RECAP CIF-State Meet Prelims Mostly Stick to the Script

Dijon Stanley had a stellar day in leading Granada Hills Charter on Friday at CIF-State Prelims.

CLOVIS -- With very few exceptions, Friday's CIF-State Track and Field Championships preliminaries played out as expected. 

Only one of nine returning State Meet event champions failed to advance to Saturday's State Meet finals, there was a DQ that wasn't a DQ, and a who's-who of Golden State's superstar athletes all punched tickets into the Finals. 

Field events begin at 4:30 p.m. with track events at 5:45 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Can't be onsite? No worries. Watch live on MileSplit and FloTrack

The meet began with a sizzling 4x100-meter relay time of 45.73 seconds anchored by returning State 100m champion Reign Redmond of Carson (LAC) and closed some five hours later with Dijon Stanley running a 45.9-second anchor leg to assure Granada Hills Charter's inclusion in the 4x400m finals and continued hopes for a CIF-State team title. 

In between, Redmond was one of eight 2022 champions in nine events who will be back to defend their titles. Only Hannah Slover, a senior at Los Gatos (CC), did not advance to defend her high jump title. But Serra-Gardena (SS) senior Rodrick Pleasant did in both the 100m and 200m, as did his current and future University of Oregon teammate Brazil Neal in the 200m. (She'll also run in the 100m and on anchor in the 4x1.)

Also looking to defend titles today are JSerra (SS) senior Brendon See in the discus throw, Caruthers (CS) senior Nailea Fields in the discus throw, Clovis (CS) senior Sydnie Vanek in the long jump, J.W. North senior MacKenzie Browne in the 800m, and Ventura (SS) sophomore Sadie Engelhardt in the 1600m. 

(Montgomery (NC) sophomore Hanne Thomsen is also back to defend her title in the 3200m, an event that only holds a final.)

Browne and Engelhardt, who will compete in both the 800m and 1600m, may have added the most drama of the night. In the 1600m, Engelhardt is not only the defending State Meet champion but also the CA record-holder and one of the nation's all-time greats in the four-lap race. But in her heat, which auto-qualified four, she ran a very conservative race, had to surge late to get into qualifying position, and then pulled up early and was passed by two runners, placing sixth in her heat. Ultimately, her 4:50.64 qualified her 10th in the field of 12. 

Browne, in the 800m, also ran conservatively as St. Francis (CC) sophomore Sabrina Zanetto, Menlo-Atherton (CC) junior Tatum Olesen, and Monte Vista (NC) senior Cate Peters closed strong to take the top three spots. In the three heats led by Newport Harbor (SS) sophomore Keaton Robar's 2:10.12 followed by Engelhardt's 2:10.59, Browne's 2:12.72 was just good enough for the 12th and final qualifying spot. 

The two biggest headliners to emerge from Friday night were Stanley, who qualified in the 200m and 400m and led both relay teams into the finals, and junior Meagan Humphries of Castaic (SS), who qualified to compete on Saturday in the high jump, long jump, triple jump, and -- AND -- 200-meter dash.  This is the first time an athlete has advanced to the finals in four individual events. 

Orange Vista (SS) senior Kailah McKenzie advanced in the high jump, long jump, and 100m hurdles.  Humphries

It took a 4:54.36 to make the championship field in the girl's 1600m, led by Palo Alto (CC) sophomore Kinga Czajkowska (4:49.03), and La Jolla (SD) freshman Chiara Dailey (4:49.73). 

Jesuit (SJ) senior Brandon Moreno, sixth in the 1600m last year, had the No. 3 qualifying time (4:10.72) behind Ventura (SS) junior Anthony Fast Horse (4:10.48) and Torrey Pines (SD) senior Ryan Thomas (4:10.62). 

Pleasant, the fastest 100m sprinter in CA history, windy (10.09) and wind-legal (10.14), cruised to an easy 10.36 (1.3) win in the first heat, 0.14 faster than the next fastest qualifier (El Cerrito (NC) senior Robert Stitts).  

Anthony Flowers of South Torrance (SS) almost didn't get to run in his 100m heat. He was called for a false start and shown a disqualifying card by an official. The crowd jeered. He protested, saying later that he had heard clapping in the crowd and thought it was the starter's gun. His name was briefly removed from the lineup on the scoreboard but then replaced. The crowd cheered as Flowers was allowed to return to his spot in the blocks. He made the most of his second chance, winning his heat with the third-fastest qualifying time.

Flowers came back later to earn a spot in the 200m final field of nine. In that event, Stanley posted a top qualifying time of 21.09 (0.5). Pleasant, the state leader and defending champ battled Paloma Valley (SS) senior Jason Deal to equal 21.19 (1.1) marks. 

Stanley, state leader and U.S. No. 3 in the 400m at 45.92, qualified first at 46.66 followed by Long Beach Poly (SS) junior Xai Ricks (46.68).

Homestead (CC) sophomore Evan Gardner posted the fastest boys 800m qualifying time at 1:52.47 followed by Hughson (SJ) senior Joseph Lighthall at 1:53.45. Pleasant Valley (NS) sophomore Jackson Hein took control of his heat with a winning auto-qualifying time of 1:54.17. The senior Buchanan (CS) duo of Noah Ray (1:52.62) and Zach Weaver (1:52.86) ran 2-3 behind Gardner to both make the final field of 12. 

Buchanan's hopes of challenging favorite Granada Hills Charter for the boy's team title will depend on that 800m duo, as well as their state-leading 4x800m relay team, senior pole vaulter Hilton Green, junior discus thrower Derek Smith Buchanan, and senior triple jumper Josh Dunu

Stanley is key for GHC, as is junior Jordan Coleman, the ninth and final qualifier in the 100m. JSerra (SS) may have something to say about it with See among the favorites in both throws, along with senior Jake Stafford in the discus throw and high jump. 

The girl's competition appears tight between Wilson-Long Beach (SS), Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks (SS), and Carson (LA).

Wilson has the No. 3 qualifying time in the 4x100m, the top time in the 4x400m relay, senior Aujane Luckey in the 200 (23.82/3.1) and 400 (53.78), and sophomores Kaylin Edwards in the 300m hurdles and Loren Webster in the long jump. Senior MaNia Tidwell also advanced in the 300 hurdles.  

Carson has Redmond in both short sprints, and advanced three girls to the finals in the 100 meters as freshman Christina Gray and senior TaAhjah Fann, along with their heavily favored 4x100m relay team. 

Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks (SS) duo of senior April Fontenette and sophomore Aja Johnson advanced in both throws. Johnson's 44-00.75 was the top shot put qualifying mark. Senior Galadriel Mellion of Weston Ranch (SJ) had the leading discus throw mark of 158--09. 

The girls' 100m final field of nine also includes another freshman in Ellie McCuskey-Hay of St. Ignatius (CC), who won her heat in 11.81. McCuckey-Hay also advanced in the long jump. Another frosh advancing to the finals is Rayah Rodriguez of Oaks Christian (SS) in the 400m.

Culver City sophomore Joelle Trepagnier won heats in the 200m (23.95/0.8) and 400m (54.33) and helped the 4x400m relay team in the finals. La Jolla (SD) junior Payton Smith also made the field in both the 200m and 400m.

King (SS) senior Alyssa Hope, the runner-up in the long jump here last year, had the top qualifying mark of 20-04.25 (1.1). 

Jeffrey Parenti is the California State Editor for MileSplit

Photos by Raymond Tran