CIF Southern Section champions, Masters Meet qualifiers and league titlists return in what could very well be an exciting season for the St. Francis High, Flintridge Prep and La Cañada boys' track and field programs in 2018.
Out of brutal Mission League competition, the Golden Knights produced a gem in junior Matthew Molina.
The relay runner and 110-meter hurdler thrived in the jumps, finishing second at the Mission League finals in the high jump, at 6 feet, 1 inch, and in the triple jump, in 44-4 1/4.
Molina continued his success at the CIF Southern Section Division III Championships at Cerritos College when he finished runner-up in the high jump with a leap of 6-6, which earned him a spot to the Masters Meet.
Though Molina struggled at the Masters Meet, there's a strong belief that last season will guide him for an even bigger run this season.
"As far as the Masters goes, it was a good experience for him," St. Francis coach Mike Russell said. "He didn't really know what to expect being his first time around. I think now with that experience, he'll be in the 7-foot club this year. He had tremendous talent and I think he's going to have a phenomenal year."
Last season, St. Francis finished 3-3 in the Mission League to take fourth place, while the squad did not produce a single varsity league champion.
Outside of Molina, Russell is looking for leadership from senior Taylor Bosveld, who finished fourth in the long jump (21-2 1/2) in league and was a member of the Golden Knights' fifth-place 1,600-meter relay (3 minutes, 29.87 seconds) and 400-meter relay teams (44.11 seconds).
St. Francis also has some strong returning talent in senior jumper and hurdler Grant James and senior thrower Blake Howard.
Like St. Francis, Flintridge Prep has a veteran to lead the way in senior Evan Pattinelli, one of the most decorated runners in his school's history.
Pattinelli has claimed three CIF Southern Section championships in cross-country and track and field, including last year when he won the Division IV 3,200 title at Cerritos College in 9:43.79 and just missed the cut to the Masters Meet.
"We're definitely expecting big things from Evan," Flintridge Prep coach Scott Jung said. "He's the type of runner who is both great at what he does and a leader and role model for the rest of the team."
Much of Flintridge Prep's scoring will come from its acclaimed cross-country team as junior Carson Hasbrouck is expected to compete in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs, while fellow junior Sebastian Evans is slated for the 1,600.
Jung also believes senior Jonathan Le can turn in a potentially big year in the sprints.
Last season, the Rebels finished third in the Prep League behind Pasadena Poly and Vivian Webb and Jung is looking for a better showing.
"I pretty much have the same expectations with the boys as I do with the girls," Jung said. "I just want them to be more competitive in league in comparison to the past couple of years."
La Cañada also wants to climb up the league standings.
In 2017, the Spartans posted a 2-3 record and finished fourth in the Rio Hondo League and well behind champion South Pasadena.
The Spartans produced two league champions, including returning sophomore Ryan Johnsen. The youngster took home the long jump title in 20-6.
New La Cañada coach Andy DiConti believes that big things are on tap for Johnsen and senior Matt Tsujihara.
"Look for a 22-foot mark this year," DiConti said of Johnsen.
DiConti added that Tsujihara, "could make a bid for a top-three [finish] in Rio Hondo League in the 400 meters and extend his season to CIF."
Other Spartans to keep an eye on include senior 800 runner Andre Chan, junior distance runner Owen Serricchio and 3,200 distance runner Ryan Van Slooten.