SHERMAN OAKS — It’s Matthew Molina’s favorite time of the season, meaning he’s just begun to heat up.
The standout St. Francis High track and field athlete arrived at the Mission League finals Wednesday set to defend his league titles in the 110-meter hurdles and high jump.
Molina was able to accomplishing those feats, as he won the 110 hurdles in 14.87 seconds and the high jump in 6 feet, 5 inches at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High.
The UC Santa Barbara-bound Molina made it a goal before the season to retain both titles with the CIF Southern Section prelims and finals just around the corner.
“It’s great to be able to go out there and take both titles again,” said Molina, the reigning All-Area Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year. “It’s just a process for me at the moment and I’m happy with my results knowing I can do even better.
“I wanted to come in breaking 15 seconds in the hurdles and I felt like I could get that done. I felt fine with my jumps, too. I’ve definitely learned a lot over these last few seasons.”
A season ago, Molina won the league crown in the hurdles (14.96) and high jump (6-7). He then captured both events in the CIF Southern Section Division III finals and took sixth at state in the high jump.
Flintridge Sacred Heart also fared well Wednesday, led by Lauren Nettels. Nettels won the Sunshine League championship in the 3,200 in 11:44.40 after taking second in the 1,600 (5:32.03).
Molina and teammate Stuart Serventi will participate in the Division III prelims on May 4 at Estancia High in Costa Mesa. Serventi, a junior, set a school record in the 800 with a mark of 1:56.72 to place third.
“You look at Matthew and he’s a true track athlete,” St. Francis coach Mike Russell said. “You just don’t see that that often, plus he trains so hard. It's great to see him go out there and win both titles in the way that he did.
“With Stuart, he came up to me earlier in the day and said he wanted to break the record. Then he does it. So, that will help his confidence moving ahead.”
Nettels led the charge for Flintridge Sacred Heart, which will send send seven athletes to the Division IV prelims on May 4 at Carpinteria High.
The junior took second in the 1,600 behind Marymount’s Nina Rhone (5:30.65).
Nettels came back strong in the 3,200, winning by a little more than a minute over Rhone (12:45.85).
“I just had to run my own race in the 3,200,” Nettels said. “I tend to go out fast in the first mile and then slow it down a little bit in the second mile, but I enjoyed the way I ran to win the 3,200.
“With the 1,600, I just wanted to qualify. I thought I did a good job on my splits.”
Joining Nettels at the prelims are teammates Emma Willingham and Abby Martinez in the high jump, Kelly Carney and Ella Venne in the triple jump, Madison Leroy in the 300 hurdles and Samantha Covey in the 3,200.
Willingham and Martinez finished second and third, respectively, at 4-6. Carney and Venne placed second and third, respectively, at 33-75. Leroy took third in 50.39 and Covey was third in 12:47.97.
“It was a great day for us all around,” Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Johnathan Keys said. “With Lauren, she’s very confident and smart about the way she paces herself in a race.I’m just super-excited for her.