CA Title Win Special For LB Wilson Girls, Granada Hills Boys

The boys from Granada Hills Charter (left), and the girls from Long Beach Wilson won CIF-State Track and Field Championship team titles on Saturday night.



CLOVIS -- There's no doubt that the CIF-State Track and Field Championship meet commands respect. Winning here serves as a dream, a daily motivator requiring honest time, effort, a dash of luck, good health and more. It can realistically go from a stated goal to having medals placed around your neck and teammates, coaches, parents and supporters celebrating this success.

The champions get that moment, a glorious moment, and the thrill of that achievement never fades. Now, imagine getting a front-row view of someone else basking in the moment, the same moment you want to experience -- and you have to wait, again.

In 2022, that's when the goal for team championship success in 2023 began for Granada Hills Charter (LA).

"It started a year ago at this very spot," said Johnny Wiley, Granada Hills Charter head track coach, while standing on the Veterans Memorial Stadium football field at Buchanan High School late Saturday night. "Our student-athletes were juniors and sophomores then and it was the first experience for many of them. They knew they wanted to get back here."

Led by senior Dijon Stanley's State title win in the 400 meters, a second-place finish in the 200, a State title as second leg on the 4x100 relay, and a competitive third-place finish in the 4x400 relay, Granada Hills Charter boys won its first CIF-State title in track and field.

Granada Hills scored 36 points -- Stanley, a University of Utah football recruit, had a role in 34 of them -- to win, followed by JSerra Catholic (SS) with 33 and Buchanan (CS) with 30.

"It feels incredible to win State for the first time in school history," Wiley said. "It's really, really special for our student-athletes, coaches and everyone who supports us. This is a very special moment."

Being a first-time winner is a great feeling, and Long Beach Wilson's 1996 girls team had that honor. Since then, Wilson's state title wins have been a shared experience. In both 1998 and 2006, the Bruins finished tied atop the team standings, with Moore League rival Long Beach Poly (42 points apiece) in '98 and Union City's James Logan (37 points each) in '06.

All three State titles were directed by then-head coach Terry Kennedy. On May 27, 2023, Neil Nelson, who was an assistant to Kennedy and has been Wilson's head coach for a decade, was happy that this year's State title win was back to being a solo celebration.

"This is big. It's been a great, great season," Nelson said as athletes took turns taking lots of photos with the coveted CIF trophy. "Since 2006 we've been third, fourth, fifth, and this just shows the tradition this school has. It is very big for us."

Wilson scored 44 points, followed by Culver City (31) and Serra-Gardena, the 2022 girls State champion, and Castaic tied for third with 25 points.

Wilson's title win means plenty to its star senior performer, Aujane Luckey. The Arizona State University commit was victorious in the 400, had a seventh-place finish in the 200, and she ran on the 4x100 relay's third-place team and the State runner-up 4x400 relay.

"It feels amazing," Luckey said. "Knowing that me and my team came so far, worked so hard to get where we are now, it's amazing. And there are many more years to come from this team. This is not the end of everything."

Luckey, who battled tonsillitis that delayed the start of her season, has a point. Sophomore teammate Kaylin Edwards won the State title in the 300 hurdles in a PR time of 41.57. Edwards, junior Tarynn Maroney, sophomore Loren Webster and freshman Brooke Blue joined seniors Luckey and MaNia Tidwell on the Bruins' relay teams. Webster, a newcomer to long jump, finished fourth in the State with a PR of 19-10.5. Tidwell finished sixth in the 300 hurdles race (43.15, PR) that Edwards won. Maroney, Luckey, Edwards and Webster ran the 4x100 in 46.66 and Blue, Edwards, Luckey and Tidwell ran the 4x400 in 3:42.49.

"This is a young team, a very close team; the camaraderie was second to none," Nelson said. "They wanted to practice, work hard and they were always willing to put it all on the line."

The 'young team' label can often mean talented, but inexperienced, but the latter came together in two ways. One, the season schedule was a week-to-week plan for athletes to be at their best. Whether it was a local invitational, a Mt. SAC Relays or going to Concord, Calif., San Diego, Austin, Texas, Eugene, Oregon, or hosting and competing in the ultra competitive Moore League Finals, Wilson was ready for anything. Second, those experiences and tests against the competition meant CIF postseason meets in May wouldn't be as intimidating for a young team.

"We started to see it when the CIF prelims came. In the CIF (Southern Section division) finals, with Aujane and Kaylin and others, we started thinking this could be something special," Nelson said.

The SS-Masters Meet delivered Wilson's State entrants and this past weekend, the team went to work. Luckey accounted for 26 of Wilson's 44 team points to secure the title.

"Everyone who showed up on Friday for the State prelims qualified for Saturday. Everyone who showed up Saturday scored points," Nelson said.

Granada Hills' Stanley showed up throughout the two-day meet. Even when he had fallen to Serra-Gardena super sprinter and friend, Rodrick Pleasant in the 200, Stanley's demeanor showed just how locked in he was to deliver the ultimate team prize to his school.

"All I wanted (in the 200) was to go out and have a race with Rodrick. I've known him a long time and over the years I've grown into my speed so I was looking forward this. He gave me a race, he won, but I know I ran my hardest and it is what it is. I give maximum effort every time I touch the track."

He went 20.95 to Pleasant's 20.67 in the 200. Stanley won the 400 in a 2023 state-best 45.77, beating out another solid rival in Long Beach Poly junior Xai Ricks. In the relays, Stanley was the leadoff in both, setting the tone for a 40.39 first-place finish in the 4x1, and a 3:15.14 in the 4x400. He was joined by junior Jordan Coleman, senior Jayden Smith and junior Kanye Martin, in both relays. Coleman also finished seventh in the 100 (10.57), adding two critical points to the team's scoring total.

The end result was a State team title to remember, not just for now, but always. Wiley spoke about the joy of winning and the importance of transferring this new experience from those who realized their goal onto the next group at Granada Hills.

"There are eight or nine underclassmen, including two juniors who ran in the relays, who now have this experience and they can bring that level of focus and the intensity as we move forward. Now that they've been here, they'll want the same for their teammates for seasons to come," he said.

Winning a State title, whether it is your first, fourth or any other number, means everything -- every year.

Team Scores/Team Breakdowns via Record Timing

Ryan Blystone is a freelance writer and an Associate Editor for MileSplitCA

Photos by Raymond Tran