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Newport Harbor track and field athletes step up on big stage at Mt. SAC Relays

Local high school track and field athletes that competed at the Mt. SAC Relays at El Camino College on Saturday said that there was a feeling of exclusivity.

They felt honored to share the stage with athletes that have gone on to the next level, as both professional and college athletes also compete at the meet.

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The high school field was not devoid of talent either, and Newport Harbor’s Aidan Elbettar fared well against a group he hopes to see in five weeks at the CIF State track and field championships.

Elbettar took second place in the boys’ discus throw with a mark of 191 feet, eight inches. It is the second time that Elbettar has produced a throw over 190 feet this season.

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“We’ve been working back to getting the same technique of the 197-4 [throw] and working to stay consistent with it,” Elbettar said. “In practice, we’ve been staying consistent over 185, nice and relaxed. When it comes to competition, I can do this.”

Following the discus throw, Elbettar placed sixth in the shotput with a mark of 58-4. The Sailors standout has not lightened his workload as league finals and the CIF Southern Section postseason approach.

“For lifting, we’re still lifting heavy,” Elbettar said. “We’re going to go speed phase up until the week before state meet, and that’s a good plan because that way, we’re peaking at state meet and not peaking before and having to try to maintain it.”

On Friday night, Newport Harbor set a school record in the 4x1,600-meter relay. The quartet of Will Debassio, Luke Downing, Michael Davey and Alexis Garcia placed third with a time of 17 minutes 49.67 seconds, which is the sixth-best time in the nation this year.

“It was very satisfying,” Sailors coach Nowell Kay said. “With three of those guys being seniors, we may never run that fast again. We haven’t before. We came together [Friday] night.”

Garcia ran a personal record of 4:16.7 on the anchor leg.

“We ran more 800s this year, did a little more speed work on the track,” Kay said of Garcia’s training. “He’s more confident in his kick, and it definitely shows at the end of races. He’s able to really put the hammer down, where he couldn’t, the last couple of years, necessarily outkick people at the end.”

Marina’s Alejandra Rosales took seventh in the girls’ discus throw (138-4) and 10th in shotput (36-7½). In the seeded flight of the girls’ shotput, Vikings senior Caitlyn Rayburn tossed a new lifetime-best mark of 36-8.

In boys’ pole vault, Marina senior Skyler Magula tied for sixth with a clearance of 15 feet. Magula made his second appearance at the Mt. SAC Relays, and he said he felt privileged to have done so.

“It’s been pretty honoring,” Magula said. “You get to be here around the college guys like [sprinter] Michael Norman. It’s very exclusive. Getting on the field is pretty hard to do.

“For me, it feels bigger than Arcadia.”

With spring break in the picture and league finals around the corner, it was a light weekend for locals in track and field.

Those who did compete saw the stars come out at the Mt. SAC Relays, a meet that prides itself on being a destination for the world’s best athletes.

World-leading times and marks were produced, including a blazing time of 43.45 seconds in the men’s 400 invitational from Norman, who was once a CIF Southern Section great.

The former Vista Murrieta Bronco and USC Trojan recently turned pro, and Saturday’s race was his opening act.

“I wasn’t expecting to run that fast,” Norman said. “Maybe between the 43.9- and 44.4-range would have been more of my expectations. To come out here and run that fast is just mind-blowing.

“Now, I’m looking forward to coming back to practice on Monday and just perfecting my craft.”

It turns out that some of the best athletes do not have a short memory. Asked about his past memories at the Mt. SAC Relays, Norman revealed that a less memorable performance was still on his mind.

“We got last in the [1,600 relay] my freshman year,” he said. “I remember that vividly.”

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