samira Kennedy (Castilleja/CC), Tatum Olesen (Menlo-Atherton/CC)

1600-Meter Run

State Meet record - 4:33.82, Christine Babcock (Woodbridge/SS) 2008

Current State Leader - 4:34.50, Sadie Engelhardt (Ventura/SS)

2022 State Championship Race

Last year featured the fastest race in meet history where we witnessed three girls eclipse the 4:40 mark for the first time. While we were spoiled to that race in 2022 with four girls breaking 4:42 and eight girls crossing in under 4:50, this will still be one of the deepest fields assembled in meet history.  

Sadie Engelhardt (Ventura/SS) - The overwhelming sophomore favorite has already amassed the greatest resume in California girls' prep history!  Chasing her 4:33.29 lifetime best may not her primary goal as she might save some for the 800 meters later. She commanded the pace last week and surged with ease to the 4:46.02 win at the CIF-SS Masters Meet after crossing in under 4:40 on four different occasions this season.

Chiara Dailey (La Jolla/SD) - Now ranked as the top freshman in the nation, she catapulted herself into the national spotlight with her 4:42.69 win against a VERY talented field at last week's CIF-SD Finals last week. She came into the meet with a 4:48.62. Her performance was the second-fastest in section history as she moved up to eighth in the nation as well.

Hannah Riggins (Del Norte/SD) - The Princeton-bound senior dropped the 800, where she was third in the state (2:06.69) to focus here and on their 4x800 relay later. With that, she was fifth here last year and is coming in off a lifetime best of 4:46.35 at last weekend's CIF-SDS Finals, moving her into the top 10 on the all-time SDS list.

Grace Hutchison (Buchanan/CS) - A California State Meet medalist in 2022, the BYU-bound senior brings her 4:45.10 seasonal best to her home track. She earned the Central Section Championship last week (4:51.83) and looking to earn valuable team points for the Bears. She ranks fourth on the all-time Central Section list.

Hanne Thomsen (Montgomery/NC) - Surprised to see the defending champion for the 3200 meters entered here while you cannot overlook the sophomore who toes the line with a lifetime best of 4:45.51. She looked comfortable in capturing the CIF-NCS Meet of Champs last week (4:51.77).

Ashlyn Boothby (Scotts Valley/CC) - The junior was a State Meet finalist in 2022. Improving down to a 4:45.95 from the Arcadia Invite, she captured the CIF-CCS Finals a week ago (4:52.27) against two others that broke 4:55.

Allura Markow (Dana Hills/SS) - The Oregon-bound senior was a state meet finalist in 2022 but is enjoying marked success in 2023 with a seasonal best of 4:42.79 and ranked in the nation's top 10. She looks to dip back down below into the 4:50 range and compete for a top-5 finish.  

Other top podium contenders: Janelle Avilez (Etiwanda/SS), Lorelei Barrett (Buckley/SS), Kinga Czajkowska (Palo Alto/CC), Elle Lomeli (Buchanan/CS).

3200-Meter Run

State Meet record - 9:52.13, Jordan Hasay (Mission College Prep/CS) 2008

Current State Leader - 9:55.51, Hanne Thomsen (Montgomery/NC)

2022 State Championship Race

In the elite club of only 13 girls to ever crack the 10-minute benchmark of excellence in California prep history, we have seen four achieve the feat in 2023! Three of those will toe the line this Saturday night in what expects to be a barnburner, headlined primarily by underclass competitors. Temperatures and racing conditionals will be relatively optimal for this affair in 2023.

Hanne Thomsen (Montgomery/NC) - The sophomore is the 2022 defending State Champion after leaving the pack on the last lap and to a 10:06.89 win.  At the Arcadia Invite, she was remarkable with a 9:55.31 performance that saw her run between 72 and 77 splits throughout and crossing with the ninth-fastest in California state history.

Payton Godsey (Oaks Christian/SS) - In that same epic race at Arcadia (where nine girls crossed under 10:00) the junior joined the elite group with 4:58.9-4:57.9 splits to come home with a 9:57.77 and the 11th-best in state history. She placed fifth at the last year's State Meet and has improved her leg speed as evidenced by her 4:42.77 best for 1600 meters.

Gioana Lopizzo (La Costa Canyon/SD) - Completing the terrific trio, the junior has shown marked improvement (10:25.46 best in 2022) as she crossed in at 9:59.08 during that Arcadia race. Dropping the 1600 meters (she improved from 4:57.90 down to 4:45.94 this year), she will compete on fresh legs this weekend.

Jaelyn Williams (Eastlake/SD) - The top freshman in the nation, she placed just behind Lopizzo at last weekend's CIF-SD Finals. Listed with a seasonal best of 10:12.76 from a dual meet, she has run under 10:40 on eight different occasions this season but has dropped the 1600 (4:46.26 last week) to focus solely on the 3200 this weekend.

Holly Barker (Laguna Hills/SS) - Racing sparingly this spring, the sophomore has come into her own after running a lifetime best of 10:20.90 in capturing the CIF-SS Div. 3 title two weeks ago. She placed second (10:28.39) at the last week's CIF-SS Masters Meet and was impressively never in doubt of qualifying last weekend at the CIF-SS Masters Meet.

Rylee Blade (Santiago/SS) - Over the past several weeks, the uber-talented sophomore has been holding back and after dropping the 1600, she will maintain contact with the top group. She has been motored home with sub-75 second last laps (10:27.84) at last week's CIF-SS Masters Meet that she won and when she also won the seeded section at Arcadia with her 10:21.08 seasonal best.  

Makenzie McRae (Huntington Beach/SS) - Another underclass girl that has seen some solid improvement, she worked all season, lowering her PRs in the 800 and 1600 to help compliment her aerobic strength here. Her 10:26.47 seasonal best came two weeks ago when she placed second, to Rylee Blade, at the CIF-SS Div. 1 final.

Other top podium contenders: Maya DeBrouwer (La Canada/SS), Ailish Hawkins (Newbury Park/SS), Grace Hutchison (Buchanan/CS), Evangeline Marheineke (Archbishop Mitty/CC), Caroline Mendyk (Buchanan/CS), Lauren Soobrian (Los Altos/CC)

Mark Gardner is a teacher, former coach, popular announcer, and an associate editor for MileSplitCA

Photos by Jenn Chavez, Jennifer Koziel, DeAnna Turner, Josh Barber, and Raymond Tran