Track and field trio ready to tackle CIF finals

Matt Schwartz has some unfinished business to attend to.

A year ago as a junior, the Burroughs High pole vaulter suffered an injury at the CIF Southern Section preliminaries. As a result, he placed 12th with a 13-foot-9 effort and didn't advance to the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Championships.

"I got injured when I fell on my neck," said Schwartz, a senior. "It was very disappointing."

This season, Schwartz will have a chance at redemption when he takes part in the boys' pole vault at the Division I CIF finals Saturday at Cerritos College in Norwalk.

The Burroughs standout will be joined in the competition by two other local athletes. Burbank sophomore Candela Fernandez will take part in the Division I girls' 1,600- and 3,200-meter races and Bellarmine-Jefferson junior London Webster will run in the Division IV boys' 100 and 200 events.

Schwartz, the Pacific League champion who is headed to the University of California, Berkeley, had to battle a large group of vaulters to advance to the finals. He was among eight athletes who tied for first with 15-foot vaults in last week's preliminaries at Trabuco Hills High.

Coming off a productive regular season, Schwartz' personal-best mark of 15-6 set last month put him second on the all-time Burroughs pole vaulting list.

Expecting a talented field for Saturday's event, Schwartz said he is expecting stiff competition. However, he admits that he has been vaulting well the last few weeks and he is hoping to do well enough to qualify for the Masters Meet on May 30 at Cerritos College.

"From last year's prelims, the qualifying height to move on to finals was only 14-3," said Schwartz, who also won a league championship in the long jump. "And I know in the past it's even gotten below 14-0. So, 15-0 was just crazy this year. I couldn't believe it was that high and that that many guys were able to go that high. The division is just so tough.

"I expect to have to go at least 15-0 at the bare minimum to move on, because only 12 move on from all four divisions. As of now, there are more than 12 guys in those divisions going 15-0, let alone eight from Division I. I would assume I would have to probably have to go 15-6 to make sure that I have a spot. But I'm trying to go for 16-0 and hopefully I can get that."

Despite enduring a long season with hundreds of vaults, Schwartz said he feels energized heading into the finals.

"I am feeling better than ever lately," said Schwartz, who trains at UCLA under renowned pole vault coach Anthony Curran. "It is getting more exciting at these bigger meets, and the better the competition the better I usually do, I think."

Burroughs Coach John Peebles said that much of Schwartz' success stems from his approach to pole vaulting.

"I think a lot of it is just due to his attitude," said Peebles, who helped guide the Indians boys' team to the Pacific League championship this season. "The fact is he really has fun with it and it is truly fun for him. Although it is grueling event, the joy he gets in doing it doesn't turn it into an overtaxing event."

Fernandez is coming of a historic set of performances in the prelims. She set school records in the 1,600 and 3,200 to advance to the CIF finals. Fernandez clocked 10 minutes 57.51 seconds in the 3,200 to take sixth and 5:00.03 in the 1,600 for eighth.

The sophomore, who placed third in November at the Pacific League cross-country finals at Arcadia Park, has been able to translate that success into the track and field season.

"We knew she had the potential when she did well during cross-country," Burbank Coach Darin Wolf said of Fernandez. "We knew what was in her and we're very pleased at how she's done. She has a great season in cross-country and she's been able to carry that over into track."

Webster, who captured Santa Fe League championships in the 100 and 200, finished sixth in the 200 in 22.72 and clocked 11.20 to place seventh in the 100 at the Division IV prelims last Saturday at Carpinteria High.

"The thing about London is that he has just been so consistent for the entire season," Bell-Jeff Coach Jim Couch said. "He had problems with his blocks last week, so he probably could have gone faster. He clocked 11.12 in the 100 in the league finals and he was shutting it down at the end.

"I think he has the ability to hopefully move on."


Follow Jeff Tully on Twitter: @jefftsports.

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