Marina High track and field coach Carlos Castellanos said that he finds it odd to project the expectations of making it to the CIF State meet on his athletes.
Then again, he admitted to feeling weird about being at the state championships without a thrower this past June.
In the two previous seasons, the Vikings had sent male athletes to the state meet in both the throws and the pole vault.
Castellanos said that athletes in the Vikings’ program know the history of their event. In the case of the boys’ pole vault, Marina has had a state finalist in each of the last four years.
Therefore, it came as no surprise to Castellanos that a youngster who had been hanging around the pole vault pit at Marina for years would rise to write his own name into the history books.
Skyler Magula, the Daily Pilot Boys’ Track and Field Dream Team Athlete of the Year, became the latest Viking to reach the state finals. He placed fifth behind a lifetime-best mark of 15 feet, 10 inches to conclude his junior year.
“I’m not surprised,” Castellanos said. “He’s seen it done multiple times with other pole vaulters at Marina, and he believes that he is the next guy. He believes that he can do it.”
Jett Gordon started the run, placing second at state his junior year before finishing his prep career with a state title in 2016. Magula’s older brother, Michael, extended the state streak in 2017, and he now competes for Long Beach State.
In reaching the podium with his fifth-place finish, Magula became the Vikings’ third state medalist over the past four seasons. The others are Gordon (pole vault, 2015-16) and Kyle Tsu (shotput, 2017).
Magula is the second straight male athlete from Marina to earn the Dream Team award. Tsu, who red-shirted at UC Irvine, received the honor in 2017.
“I think it’s a testament to the Vikings’ spirit that comes around the school,” Castellanos said of the Vikings’ recent run in the spotlight. “You have kids at the school that are fighters, that want to succeed.”
Some will attribute the success to heart and fight, while others will call it a simple matter of understanding.
When one considers the source, it makes perfect sense to think about the mechanics of pole vaulting. Magula lends himself to the specifics, as his favorite subject is mathematics.
“Everything always ends up working out,” Magula said of his interest in the numbers. “It’s not like English, where, ‘Yes, that answer is partially correct, but there are 15 other correct answers.’ I just really like how math is kind of like a puzzle. It just clicks together.”
Magula’s father, Kevin, is the pole vault coach at Marina. He also runs the Higher Flyers Pole Vault Club.
The value of information cannot be understated. Magula not only appreciates the access to knowledge, but he puts it to good use.
“When it comes down to it, a lot of the things that stop a lot of kids is really understanding what this sport is and what you’re trying to accomplish,” Magula said. “At the end of the day, you’re trying to bend something, and without losing much energy, launch yourself straight up into the air. There are a lot of numbers that come into that.”
The Magulas are a Marina family through and through, but there was a time when the Magula brothers had a decision to make. Prior to them entering high school, Kevin Magula was offered the position of pole vault coach at Mater Dei. He left the decision up to his kids, and they wanted to attend their parents’ alma mater.
“Considering so much of my family has gone here, even when I was kid, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to be a Viking,’ ” Magula said. “I want to put the school in the lights, put their name up, make them big, and continue it on.”
Indeed, when the lights were brightest, Magula shined for his school. The reigning Sunset League champion went on to win titles in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 finals and the Masters Meet.
In the regular season, he had invitational wins at the Beach Cities Invitational and the Orange Country Championships.
Even with those accolades, Magula and the rest of the field were clear underdogs to Davis’ Sondre Guttormsen at the state meet. Guttormsen, who is now at UCLA, set the state record of 18-4½ at the Karlstad Folksam Grand Prix in Sweden on July 25.
“When it came down to Sondre, it was kind of weird,” Magula said. “We were all there, and then it was like he was there. It was almost like he was competing in a different event.
“It was kind of weird, being done jumping and then sitting there watching people jump. I hadn’t really done that since my freshman year.”
Magula will head into his senior season as the second-ranked returner in the state. San Diego Rancho Bernardo rising senior Jacob Rice has a personal best of 16-3. Magula hopes to achieve a 17-foot jump, and if he does that, the Marina school record, which Gordon holds at 17-2, is within reach.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Ciarelli would make a great trainer because he always seems to have a horse in the race. The long-time throws coach, who began coaching at Edison in 1982, sent his 50th thrower to the CIF State meet this year. Ciarelli guided sophomore Aidan Elbettar through his first CIF Southern Section postseason to reach the milestone. It ended with the Sailors’ budding star reaching the podium with a sixth-place finish in the shotput. Ciarelli places heavy emphasis on understanding the science of the throw, finding success with athletes of various body types. “You only have so many fast-twitch fibers,” Ciarelli said. “You can’t create more than that. That is the genetic part of it. Bringing out what you have, that’s my job, to elevate what you have to your highest level.” The Sailors had a second Division 2 finalist this year, with recent graduate Spencer Blake qualifying for the CIF finals in both the shotput and the discus throw.
Throws | Newport Harbor | So.
