Southern Section looks to dominate girls' state track finals

The CIF-State girls’ track and field track championships are set for Friday and Saturday at Clovis Buchanan High School, and the Southern Section appears in good position to sweep a majority of the events. Long Beach Poly is the clear-cut favorite in the team race, possibly taking aim at its state-meet record of 80 points compiled in 2004. Here’s a breakdown of the 16 girls’ events.


Barring any dropped batons or lane violations, Long Beach Poly should run away with this meet-opening event and take an early points lead in the team race. Carisma Lyday, Melia Cox, Traci Hicks and Akawkaw Ndipagbor circled the track in a national-leading 45.04 seconds at the Masters Meet on Friday night. The Jackrabbits also have a good shot at breaking the 14-year-old meet record of 44.70. Moreno Valley Rancho Verde is the defending champion in the event and No. 3 qualifier behind Poly and Eastvale Roosevelt.

1,600 METERS

Katherine Delaney of San Juan Capistrano JSerra comes in as the state’s top qualifier after winning in 4:42.95 at the Masters. Delaney, a Cal-bound senior who was sidelined during the postseason a year ago due to illness, figures to be pushed by last season’s state runner-up, Alli Billmeyer of San Diego Torrey Pines, and North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake senior Cami Chapus.


Long Beach Poly figures to add to its team lead with Cox bringing a nation-leading 13.34 qualifying time into the event. She won’t have the race all to herself, however. Trinity Wilson of Berkeley St. Mary’s took first in 13.38 at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions last weekend. Wilson finished runner-up last season in a wind-aided 13.35, while Cox was fifth in 13.91.


Not to be outdone by her teammate, Ndipagbor also produced a nation-leading mark at the Masters, crossing the line in this event in 53.51. Her closest competition figures to come from the Southern Section, as Vanessa Jones of Etiwanda (53.83), Gabrielle Scott of Irvine Woodbridge (53.98) and Azia Walker of Long Beach Poly (54.48) are the next fastest qualifiers and all were on the starting line a year ago.


One of only two running events that does not feature a Southern Section athlete as the top qualifier, this race will likely come down to how well Jenna Prandini of Clovis gets out of the block. Prandini was the top competitor at last season’s state meet, winning the long jump and triple jump and finishing second in the 100. Kylie Price of La Puente Bishop Amat is the third-fastest qualifier.


Amy Weissenbach of Harvard-Westlake shows no signs of giving up her reign as state champion in the 800. She returns as the top qualifier after winning her Masters race in 2:06.18, the second-fastest outdoor time in the nation this season. As a sophomore, she won her state title in the two-lap race in 2:07.52. Last season’s runner up, Savannah Camacho of Templeton, is the No. 2 qualifier at 2:07.65, followed by Long Beach Poly teammates Dynasty Gammage (2:09.38) and Arielle Stevenson (2:10.08).


Cox will try to make it a clean sweep in the hurdles and likely cement the team title for the Jackrabbits. She owns a state-leading time of 40.94 in the 300 hurdles and cruised to victory in a top-qualifying time of 41.32 at last weekend’s Masters. Jordie Munford of Rancho Cucamonga might be the only runner capable of staying with Cox through the turn.


Prandini, who chose to sign with Oregon over USC last fall, comes in as the top qualifier in this event as well, running 23.66 at the Central Section Masters Meet. Prandini will have her hands full against Ndipagbor, who won the event in 23.62 at the Division 1 section finals. Another victory and Prandini will add to her legacy as Central Section’s all-time most decorated girls’ track and field athlete.

3,200 METERS

Simi Valley freshman Sarah Baxter might be one of the best stories coming out of this meet. She won the Division 1 state cross-country title in November and comes into this meet as the No. 1 qualifier (10:24.35). She figures to take aim at the freshman state record of 10:07.56, set by Jordan Hasay of San Luis Obispo Mission Prep in 2006. Billmeyer and Chapus also figure to be near the front on the final lap.

1,600 RELAY

Long Beach Poly will look to put a bow on the team title and possibly break the state meet points record in this meet-ending event. The Jackrabbits have the second-fastest time in the nation in the event (3:41.75) and one of the top anchors in Ndipagbor. The top seven qualifiers are from the Southern Section.


This figures to be one of the more wide open events. None of the four girls who cleared 5-8 this season qualified for the state meet, leaving Rachel McCoy of Fontana Miller, Joslyn Barnes of North Torrance and Danielle Bryan of Oceanside El Camino as the only competitors who have cleared 5-7, all in the last week.


Katie Zingheim of Granite Bay is at the head of the class in this event. She cleared 13-4 back in March at the Sacramento Classic, four inches better than the next best mark in the state this season. McKenzie Johnson of San Diego Clairemont is the only other 13-footer in the event.


Even though she's the defending state champion in this event, Prandini hasn’t come close to last season’s winning wind-aided mark of 20-5 ¾. Price of Bishop Amat, the runner up to Prandini last year, comes in as the top qualifier at 19-7 ½. Kira Moreland of Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos, the only athlete in the state to surpass 20 feet this season, failed to qualify at Masters.


Prandini won’t be defending her title in the triple jump, instead opting to add the 200 to her schedule. That leaves last year's runner-up, No. 1 qualifier Ciarra Brewer of Union City James Logan, as the leaper to beat. Brewer flew a wind-aided 43-3 ¼ at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions, and is focusing all her energy on this one event. Cox comes in as the No. 4 qualifier.


Though just a sophomore, Tanya Sapa of Riverside La Sierra tops the competitors in the shot put. Her mark of 46-6 ¾ at the Southern Section Division 1 prelims is the best in the state this season, and she enters the state meet as the No. 1 qualifier at 44-7 ¼. Alex Morgan of Ventura is the only returning state qualifier.


Alex Collatz of Bakersfield Stockdale is the defending state champion and No. 1 qualifier in this event. She was a finalist in the shot put last season as well, but is only competing in one event this year. Morgan, on the other hand, will be trying to reach the final round in both events for the second straight year.