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In an Olympic year, there's no shortage of Southland high school stars in track and field

In an Olympic year, there's no shortage of Southland high school stars in track and field
Chaminade's T.J. Brock, center, wins the boys' 100-meter dash at the Mission League track finals held at Occidental College on Thursday (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Call it the perfect storm for high school track and field in Southern California.

It's an Olympic year, and the talent pool happens to be very strong.

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"The number of true top tier athletes we have is unprecedented,'' said Rich Gonzalez of PrepCalTrack.com.

On Thursday at the Mission League finals at Occidental College, the defending state champion in the 100 meters, T.J. Brock of West Hills Chaminade, showed off his speed in only his third 100 of the season. Slowed by a thigh contusion from football season, he's quickly regaining his form. He won the 100 in 10.44 seconds and the 200 in 21.22.

West Hills Chaminade senior sprinter T.J. Brock wins the 100- and 200-meter sprints.

"It sucks watching everybody else run," he said earlier this week. "It's time to show what I got."

Southern California is home to the nation's most versatile runner in Michael Norman of Vista Murrieta. He owns the state's fastest times in the 100 (10.27), 200 (20.51) and 400 (45.51).

There's distance standout Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda, hurdler Koty Burton of La Quinta, shotputter Bronson Osborn of Anaheim Esperanza and pole vaulter Jett Gordon of Huntington Beach Marina. Add to that, Zach Shinnick of La Verne Damien, a standout in the 200 and 400, is back running after a hamstring injury.

The girls' ranks is equally filled with stars. Lauren Rain Williams of Westlake Village Oaks Christian and Zaria Francis of Oxnard Rio Mesa are two of the most accomplished sprinters in the nation. Rachel Baxter of Anaheim Canyon has set the state record in the pole vault at 14 feet 3 inches. Tara Davis of Agoura could be a state champion in the triple jump and long jump. Kaelin Roberts of Carson has the state's fastest time in the 400 meters.

"The fact we have a lot of top people coming back, on paper it figured to be the best year we've ever had in California," Gonzalez said. "We've seen bits of it and the best is yet to come."

The Southern Section preliminaries are next weekend, followed by the Southern Section finals on May 21 at Cerritos College. The City Section finals are May 26 at Lake Balboa Birmingham. The state championships are June 3-4 at Clovis Buchanan.

Since the Olympic trials begin on July 1 in Oregon, Norman and several others have held back their training trying to reach peak form by this summer. That doesn't mean they're not going to try to run fast or jump high. But the dream of making the Olympic team gets a higher priority than winning a CIF individual title. And the most important requirement is staying healthy.

The girls' ranks lost two-time state long jump champion Courtney Corrin of Studio City Harvard-Westlake this week because of a broken toe.

The good news is fans of track and field should be thrilled with the coming competitions.

"There's people coming out of the woodwork, which is great," Brock said. "It shows the level of competition has been raised. It's exciting to see if an athlete will rise to the occasion or fall back into the background."

There is one negative to this track season. Brock's mother, Kanika, Chaminade's track coach, points out there could be a lot more top athletes participating if their parents and coaches let them. Many have decided they need to focus all year on football.

"If you want a better running back, better receiver, better cornerback, throw them on the track," she said. "I believe we have a lot of untapped talent. They're being forced to choose. Has the talent level dropped? No. The participation level of those kinds of kids has dropped."

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Fortunately her son decided he wanted to use track to help him with football and he hopes to do both for USC and maybe represent the U.S. one day.

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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