San Diego Section Track and Field Season in Review

Del Norte senior Hannah Riggins ran a blistering third leg on the CIF-State Meet's first girls 4x800-meter relay champion and set a San Diego Section record with her third-place finish in the 1600m at the State Meet. 

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The CIF-State Meet expanded the number of athletes to receive medals from six to nine for the 2023 championships and the San Diego Section brought home a healthy collection.

SDS boys won 11 medals, including one runner-up, a third, two fourths, and four fifths. The girls brought home two State Meet titles, one second, seven thirds, and three fourths among them. 

Here's an overview review of the San Diego Section track and field season with athletes of the year selected below. 


Helix Charter's Adren Parker pretty much summed up the San Diego Section's season.

Parker dominated, twice setting the section record in the 400-meter dash, first by running a 46.63 at the Mt. SAC relays to better last year's state prelims 46.82 and cruising to a 46.48 in the section championships.

Just when it seemed he'd make it a three-man race in the State finals, challenging Granada Hills Charter's Dijon Stanley and Long Beach Poly's Xai Ricks, he felt a twinge in his leg warming up for the 4x100 relay and when he ran, he found he could not accelerate without risking further injury.

Lots of potential but also frustration -- and a season without a single boys gold medal at the State Meet.

Torrey Pines' Ryan Thomas came the closest as he broke out of a box in the final 150 meters of the 1,600-meter finals to come within 0.18-a blink-of catching Santa Barbara junior Andreas Dybdahl 4:08.64 to 4:08.82.

For sheer depth, the section produced the 4th, 5th and 6th place finishers in the State pole vault in La Costa Canyon junior Jacob Emerson (best of 16-feet), University City soph Kai Anderson (15-9) and Torrey Pines junior Joey Weisman (15-8), all who cleared 15-6 in Clovis.



 Four section records and two State titles -- a very good year for girls in the San Diego Section.

Every section record from the 800 through the 3200 fell with Del Norte senior Hannah Riggins grabbing the 800 mark with a 2:06.69 at Arcadia and the 1600 when she placed third in the State at 4:41.42.

Riggins also ran a 2:07.5 on the third leg of the Nighthawks' State Meet champion 4x800 relay team -- making history as the first-ever State champion in that race. She was joined by sophomore Emily Russo, junior Ella Echsner and her sister, sophomore Paige Echsner.

La Costa Canyon junior Gioana Lopizzo became the first San Diego girl to eclipse the 10-minute mark in the 3200m when she went 9:59.08 at Arcadia before placing third at State in 10:08.32.

They were all pushed by two super freshmen, Eastlake's Jaelyn Williams (4th in the state 3200 at 10:11.01) and La Jolla's Chiara Dailey (4:42.69 in the 1600 at the section finals).

Pole vaulter Iliana Downing of La Costa Canyon grabbed the second State Meet gold medal when she soared 13-5 after clearing 14-feet in the league championships.

There was plenty of youthful depth too as San Diego High's Anisa Bowen-Fontenot was second at State in the 300-meter hurdles at 41.88 and fourth in the 100 hurdles at 13.89, Poway junior Tessa Buswell was third in the 800 at 2:08.53 and La Jolla junior Payton Smith collected thirds in the 200 (23.78) and 400 (53.86).      




San Diego Section Athletes of the Year


Adren Parker

Helix Charter, Sr., 200-400

In addition to setting the section 400-meter dash record at 46.48, Parker clocked a section-best 21.26 in the 200.



Tyler Knowles

Rancho Buena Vista, Sr., Shot put-Discus throw

Fifth-place finisher at State in the shot hit 59-9 in the prelims as well as going 185-5 in the discus at the Avocado League finals.



Hannah Riggins

Del Norte, Sr., 800-1600

After breaking the section record with a 2:06.69 at Arcadia, she came back with a 4:41.42 to place third in the state 1,600 and ran the key leg on the state champion 4x800 relay.

Payton Smith

La Jolla, Jr., 200-400 

A pair of third place finishes at state in the 200 with PRs of 23.78 and 53.86 sets her up nicely for 2024.



Iliana Downing

La Costa Canyon, Jr., Pole vault

Downing posted the best jump of the season (14-feet at the Avocado League finals) and captured the state title at 13-5 without a miss until 14-3.

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Photos by Raymond Tran

Steve Brand is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to MileSplitCA