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Girls’ Track and Field Preview: New season brings about different goals

Girls’ Track and Field Preview: New season brings about different goals
Crescenta Valley High senior Caitlyn Couch won three Santa Fe League championships as a member of the Bellarmine-Jefferson High program. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Whether it's winning a league title or battling to field a squad, competitiveness is a major driving force for the Crescenta Valley High, Flintridge Prep, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Glendale, Hoover and Holy Family track teams this season.

Crescenta Valley coach Mark Evans feels his squad can compete in the Pacific League a year after watching archrival Arcadia take the crown.

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"We've got some good runners back, especially in the distances," Evans said. "In the sprints, I'm not too sure, but overall I would say we have a lot to look forward to."

Evans is expected to lean on his cross-country one-two punch of seniors Naila Ortiz and Caitlyn Couch in the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter runs.

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Couch won three Santa Fe League championships as a member of the Bellarmine-Jefferson High program in 2017 in the 800 (2 minutes, 21.35 seconds), 1,600 (5:25.09) and 3,200 (12:10.58) runs last year and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Finals in the 800 and 1,600-meter relay.

Couch is expected to be pushed by teammate Sophia Autin in the 1,600 and 3,200.

Evans expects strong efforts from senior Emily Perkins in the pole vault, senior Allison Smith in the shot put and discus, senior Jade Winicki in the sprints and junior Kristina Carrillo in the hurdles.

At Flintridge Prep, the Rebels graduated a true generational talent in Hanna Barakat, who won four Prep League individual titles last season to finish with 10 in her career, while the University of Brown sprinter propelled her squad to second place in league behind Mayfield Senior.

The good news for the Rebels is that they return defending league champions in junior Sasha Codiga (800 meter in 2:25.25) and senior Sophie Gitlin (3,200 in 11:15.57)

"I definitely want to see us be more competitive overall as a team this year," new Flintridge Prep coach Scott Jung said. "While we have a lot of younger talent this season, I believe our sprint squad will be stronger this season."

One athlete Jung will count on is Marissa David, the school's top jumper, who will also be competing in the 100 dash this season.

Jung is also looking for Haley Allen to be a contender in the 3,200.

The good news for Flintridge Sacred Heart is that the Tologs return a few talented athletes from last year. The bad news is that the Tologs still compete in the daunting Mission League.

Last season, the Tologs finished 0-4 in league and produced only one league champion in junior Kelly Carney.

"It's going to be an interesting 2018 season, but much like last year, we're going to have a lot of newcomers and some freshmen who will be competing for us," Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Johnathan Keys said. "We have do have some returners and we're expecting big things from them."

Carney returns as the most decorated athlete on her squad and a two-time Mission League champ after capturing the triple jump last season in a mark of 35 feet, 6 inches, which is a school record.

Carney is also expected to compete in the long jump and will try the sprints and relays this season.

Another competitor to keep an eye on is sophomore Lauren Bolte, who finished sixth in the 100 dash in 60.42 and advanced to the Division IV prelims.

Keys is also high on the prospects of junior Jillian Willis, a member of the 1,600 relay squad and a 300 hurdler last season.

"We're aware of how tough this league is, but honestly I just want the ladies to focus on their own times and distances," Keys said. "If you focus on the person next to you and lose sight of what you're doing, then you're only hurting yourself."

Somewhat under the radar, Glendale High had a pretty good league season in finishing 4-3 last season.

That was, however, until the Nitros failed to advance anyone past the Pacific League individual finals.

"The girls are light on seniors (only three), but we are light on numbers," Glendale coach Bob Bailey said. "They will need to bring their 'A' game to each meet for us to have a competitive season. The girls also got shut out of CIF prelims last year, so going two years in a row is not an option."

Maybe Glendale's most reliable athlete is back in senior Marion Dacosta, a member of the Nitros' league third-place 1,600-meter relay squad (51.66). Dacosta is expected to compete in the 400 and in the jumps.

Bailey is expecting quality seasons from junior sprinter Kendall Gaskin, junior distance runner Vanneza Venzor, junior thrower Faviola Ramirez, sophomore sprinter Michelle Wilcox, senior jumper/vaulter Sofia Boiajian and senior sprinter Maria Tsarukyan.

Newcomers to watch include sophomore distance runner Kaley Tien, sophomore hurdles Samantha Amezquita and Alexia Wilson and junior jumper Dipa Roy.

At Hoover, coach Jack Sallakian has been slowly watching his crew come together.

"Many of our athletes will be coming from soccer," Sallakian said. "I'll have to wait a couple of weeks to get a full roster out."

As of now, Sallakian has some returning talent led by sprinter Olivia Garcia. Cross-country runners Lia Yaghisaei and Gabby Quinones will compete in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs and should be valuable scorers for the team.

Mirroring Hoover, Holy Family will depend most on its cross-country team for guidance in the distances.

Junior Majella Carrera is expected to be the Gaels' top runner in the 1,600 and 3,200 after finishing eighth at the Horizon League cross-country finals at Elysian Park on Nov. 3.

Coach Michael Fane has another strong contributor in distance runner Maya Devora, a junior who has the ability to compete anywhere from the 800 to the 3,200.

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