California Preps Shine On Day 1 Of The Arcadia Invitational

* The Rancho Cucamonga boys won the 4x200 on Saturday at the Arcadia Invitational

Photo Credit: Austin Pestka/MileSplit

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ARCADIA - The first day of the Arcadia Invitational on Friday showcased why it is one of the premier national high school track and field meets with athletes and teams from New Jersey, Utah, Oregon, Georgia and D.C. among those securing top performances in individual, seeded and rated races.

But California-based schools and athletes did their share, too, despite chilly, windy and light rain at Salter Stadium.

The San Clemente boys 4x800 meter relay team, the defending CIF State champions in the event, were without one of their four members, but they were still able to rally and win the invitational race on the heels of senior Brett Ephraim's furious finish. The Tritons, who ran Taj Clark, Jackson Brownell and fill-in sophomore Dallin Harrington alongside Ephraim's anchor leg, won in a U.S. No. 10 time of 7:50.22, edging JSerra Catholic by just six-hundredths of a second.

"It was just tough to get out and navigate through that very tough pack and work our way to the front," said Clark, the team's leadoff runner.

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Ephraim made his move in the anchor leg with 400m splits of 54.17 and 57.28, narrowly clipping past JSerra anchor runner sophomore Alden Morales, who had slightly better splits of 54.08 and 57.29 than Ephraim and owns the nation's No. 1 800m time. 

"As for the 4x8s go, I'm a little more used to getting the (baton) handoff a little closer at the front of the race, but with the competition like this and a race like this, it's always going to be different than what you expect," Ephraim said.

"But I knew that wherever I was, running an 800 is running an 800 whether I'm running in lane one or two, you just have to stay out of trouble.

"I felt pretty comfortable after the first lap and I knew the backside was going to be pretty important on the second lap, especially with the backwind there. Finishing was hard, but the adrenaline pulls you through with the competition by your side."

Long Beach Poly's 800 meter sprint medley relay team had its 400m anchor runner, Xai Ricks, back healthy and in the lineup for his first action in a month. Ricks ran in an individual 400m at Nike Indoor Nationals in early March and pulled up with the hamstring injury.

On Friday, the University of Georgia commit looked fully recovered and his usual explosive self after sophomore Jaylen McNeil and freshmen Benjamin Harris and Julius Johnson put him in position to run away from the competition. Poly won in 1:30.99.

"Going into this race we were kind of nervous because it was our veteran's (Ricks') first time back on the track," McNeil said. "We wanted to come out and try to make a statement and show we're here to stay. We're Poly and we're still fast."

Poly last ran the 4x200 relay at the Texas Relays last weekend, but didn't get past the prelims without Ricks. On Friday, Ricks finished what his teammates started.

"My teammates did the work for me, they got me out in front with a comfortable lead," he said. "It was easy to maintain and hold it. I'm glad we were able to get the win. I'm glad I was able to recover fast (from injury) and get back to this season. We just want to get stronger."

The Oaks Christian girls, meanwhile, took on the sprint medley and featured the senior sister combo of Niya Clayton and Imani Clayton, junior Kyra Terry and sophomore Rayah Rodriguez combined to win their invitational race in 1:45.66.

While the girls invitational 4x800 relay race was won by Union Catholic in a U.S. No. 2 time of 8:53.48, the second- and third-place teams, JSerra Catholic (9:05.12) and Ventura (9:10.42), were anchored by standout California runners -- seniors Georgia Jeanneret and junior Sadie Engelhardt, specifically.

Union Catholic's early lead gave freshman Paige Sheppard more than enough time to close out a fine race, but Jeanneret and Engelhardt's performances made people take notice.

Engelhardt, in particular, made up some ground quickly with a 1:02.23 first lap and 1:04.27 second lap.

Engelhardt, who has the nation's top 800m time this season and numerous state and national accolades in the mile and 1,600m to her credit, runs the 4x800 and acknowledged that being in the event dynamics of a team is a learning process for her and her teammates.

"Me and Melanie (True) have been on a four-by-eight team at state for last year's race," she said, "but I definitely think this is a learning experience for us. I think we're very happy with our race and finishing third, especially with all of the competition."

Englehardt -- who ran with teammates Aleo Curtis, Tiffany Sax and True -- said the group is likely to run one or maybe two more 4x800s to qualify for the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet and, if successful, at the CIF state championships. 

The Rancho Cucamonga boys 4x200 relay team of Jonah Dawson, Rodney Sermons, Jeremiah Brown and Cameron Sermons earned its win in 1:27.48, edging North Carolina's Parkland, which ran in 1:27.79.

Long Beach Wilson's relay teams had quite a run, too, winning three straight invitational level races.

The Bruins swept the girls and boys invitational 1,600m sprint medley relay races back-to-back. Tarynn Maroney, Loren Webster, Brooke Blue and Juanita Shotwell won the girls race in 4:01.90, defeating runner-up St. John's College High School (4:02.48). The Wilson boys won their race in 3:27.72, finishing nearly six seconds ahead of runner-up Mount Miguel (3:33.33).

Wilson's 400m shuttle hurdle relay team completed a three-invitational races winning streak with its 1:00.49 performance.

The Arcadia Invitational boasted that its 2024 event had a record 793 high schools registered, a record 692 schools had athletes qualify in and that a record 362 out-of-state schools were scheduled to run across two days. 

Some of those out-of-state winners Friday included New Jersey's Union Catholic in the girls 4x200 invitational relay in 1:37.75 and the aforementioned girls 4x800 relay; Arizona's Brophy College Prep took the boys 440m shuttle hurdle relay invitational title in 1:01.76; William Steadman, a senior from Herriman of Utah, captured the third section of the open division in the 3,200 in 8:59.01; Claire Guiberson of Colorado's Mountain Vista won the seeded girls 3,200 race in 10:27.22; and the girls and boys 4x1600 relay races were each won in new nation-leading times by Utah teams, Lone Peak on the girls side in 20:01.50 and American Fork on the boys side in 16:47.66.

Friday's action also saw the start of the women's heptathlon and men's decathlon.

  • Meagan Humphries, a senior at Castaic High School and University of Texas commit, currently leads the women's heptathlon with 3,243 points after winning all four events on Friday. Humphries won the 100mH in a wind-aided time of 14.16 seconds (+3.0). She won the high jump with a top mark of 5 feet, 6 inches. She made her first attempt while Valerie Jirak, who also cleared 5-6, did so on her second try. Both Humphries and Jirak attempted 5-8. Humphries won the shot put with a top throw of 31-0. Adrienne Russell was second at 29-9.25. Humphries completed a sweep by winning the 200-meter dash in a wind-aided 24.18 (+3.4). The seven-woman field will compete in the long jump and javelin on Saturday morning.
  • Brevin Egbert, a senior at Utah's Sky View High, leads the men's decathlon with 3,374 points after five events. He won the 100m dash in a wind-aided 11.38 (+2.5) seconds and triumphed in the long jump at 21-1.25. Egbert finished fourth in the shot put (38-11), and was third in both the high jump (5-10) and 400m (52.43). Braylon Noble, who has 3283 points and is in second place, won the high jump (6-2) and the 400m (51.82). Hudson Shaver, currently fourth with 3148 points, won the shot put (44-4.50). Four events take place Saturday for the six-man decathlon field - 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault and javelin.

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