Los Angeles Times

Girls' Track Preview: Crescenta Valley is looking to chase down Pacific League crown

There’s a sense of excitement that the 2014 track and field season could be special in different ways for each of the Crescenta Valley High, Flintridge Prep, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Glendale, Holy Family and Hoover girls’ teams.

Whether it’s competing for a league title, advancing deep into the postseason or proving formidable, each local squad is looking to make an impact this season.

At Crescenta Valley, the Falcons are hoping to challenge archrival Arcadia for a Pacific League title, as the squads are slated to face each other on April 22.

Before that, however, expect Crescenta Valley to show off its depth.

“I believe we can knock off Arcadia, but it’s still a while until then,” Falcons longtime Coach Mark Evans said. “We have strength in the distances, but I think we’re a sound all-around team.”

The Falcons return one of the area’s most dynamic runners in junior Megan Melnyk, who advanced to the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet last season in the 800-meter run after turning in a personal-best time of 2 minutes, 12.10 seconds at the CIF-SS Division I Championship at Mt. San Antonio College on May 18.

Melnyk is also the league’s defending 1,600-meter (5:12.98) and 800 champion (2:19.36).

“You know what she was capable of last year and this year we’re just building off that,” Evans said. “We’re working on her fitness level and strength to make sure she can close that last 50 to 100 meters.”

Crescenta Valley, though, is certainly more than just Melnyk, as senior Kayleigh Carrillo may be the team’s most versatile athlete, as she’s been to known to compete in four events during league meets, but is the league’s reigning 400 (56.00) champion and runner-up in the 200 (25.28).

Speaking of utility, junior Emmie Walker is a league champion in the high jump (5 feet, 3 inches), while also having run in the 200 and 400.

Walker, senior hurdler Sarah Lapides and distance runners Haley Witzeman and Rebecca Mencia are also hoping to propel the Falcons to a league crown.

As for Flintridge Prep, fifth-year Coach Nick Ponticello has the benefit of a strong distance program inherited from the cross-country team, which finished third at state in Division V.

The majority of the Rebels’ bronze squad is on the track team, including seniors Kate Evans and Sarah Yoho, along with junior Ashley Lara.

Prep League cross-country champion Yoho already posted a victory in the 800 in the team’s first meet on March 4 in 2:30.34.

Evans, the league 1,600-meter champion (5:27.54), was also runner-up (11:55) to Pasadena Poly’s Evan Gancedo (11:53) in the 3,200.

In the March 4 meet, Lara (2:38.64) was both runner-up to Yoho (2:30.34) in the 800 and to Evans in the 1,600, 5:27.54 to 5:36.83, respectively.

On the field, Sabrina Goodman is a dual threat and proved so by winning the long jump (15-3) and triple jump (30-4) at the first cluster meet.

Like Flintridge Prep, Flintridge Sacred Heart opened its season with a resounding win, 110-13, over Chaminade in Mission League action Thursday.

In that contest, Flintridge Sacred Heart won every event except for the pole vault.

“I think that score is probably more telling about Chaminade than it is about us,” Tologs Coach Eddie Gorton said. “I’m hoping we can show up and compete against the big schools in our league like Harvard-Westlake, Notre Dame and Alemany.”

Gorton wasn’t so optimistic early this offseason when he only had 12 runners. However, that number has ballooned to 42 in recent days.

If the Tologs are to have success this season, it will likely be because of the efforts of sophomore hurdler Holly MacVaugh, junior distance runner Kayla Grahn, junior sprinter Kayla Montgomery and freshman sprinter Mia Harris.

Grahn, the league junior varsity champion in the 1,600 (6:06.48) and 3,200 (13:08.09), has already blasted two times in taking first versus Chaminade with marks of 5:37.1 and 12:25.2, respectively.

Montgomery returns to varsity a year after taking fourth in the 400 (59.02) and Gorton sees the junior bypassing that mark this year.

As for MacVaugh, the sophomore is expected to compete in the 100 and 300 hurdles along with the high jump this season, while Harris is an up-and-comer in the 100 and 200.

Perhaps the Tologs’ breakthrough squad this season is the returning 400-meter relay team of Harris, Montgomery, Ella Gmelich and Olivia Mathews, which finished fourth in 50.05.

At Glendale, the Nitros are excited to welcome back a returner and newcomer in distance runner Leana Setian.

The junior transferred to Clark Magnet High School during the summer and ran this fall as an unattached athlete.

This spring, however, Setian is back after finishing third at league finals in the 3,200 (11:34.8).

“Because Clark Magnet doesn’t have an athletics program, she’s able to run here with us,” Glendale Coach Andrew Dakopolos said. “We’re excited to have her back healthy and I’m looking forward to her progress.”

While Dakopolos was hesitant to highlight a slew of potential breakout performers, he did want some attention to go toward senior sprinter Vard Sargsyan, who Dakopolos labeled as “vital.”

“She’s a long sprinter and she’s going to do both relays for us,” Dakopolos said.

As for the rest of his team?

“I think we’re going to be a surprise,” Dakopolos said. “We have some folks who are going to surprise.”

Former Blair High standout Willicia Miller has been running track for the better part of her life and is used to challenges.

The Holy Family first-year coach has one with the area’s smallest roster.

Yet, Miller isn’t complaining.

“We have a good group of girls and one of our bigger squads in years, so I’m looking forward to getting the season going,” said Miller, whose team numbers 11. “I expect a lot from these girls.”

Miller is particularly looking for leadership from her three seniors – Jackie Benitez, Kaitlynn Gaer and Angelica Rodriguez.

“Right now it’s about building up determination and pride,” Miller said of her girls. “I just don’t want them to be out there, but to be knowledgeable about the sport and to want to compete.”

Perhaps it’s fair to say the expectations weren’t too high for the Hoover cross-country team before the start of the 2013 season.

Yet, a small and inexperienced squad defeated Burroughs, 121-128, at the Pacific League finals on Nov. 8 to take fourth within the Pacific League and advance to the divisional preliminaries for the first time since 2002.

Maybe the Hoover track team can accomplish such a feat as this year’s squad is similarly young, not that big and includes several runners from the cross-country squad.

Senior Lucik Minassian is hoping to lead the charge after finishing ninth (5:52.89) at least year’s Pacific League 1,600-meter finals. Minassian was also sixth in the 3, 200 (12:34.4) and competed in the 800.

Minassian will be joined by fellow distance runners in junior Megan Mirkhanian and sophomore Renee Sallakian.

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