San Clemente Holds Off Cathedral, Repeats As 4x800 Champs

CLOVIS -- Last year at this time, there was something new to see at the CIF State Track and Field Championships.

The 4x800 meter relay.

The result was a smashing success for two teams who received the honor of being inaugural state champions in a new event. Del Norte from the San Diego Section won the first girls 4x800 state title in a time of 8:55.09 and was the lone girls team to finish under nine minutes. 

Next was the San Clemente boys, who authored a winning time of 7:38.59.

Both times established something for future 4x800 relays to aspire to since it was now branded as an official event in California's biggest annual meet.

Mission accomplished?

Yes, but in the case of San Clemente's team of Taj Clark, Jackson Brownell, Pierce Clark and Brett Ephraim, the 2023 race win was more of a fantastic launching point. The group was comprised solely of juniors.

That meant they could strive for another first -- a repeat.

Saturday night at Veteran's Memorial Stadium, history did repeat itself.

The same four San Clemente runners, best friends, all members of the Class of 2024, forever bonded as two-time defending champions. And as a bonus, they even lowered their own state meet record time, finishing in 7:38.07.

"It's a huge honor to come back here and defend the title," said Taj Clark, who led-off. "It's one thing to go out and win a state title, but it's even bigger to go to cross country, win, and come back here and know that you're still at the top of your game."

Last year's run to the state title brought this squad closer than ever.

* Brett Ephraim brought San Clemente home with the anchor on the team's winning 4x800 

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

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As Clark mentioned, last spring's track success carried over to San Clemente winning the CIF State Division I cross-country championship with 48 points.

When track season returned in 2024, some injuries among the group initially slowed the 4x800 defending champions, but they said they were up for the challenge .

"We didn't want to let each other down," Ephraim said.

San Clemente's original four eagerly sought to defend its 2023 CIF Masters Meet 4x800 relay win in 7:45.93 at last week's qualifier. It was the stepping stone for the state meet race.

Cathedral of Los Angeles, however, stepped in front of San Clemente's path and won in 7:42.19. The Tritons were runners-up at 7:43.92.

Wearing the No. 2 sticker on their uniforms on Saturday, San Clemente was reminded of its Masters meet finish. Still, its only focus was to return to No. 1 state status.

"Absolutely, going into the race and knowing we weren't No. 1 put a fire out there for us," Taj Clark said. "All of us wanted to prove it wrong. We knew we had to go out and prove it."

And they've now got the proof. It's all about how you finish.

"Everyone here deserves to be here, but like our coach told us, 'Whoever has the most will is the one who'll win the race," said Ephraim.

After the race, with beaming smiles on their faces, each member of the Tritons' two-time state meet 4x800 relay team kept their No. 2 sticker. Perhaps it'll live right next to the first-place medal each runner sported during multiple post-race interviews.

Mission definitely accomplished.



The boys high jump title, as expected, came down to two extremely successful performers in Birmingham Community Charter senior Deshawn Banks and Notre Dame Sherman Oaks sophomore Joshua Harel.

Both came in with the capability of going 7 feet and Harel actually did it in the Southern Section Division 3 finals on May 11. Banks' PR was 6-11.

Saturday's final result? Banks won with a top mark of 7-0.50, eclipsing Harel atop the state's best mark of the season and securing a personal best and a state championship.

Banks made his jumps of 6-10, 6-11 and 7-0.50 on his first attempts. He did try to clear 7-1.75 twice and passed in favor of going 7-2 as a final attempt.

Harel was the runner-up, going 6-10 on his third and final attempt. He did move on to 6-11, but was unsuccessful in his three jumps.



The state meet's opening track event, the 4x100 relay, produced some electricity. In the girls 4x100, Oaks Christian won the race in 45.67 with a great burst of speed from its anchor runner, senior Niya Clayton, to pull away.

Clayton, the 2023 state champion in the 100 meters but who finished sixth in Saturday's 100 meter dash while trying to defend her title, enjoyed having another state title-winning experience.

That race was followed by another speedy affair in the boys 4x100. Emerging from a very close pack at the finish line was North Coast Section's Pittsburg in 40.77. They edged out Long Beach Poly (40.80), St. Mary's (40.85) and fourth-place Notre Dame (40.97).