The best high school track and field athletes in California recently competed for top honors at the CIF State Track and Field Championship, with top honors being a blue ribbon performance in any event, being crowned California’s best. Only one can have that honor per event, but earning a medal and being considered one of the best in the state is nothing to thumb your nose at.
For some of the competitors it was their final performance as a high school athlete, but win, lose or draw, there is no better stage to end a high school career. “It would have been great to win, but I did my best and satisfied with the result. Making it to state and just being here is a blessing. I’ll keep working hard and hopefully I will earn a trip to state next and approve,” said April Sutton of Eastvale Roosevelt, who took third in the girls’ 800 meters.
Sutton is one of a freshmen trio who turned heads at the state finals, and is sure to make a bigger impact in the years to come. Even though they didn’t win the blue ribbon in their event, placing in the top three is a huge accomplishment especially for a freshman.
With the freshmen trio putting on a strong performance, as well as a number of other underclassmen from the Inland Empire, the future of prep track and field being represented at the state appears to be very bright.
One athlete in particular sure to shine even brighter in the years to come is junior standout Jordie Munford from Rancho Cucamonga High School. Going into the finals Munford posted the fastest time in the state in girls’ 300 meter hurdles. During the state finals she posted the second fastest time in the nation this year, being clocked at 40.96. However, that second fastest time she posted in the nation was also the second fastest time of the night. Munford’s amazing performance in the 300 meter hurdles was overshadowed by another truly amazing performance by Daje Pugh of Fairfield High. Pugh posted the nation’s fastest time in the event with a blazing time of 40.57, which is the eighth fastest time in the history of CIF. Munford had another amazing performance on the day of champions, but that too was only good enough for a second-place finish.
In the girls’ 100 meters Munford was once again considered a strong contender for the gold, if not the favorite. With a good start it looked like she might get her first victory at the state championship, but by the end of the race Munford would have to settle for a second. With a personal best time of 13.58 Munford claimed the fourth fastest time posted at the CIF state finals.
Munford has been in the top five in the state in her events since her freshman year, and each year she continues to improve. Next year, Munford will be a senior with three years of state championship experience under her belt. There are no sure things in sports, but smart money would go on Munford to win it all next year.
Luis Gutierrez, a teammate of Munford’s, had victory in sight until the final kick of the 1,600 meters. Gutierrez went in as the favorite after posting the state’s fastest time in the event during the Masters Meet. He ran a 4:08.68 during the qualifying rounds, which put a target on his back. In addition to winning the state title in the event Gutierrez has also hoped to run under a four-minute mile. He came up a little short on both accounts.
Gutierrez looked good early on, staying at the head of the pack. However, with a little of 200 meters left to go in the race Darren Fahy of La Costa High kicked it into high gear and Gutierrez couldn’t respond, having to settle for second. Fahy’s winning time of 4:08.78 was slightly slower than Gutierrez’ qualifying time, but it was fast enough when it mattered. Gutierrez claimed second place with a time of 4:10.94. Last year he took home the third place medal.
Some athletes who were expected to finish strong in the state finals did end up with surprisingly lower finishes, but again, making it to state in an accomplishment. Nevertheless, Kyree King of Ontario’s Colony High, who posted the best times in the state in the boys’ 100 meters and 200 meters at CIF SS finals only qualified for the state finals in the 200 meters. With a time of 21.41 King, who was a strong favorite, finished fourth in the event. His teammate Miles Poullard was also expected to win gold at the state meet, but with a jump of 6 feet 6 inches, well below his best, Poullard finished seventh.
Xochitl Navarrete, also of Colony High, fared a little better than her teammates King and Poullard by doubling at the state finals, and medaling in both events. Navarrete was seeded No. 3 in the girls’ 1,600 meters, and with a time of 4:48.73 she finished in third where she predicted to finish. However, in the 3,200 meters Navarrete surprised herself and the rest of the field. The 3,200 is her weakest of the two events, but she was able to dig deep in the final stretch of the race and made a move that earned her a second place finish with a time of 10:25.85, a personal best for her
Fontana Summit High School will have a little more hardware to brag about this year with the performance of senior hurdler Donte Deayon and teammate Destiny Parker. Deayon was able to claim third place with a 37.69 performance in the 300 meter hurdles. Deayon will be attending Boise State next year on a football scholarship. Parker placed ninth in the shot put with a distance of 40 feet 3 1/2 inches.
Walter Jones represented the city of Redlands, Redlands High and the Citrus Belt League well by doubling in the long jump and the triple jump. With a leap of 23 feet 9-1/2 inches Jones finished third in the long jump, and his jump of 46 feet 11-1/2 inches was good enough for seventh in the triple jump.
Although Jones was pleased with his performance, he was especially proud of his younger sister, Margaux Jones, who took home a third-place finish in the long jump as a freshman.
The younger Jones was excited to be at the state championship as a freshman; earning a medal was just icing on the cake. Jones jumped a personal best of 19 feet 10-1/2 inches.
Other freshmen who had a night to remember are Jasmyne Graham of Vista Murrieta, who anchored her 4x100 meter relay team to a fifth place finish with a time 47.27. She came back later in the day to post a 13.98 in the 100 meter hurdles good enough for a fifth place finish. Sutton, as mentioned earlier, anchored her 1,600 meter relay team to a strong finish after she competed in the 800 meters.
The Golden West Invitationals might be the next stop for many of the state qualifiers, while others may just work out over the summer and compete in TAC meets to stay sharp. The seniors are already gearing for their freshman year at the NCAA level.
There may not have been any gold medals or blue ribbons that made it back to the Inland Empire, but with the number of medal-placing performances by the freshmen and so many other underclassmen, the Inland Empire will be in the hunt for years to come