In no postseason race are the goals more narrowed and focused than at Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Track and Field Masters Meet at El Camino College in Torrance.
Four local entrants will attempt to advance to the season-ending two-day-long CIF State Meet, beginning June 1 at Clovis Buchanan High.
St. Francis High’s Matthew Molina, Crescenta Valley’s Colin FitzGerald and Artin Allahverdian along La Crescenta resident Mia Barnett of Village Christian have two routes. The competitors can finish in the top six in their respective events or hit a state at-large mark.
Molina, who won two Southern Section Division III individual championships last Saturday, is competing in two events and is up first in the high jump, which begins at 11:30 a.m.
The state at-large mark is 6 feet, 6 inches, a height Molina has reached on four occasions this season, including when the junior won the Division III title.
His height placed him fifth out of a field of 35 competitors across four divisions and he’ll only have to contend with 13 competitors this Saturday.
“The big change for me is I’m going to start at a higher height,” Molina said. “We’ll see where things go. I know I can do better and I just want to make it to state.”
Molina boasts a personal-best mark of 6-8 1/4 secured in a Mission League dual meet on March 1.
If Molina advances, he’ll become his school’s first state advancer since Jasher Foster in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles in 2016.
Molina is also looking to overcome a tough Masters Meet the previous year at Arcadia where he no-heighted at 6-3 after passing on the opening mark of 6-1.
After the high jump, Molina will compete in the 110-meter hurdles scheduled for 1:47 p.m.
The state at-large mark of 14.35 seconds would be difficult as Molina owns a personal best of 14.65.
The St. Francis two-sport standout won the Division III 110 hurdles in 14.73, which was the No. 4 time overall. Molina, who also plays basketball, will square off in a nine-person final.
It’s almost been a decade since the Crescenta Valley track and field program sent an athlete to the CIF State Meet. Falcons coach Mark Evans is hoping the drought ends Saturday and he’ll qualify his first athlete since Zack Torres advanced in the 3,200 in 2009.
The last time the Falcons sent two runners was in 2008 when distance standouts Claire Collison and Rachel Lange made the state trip, then at Cerritos College.
FitzGerald, a senior, will compete first among Falcons in the 1,600 at 1:28 p.m.
FitzGerald turned in a personal-best time in finishing third at the Division I championships in 4:14.46. While his mark was 10th-best and would place him outside the top-six field needed to advance, that time is still just ahead of the at-large mark of 4:14.73.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, Evans is pleased with the tenacity of FitzGerald, who has been hampered the last few seasons with injuries and illness.
“Colin has been snakebiten the last few years with bad luck and bad fortune,” Evans said. “A couple of years ago he was sick with the flu and got into a real tough race and last year he had the chicken pox. Making it to Masters is a testament to his hard work.”
The same could be said for Allahverdian, who had never reached the preliminary levels until this season, culminating with the senior finishing sixth in the Division I 3,200 with a time of 9:08.21. Allahverdian’s mark was seventh-best across all four divisions competing last Saturday.
Allahverdian will compete in the 3,200 at 3:25 p.m. and can advance to state by hitting the at-large mark of 9:08.89. Allahverdian enters with a personal-best mark of 9:04.95 completed two weeks ago at the Division I prelims.
“Artin, like he said last week, he never made it to prelims before,” Evans said. “In track, as an individual, it’s completely different from cross-country and it’s exciting to see him compete and blossom and come into his own.”
Maybe the biggest local lock to state is the lone freshman in Barnett.
The youngster is clicking at the right time and came off a sensational Division IV championships in which she won the 1,600 and 3,200 in personal-best times of 4:46.77 and 10:27.82, respectively.
Her 1,600 mark was the third-best across four divisions, while the 3,200 mark was No. 4.
While many cross-country runners struggle to carry over success into track, that’s not the case for Barnett.
“I felt like I’ve always had the natural speed in track, but I didn’t necessarily have the endurance,” Barnett said. “Cross-country gave me that endurance for the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. I love the training and it’s helped me get to this point.”