The area produced three CIF State medalists this season, and Elbettar relished the fact that he was the surprise of the spring. At the state meet, the sophomore revealed that the rarity of an underclassman medaling in the throws was part of his motivation. Elbettar followed through, placing sixth in the state shotput finals with a personal record of 58-2¾. The Sailors’ breakout star is built for the throws at 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds, but the sophomore surge came unexpectedly, as it marked his first CIF postseason appearance. He was the Sunset League champion in the shotput, placing third in the event at the CIF Southern Section Division 2 finals and second in the Masters Meet.
All-around | Fountain Valley | Sr.
Like many athletes that take on a handful of events at meets, Galloway had his specialty. The Barons’ senior made his second CIF Southern Section appearance in the triple jump, and he finally captured the Sunset League crown in the event this year. Before he had donned a Fountain Valley uniform for the last time, Galloway set a personal record of 45 feet in the Division 1 preliminaries. The mark came without the assistance of a tailwind. Galloway served as the anchor leg on the Barons’ CIF-qualifying 1,600-meter relay team, and he also competed in the 400 and the long jump.
High jump | Edison | Jr.
The Sunset League hosted some tremendous competitions in the boys’ high jump this season, with league champion Kevin Schmitt (Los Alamitos), Huntington Beach’s Jack Wiseman and Garnett all finishing the season as top-15 performers in the state. Garnett has seen improvement in each of his first three seasons, reaching the new height of 6-6 this spring. He qualified for his first CIF Southern Section Masters Meet. Having closed the gap on Wiseman heading into their senior year, it will be interesting to see which local gains the upper hand between two of the state’s top returning high jumpers.
Hurdles | Fountain Valley | Sr.
The Barons continue to produce quality in the hurdles. Marion became the second Fountain Valley athlete in as many years to run a sub-40-second time in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles (Nathan Willoughby, 38.14 seconds). He closed strong, breaking the 40-second barrier in each of his final three races. The stretch run saw him become a first-time Sunset League champion in the event. He advanced to his first CIF Southern Section Division 1 final, placing eighth. He set his lifetime best of 39.22 seconds in the CIF preliminaries. Marion qualified for CIF in two events, as he also contributed to the Barons’ 1,600 relay.
Distance runner | Huntington Beach | Jr.
In his first seasons with the Oilers, Mitchel has never missed out on the CIF Southern Section postseason. Each year ended in the Division 1 preliminaries, but after producing similar times in the 1,600 his first two years, he made a leap forward as a junior. Mitchel knocked six seconds off of his personal record, dropping his lifetime best to 4:17.57 at the Arcadia Invitational. From start to finish, Mitchel saw improvement his junior year. He qualified for CIF as an individual in cross-country in the fall, and he won his first Sunset League 1,600 title in the spring. Mitchel’s brother, Alekos, runs for Fresno State, and Lars’ times suggest that he may have a college running career ahead of him, too.
High jump | Huntington Beach | Jr.
Wiseman has earned his second straight Dream Team selection, but he likely was looking for more in his junior year. The Oilers’ high jumper did not post a win at an invitational this season after bringing home two such victories the year before. Still, Wiseman’s performance was comparable to that of his sophomore year. He matched his lifetime best of 6-6 (tied for 14th in the state) at the Beach Cities Invitational and the CIF Southern Section Division 1 preliminaries. After seeing his season end one bar shy of the CIF State meet for the second year in a row, Wiseman will look to put all the pieces together his senior year.
DREAM TEAM PICKS
*CIF Southern Section Masters qualifier
100 – Jacob Hathcock, Huntington Beach, Sr.; Donnie Marion, Fountain Valley, Sr.
200 – Jacob Hathcock, Huntington Beach, Sr.; Cameron Williams, Edison, Jr.
400 – Connor Schwarz, Edison, Jr.; Luke Sutherland, Marina, Sr.
800 – Myles Aguilar, Costa Mesa, Sr.; Lars Mitchel, Huntington Beach, Jr.; Connor Schwarz, Edison, Jr.; Luke Sutherland, Marina, Sr.
1,600 – Alexis Garcia, Newport Harbor, Jr.; Lars Mitchel, Huntington Beach, Jr.
3,200 – Alexis Garcia, Newport Harbor, Jr.; Esteban Prado, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Ryan Smithers, Laguna Beach, Jr.
110HH – Jevon Hill, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Klaus Himes, Huntington Beach, Sr.
300IH – Jevon Hill, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Donnie Marion, Fountain Valley, Sr.
400 relay – Edison
1,600 relay – Fountain Valley; Huntington Beach; Marina
HJ – Aiden Garnett, Edison, Jr.*; David Straw, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Jack Wiseman, Huntington Beach, Jr.*
LJ – Aaron Cambell, Edison, Jr.; Isaiah Galloway, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Devin Greene, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Brian Huynh, Marina, So.
TJ – Isaiah Galloway, Fountain Valley, Sr.; Nathaniel Washington, Ocean View, Sr.
PV – Tommy Cook, Newport Harbor, Jr.; Skyler Magula, Marina, Jr.*
SP – Spencer Blake, Newport Harbor, Sr.; Aidan Elbettar, Newport Harbor, So.*