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Although some big names are missing, track championships will feature plenty of talent

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider

It started in January with the rain that disrupted workouts and all-comer meets. Then came a shoulder injury to CIF champion shot putter Bronson Osborn of Anaheim Esperanza, ending his senior season.

Another potential state champion, standout sprinter Lauren Rain Williams of Westlake Village Oaks Christian, is done because of a hamstring injury.

It was going to be tough enough this high school track season replacing the likes of national standouts Michael Norman and T.J. Brock, but things have not gone smoothly, whether because of injuries, weather issues or just bad luck.

“Nothing has gone right,” said Rich Gonzalez of Prepcaltrack.com. “We knew it would be down, but it’s sobering when it happens.”

The good news is that there’s still a group of individuals capable of saving and energizing the 2017 track season, beginning with Saturday’s Southern Section prelims at four sites around Southern California, followed by the Southern Section championships on May 20 at Cerritos College. The City Section prelims are May 18 at Birmingham and May 25 at El Camino College.

Count on Inland Empire athletes to provide a speed show over these next weeks.

Javelin Guidry comes from Vista Murrieta, the same school that produced USC’s Norman. He has run a 10.34 100 meters, which means the state record of 10.30 is within reach. And he’s got competition. Junior Jabriel Smith of Riverside North ran 10.46 at the Inland Empire League championships. There’s a speed demon at Moreno Valley Rancho Verde in Isaiah Cunningham, who’s the state leader at 200 meters in 20.98. And junior Asani Hampton from Yucaipa has run a 10.47 100.

Perhaps the No. 1 athlete to watch in the coming weeks is Tara Davis of Agoura, a possible three-event champ when the state championships are held June 2-3 in Clovis. She’s the athlete to beat in the 100 hurdles, long jump and triple jump.

Jasmin Reed of Gardena Serra has the No. 1 times in the 100 and 200 at 11.58 and 23.39, respectively. Watch out for the improving Claudia Lane of Malibu in the distance races. She was the Gatorade national cross country runner of the year as a sophomore. Shae Anderson of Norco is proving to be a star in the making in the hurdles and sprints and will face off against City Section star Kaelin Roberts of Carson at the state meet. Beware of junior Nikki Merritt of Santa Margarita: She’s a hurdler on the rise. And don’t forget about standout pole vaulter Rachel Baxter of Anaheim Canyon.

In the high jump, get ready for intense competition between Earnie Sears of Mission Hills Alemany and Sean Lee of Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills. Both are aiming to surpass 7 feet this month.

Hurdler Joseph Anderson from Upland set a Baseline League record in the 300 hurdles in 36.53. Zach Shinnick of La Verne Damien, headed to USC, seems finally healthy after running a 47.79 400.

Despite the somewhat slow start to the season, Joe McNab, the track coach for 36 years at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, said no one should be in panic mode.

“It’s a little down,” he said. “Last year was an extraordinary year. We don’t have a Michael Norman, but you never know. Overall, the ability of kids in Southern California are still the best in the state.”

Saturday’s Southern Section prelims will be at Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills (Division 1), Moorpark (Division 2), Costa Mesa Estancia (Division 3) and Carpinteria (Division 4).

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: latsondheimer

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