St. Francis High track and field's Knowles rules Mission twice

LOS ANGELES — Eric Knowles understands the recent past with his family. Now, it’s his turn to uphold the family tradition of excellence in track and field.

Knowles, a senior on the St. Francis High track and field team, made some big strides in accomplishing that feat Thursday during the Mission League track and field final at Occidental College.

Knowles won a pair of league championships, capturing the triple jump in 46 feet 5 3/4 inches and the long jump in 21-8 3/4.

In the process, Knowles joins his brother, James, who won league titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles in 2011 and 2012.

“It’s great to win two league championships,” said Knowles, who had a personal-best and school-best mark in the triple jump. “My father and brother were very good at track and you just try to keep it going.

“My brother just told me to be myself and give it my all. I had to trust myself going down the runway. If you can be smart and calm, then you have a chance to do well.”

Ross Niederhaus of St. Francis and Sophia Saldivar of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy also won one league title apiece. Niederhaus had a first-place effort in the 400, clocking a personal-best mark of 48.38 and eclipsing his previous school-best effort of 48.51 from earlier in the season. Saldivar won the 800 in a personal-best time of 2:18.42.

In addition to Knowles and Niederhaus, Jasher Foster of St. Francis took second in the 110 hurdles (15.13) and 300 hurdles (40.19). The trio will next participate in the CIF Southern Section Division III prelims May 17 at Estancia High in Costa Mesa.

Niederhaus, a senior, was among the favorites to contend for the crown in the 400.

Niederhaus held his own throughout the first half of the race before using a kick in the final 75-80 yards to fend off Chaminade’s Greg Campbell, who clocked 48.45.

It marked the first league championship for Niederhaus, who spent last season competing in the 200 before switching gears to the 400.

“[Campbell] is a great athlete and he led me by about two meters coming to the final 200 meters,” Niederhaus said. “I had to reserve some energy and I got that last drive of energy and nicked him just before the finish line.

“Winning a league championship was a goal of mine. My biggest goal now is to break 48 seconds. I have another week to get better and try to do that.”

Saldivar, a freshman, also excelled on the all-weather track en route to winning her first league championship. Saldivar held off Harvard-Westlake’s Lizzy Thomas (2:21.36).

“I’m just real grateful for this experience because there are so many great runners,” Saldivar said. “For a freshman, it can be a little intimidating.

“I started my kick with about 200 yards left and was able to hold off Lizzy. This is like icing on the cake, but there’s still CIF to try to get through.”

Kayla Grahn and Kayla Montgomery finished second in the 1,600 and 400, respectively. Grahn finished in 5:19.01 and Montgomery clocked a personal-best 58.04. Nia Harris had a time of 58.99 to place sixth in the 400. Saldivar, Grahn, Montgomery and Harris also advanced to the Division IV prelims, which will take place May 17 at Carpinteria High.

In addition, the Tologs’ 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams also qualified for the prelims.

The 4x100 team of Olivia Mathews, Ella Gmelich, Montgomery and Grahn took fourth in 49.96. In the 4x400, Saldivar, Montgomery, Mathews and Harris finished third (4:01.45).


Follow Charles Rich on Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich .

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