Valley stars such as Frontier's Kassidy Ellis (left) and Bakersfield's Syrea Hicks are in search of state meet berths this weekend. (Photo by Kirby Lee, Image of Sport)
(click on each event name for deeper lists)
(--) These Bears sure can run!
Buchanan High's boys arsenal is projected score in all but one of the 10 track events as it aims to steamroll to the team championship at the Central Section's "Valley Championships" meet at Buchanan High in Clovis this Saturday. Stockdale, Buchanan's nemesis in the distances this year, has the inside position for the runner-up plaque.
Buchanan's Bears are pegged to make it a sweep of the team titles, although the challenge facing the girls squad appears considerably tougher. Buchanan is a 13-point pre-meet favorite over second-ranked Clovis East, with Clovis area schools expected to sweep the top four spots in the final team standings. Buchanan has a greater collection of seasonal marks than its counterparts, but some of those athletes didn't appear as sharp at the recent North Area Championships meet.
The Valley Championships will also serve as the Central Section's qualifier into the state meet, set for the first weekend in June, also at Buchanan High. The top three finishers in each event will advance to the state meet, as well as any athlete that meet's the state meet at-large standard in their respective event.
Buchanan's margin for error should be considerable on the boys side thanks to its prowess on the track, although more injuries such as that which afflicted top dasher Tyler Wonnell could change all that. Wonnell pulled up in the 100-meter dash at the North Area meet. Although Bears coach Brian Weaver indicated Wonnell is able to compete, he'll rest out instead in anticipation of the state meet. Wonnell also was the anchor on Buchanan's 4x100 relay, which is still expected to advance.
Leading Buchanan's title bid will be distance runners Cody Brazeal and C.J. Albertson. Brazeal could score big points in both the 1600 and 3200 after a very encouraging junior season, although Stockdale's prized tenth-grader Blake Haney (pictured at left, Kirby Lee photo) is favored in both events. Haney is the premier sophomore in the nation at both 1600 and 3200 meters and was recently accepted to be among 10 males to participate in the prestigious Nike Elite Camp for distance runners in late June.
Albertson, whose performance has suffered suffered somewhat this spring after a reduced daily caloric intake reportedly led to loss of muscle mass, is a highly experienced performer who could score crucial points for the Bears as well.
High jumper/hurdler Evan Eggenberg is another key scorer for Stockdale. Eggenberg moved into the Valley lead with his wind-aided 14.50 clocking in the high hurdles at the South Area Championships and is also amobng the state's leading high jumpers.
Buchanan is expected to score in every track event but the 200, where Wonnell figured to score before the injury. The meet hosts also figure to score in the high jump and the triple jump.
One of the other events of special note on the boys side is the pole vault, where Clovis East will attempt to qualify three vaulters into the state meet. The Timberwolves are the only program in the state to boast three 15-footers in the event. Senior Jacob Ruiz and junior teammate Louie Pancotti have each scaled 15-01.00 this season while junior Brad Beekman has cleared 15-00.00.
Clovis West's Kyser Anderson is the section leader at 16-00.50 and his title quest became considerably easier when top rival Scott Greenman of Clovis no-heighted at his Area meet and failed to advance. Greenman was a returning state medalist after placing fourth at the year-end meet last year. (Note: The state meet at-large standard for this event is 15-03.00. You can bet that meet management will set the bar progressions at the Valley meet with this detail in mind.)
Besides the pole vault, another event which could be a boon for local fortunes is the high jump. Seven athletes set to compete have already bettered the state at-large standard of 6-05.00 this season. Anyone who does it again this Saturday would advance as an at-large if he does not finish in the top three to advance automatically. In the triple jump, five Valley athletes have already bettered the at-large standard of 46-06.00; four have met the at-large standard in the discus.
Junior Hagen Reedy is the section's most talented track athlete and she is favored in both the 1600 and the 3200, although Bullard's Ali Teliha should provide top competition in the former. Unlike the boys program, the Buchanan girls pack more punch in the field events, where they project to score in 5 of the 6 contests and could score more than 40 percent of its points in the five events alone. Senior Nicole Falkenstein has the field's top mark in the pole vault and is also among the leading long jumpers.
Clovis East showcases two of the Valley's top field event performers in section leaders Maciah Murray (5-08.00 in the high jump) and Ashley Black (18-03.00 wind legal in the long jump) while Clovis West counters with Nikki Okwelogu, the area shot put leader, in the weight events.
Redwood's Lissette Mendivil, the state leader in the discus, is the clear favorite there. Mendivil has the distinction of being the only state leader in the Valley an event being contested at the state meet. Liberty's Kaulyn Lee-McNeill (pictured at right, Kirby Lee photo), who is favored in the longer hurdles race, is among the state's fastest-improving athletes in the event in recent weeks.
The Veterans Stadium facility has undergone an overhaul in recent weeks, with Buchanan's Mondo-surfaced track being torn out and replaced with a brand new layer of the same acclaimed surface. As we first reported in the wintertime, troublesome wear patterns on the track pattern created for the need to resurface, with the track being torn out early last month, immediately after hosting the West Coast Relays. The renovation project was completed in recent days and the track is said to be good to go, just in time for the Valley Championships and the state meet.
The CIF-State office last spring reached an agreement with the Clovis Unified School District on a three-year extension to host the meet at Buchanan, with that contract expiring after the 2014 meet. With the meet's success at the venue in the prior three years and the desirable terms that the CUSD has procured for the state office, all indications are that the meet will remain at Buchanan beyond 2014.
Stockdale senior Evan Eggenberg's hurdling/high jumping versatility is a key reason why
the Mustangs have a chance at making the podium as a team in 2012.
BOYS TOP 10 TEAMS
1) Buchanan (82 points)
2) Stockdale (58 points)
3) Edison (45 points)
4) Central (44 points)
5) Clovis West (36 points)
6) Mt. Whitney (34 points)
7) Clovis East (25 points)
8) Bakersfield (20 points)
9) Centennial (19 points)
10) Hanford (18 points)
GIRLS TOP 10 TEAMS
1) Buchanan (72 points)
2) Clovis East (59 points)
3) Clovis West (52 points)
4) Clovis North (50 points)
5) Edison (49 points)
6) Centennial (33 points)
7) Independence (32 points)
8) Liberty (31 points)
9) El Diamante (28 points)
10) Bakersfield & Golden Valley (27 points)
*** DyeStatCal's Central Section Finals Predictions Contest ***
THE CHALLENGE: Predict which team will come closest to scoring the exact number of
points we project in their rankings above. You must specify the school by name and
the gender (boys or girls). In case of a tie, the entry that was received the
earliest among the tied entries will be declared the winner.
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THE DETAILS: Send an email to DyeStatCal/ESPNHS Editor Rich Gonzalez at
email@example.com with "Central Section Predictions" in the email
subject line. In the email, include the school name and the team gender of the team
you think will come closest to the point total we have predicted for them in our
pre-meet rankings. For example: put "Clovis West" girls if that is the squad you
think will come closest to our point total prediction. There is a maximum of
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Saturday, May 19th. We are not responsible for lost or misdirected email.
Winner will be notified by email by Sunday night, May 20th.