RICH'S "FAB 15" STORYLINES FOR THE STATE FINALS
By Rich Gonzalez
(CLOVIS, Calif.) -- Most state meets feature few storylines and a limited number of headliner athletes.
Then there's the California state meet, considered the premier prep track and field showcase state meet in America.
So rather than try to limit the number of key athletes/events taking place during Saturday's finals, we present to you 15 leading storylines for the meet.
#15: The Greatest For the Greatest?-- Newport Harbor throws coach Tony Ciarelli has produced a phalanx of top-end throwers over the years, including athletes who have qualified for 23 different state meets. In Friday's prelims, Sailors senior Ethan Cochran became the best prep thrower ever mentored by Ciarelli with his 64-06.50 toss. Today, Cochran aims to become the best discus thrower. He owns a lifetime-best 209-08 in winning at Arcadia this year, but Ciarelli coached Scott Moser, the all-time California record holder at 213-11.
#14: Sophomore Spiderman -- Serra sophomore leaper Adoree' Jackson was the top qualifier in the long jump with his mark of 24-02.00, despite being hampered by side discomfort in the area beneath his ribs. Serra needs big points from him to win the team title.
#13: 20/20 Vision -- Look for a good battle in the girls long jump, where 20 footers Jasmine Gibbs of El Camino (20-11.00 wind-aided in league finals action) Ashlie Curenton of Silverado (20-04.00 in postseason) will be lurking. Gibbs needs big points to spark her team's march to the title.
#12: The Lowdown in the Lows -- A great clash is in store in the 300-meter loy hurdles, where state leader Jordie Munford of Rancho Cucamonga (41.37) takes on newly minted Sac-Joaquin Section record holder Daje Pugh (41.73 at prelims).
#11: Duel In The Deuce -- Maybe the best sprint race of the weekend comes in the deuce, where the likes of Long Beach Poly's Arianna Washington, Serra's Alexis Faulknor. St. Mary's Academy's Sierra Peterson and others are primed. This should be amobng the best half-lap clashes in California history.
#10: Taking Down An Olympian -- El Camino's Jasmine Gibbs burned up the straightaway at Friday's prelims for a state-leading 11.43, whichtook down Olympian Gail Devers' San Diego Section record. We'll see if she can go even faster in the finals, where a loaded field awaits.
#9: Can Khalfani KO Serra? -- Looking for the knockout punch, Notre Dame dasher Khalfani Muhammad will aim to sweep the 100, 200 and pace the Knights to the 4x00 title. It's time to shine!
#8: What To Do For An Encore -- At last year's state record, Harvard-Westlake's Amy Weissenbach caught an entire stadium off guard with a blistering opening lap en route to a 2:02.04 National Federation record in the girls 800. She's back and everyone will be waiting to see what she has in store this time around.
#7: An All-Timer Already -- Holy Names junior Sasha Wallace moved up to #9 all-time on the California lists with her sizzling 13.40 in the high hurdles in Friday's prelims. She'll look to improve, but there is much talent in the race to enjoy as well.
#6: Vault Full of Riches -- As usual, the Golden State is loaded in the girls pole vault. Freshman nation record holder Kaitlyn Merritt of Santa Margarita (13-03.00) leads four 13 footers ranked among the top 17 in the state.
#5: Doin' The Deuce -- Khalfani Muhammad is the state leader at both 100 and 200, but Palo Alto junior E.J. Floreal is a spectacular budding talent looking to blossom on the state's biggest state. He might be too tough over 200.
#4: Double Trouble? -- La Costa Canyon's Darren Fahy and Stockdale's Blake Haney are two premier national-class distance runners trying to pull off an incredible triple (1600 qualifying, 1600 finals, 3200 finals) in a 28-hour time span. Given California' depth in the distances, the fresher multi-lappers in the 3200 will be at an advantage against the Dynamic Distance Duo.
#3: Four-Lap Phenoms -- Harvard-Westlake's Cami Chapus is the defending champion at 1600 meters and has a load of other credentials, but Aptos' Nikki Hiltz is fiercely talented and this meet was her coming out party last year. The rematch should be grand.
#2: Winning Without A Challenge? -- Serra of Gardena shound enter the meet's final event chasing after Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks in the team standings only. In the race itself, Serra is entered and ND is not. If the Cavaliers place well, it should earn the team title.
#1: National Champ vs. Hometown Hero -- Simi Valley's Sarah Baxter is the reigning national cross-country champion, but Buchanan's Hagen Reedy was a First-Team All-American teammate (seventh) to Baxter at Nike Cross Nationals. Now Reedy, who has been a diamond under pressure, will have the home crowd support.