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Four track and field locals earn tickets to state

TORRANCE — A near perfect day of action at Saturday's CIF Southern Section Masters Meet included qualification to the CIF State Meet from four local athletes at Torrance El Camino College.

St. Francis High's Matthew Molina, Crescenta Valley's Colin FitzGerald and Artin Allahverdian and La Crescenta resident Mia Barnett earned advancement with the theme of redemption playing a strong role.

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An athlete needed to finish in the top six or hit a state at-large mark to qualify to the two-day CIF State Meet at Clovis Buchanan High, beginning Friday.

After a disappointing effort in the high jump at last year's Masters Meet in Arcadia, Molina found atonement in Torrance, but just barely.

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Molina finished with a height of 6 feet, 6 inches to take fifth place and earn advancement to the state meet a week after winning the Division III high jump and 110-meter hurdles.

"I'm really happy about it," Molina said. "I'm really happy I'm advancing and going to state. It should be fun."

The junior no-heighted last season at 6-3 after passing the opening height of 6-1.

This season, Molina missed his first two attempts at 6-2 before hitting the final try.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, I need to get this,'" Molina said. "Actually I was being lazy on my first two jumps and the last time I kind of was, but I slowed up and jumped. I didn't really go fast. I just wanted to power through that one."

He converted his second attempt at 6-4 and clinched his berth to state by nailing his first try at 6-6.

The St. Francis athlete missed three attempts at 6-8, which was just shy of his personal-best mark of 6-8 1/4.

Molina also competed in the 110-meter hurdles and was going to need a super effort to advance.

He fell short of the top six or a state at-large mark of 14.35 seconds by finishing eighth in 14.95.

After a couple of years of frustration at the preliminary level, FitzGerald, a senior, found joy at Saturday's Masters Meet.

The reigning All-Area Boys' Cross-Country Runner of the Year turned in a personal-record best time of 4 minutes, 12.66 seconds to finish fifth in a wild 1,600-meter run and earn advancement to the state meet.

"Oh man, this so sweet," FitzGerald said. "I finally just had that mindset after four years of training to not look back. I've had consistent training and that's given me the confidence this postseason to keep going."

FitzGerald beat his previous personal best of 4:14.46 and watched his friendly rival Jagdeep Chahal of Burroughs win in 4:11.09. FitzGerald's 4:12.66 is No. 2 all-time in school history and trails Don Moses' 4:06.7.

FitzGerald hadn't proceeded past the preliminaries stage prior to this season and enjoyed his day in the sun.

Crescenta Valley's Allahverdian was actually one step behind FitzGerald and hadn't even reached the preliminaries round prior to his senior year.

This season, however, the distance runner is heading north as he finished eighth in the 3,200 with an at-large mark of 9:07.01 to punch his ticket to Clovis.

"This is just a dream come true because I never thought I'd make it," Allahverdian said. "I didn't think about it, honestly. I just put in a lot of work and tried my best."

Like Molina, Barnett qualified to the Masters Meet in two events and is heading to state in one.

The Village Christian freshman finished seventh in the 1,600 in a mark of 4:50.58, which was off her personal-best of 4:46.77, but well ahead of the state at-large mark of 4:56.02. That effort followed Barnett winning the Southern Section Division IV 1,600 and 3,200 last weekend.

"My goal was just to qualify and I wasn't going to try to kill myself," Barnett said. "I wanted to save my speed for next week. I wanted to qualify; I wasn't looking for personal bests or winning."

After realizing she qualified to state in the 1,600, Barnett announced she would skip the 3,200 run to focus exclusively on one race heading to Clovis.

"If I didn't qualify in the 1,600 then I would have done the 3, 200," Barnett said, "but since I did, I just want to focus on one race. It just feels good to qualify to state."

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