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Track and Field Preview: Molina leads way for area squads

Track and Field Preview: Molina leads way for area squads
St. Francis High's Matthew Molina, right, won CIF Southern Section Division III championships in the high jump and 110 hurdles. (Raul Roa | Staff Photographer)

Talk about a major success story.

Last season, St. Francis High’s Matthew Molina enjoyed his share of success in track and field.

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Molina captured CIF Southern Section Division III championships in the 110-meter hurdles and the high jump, which led to an appearance in the state meet and being named the All-Area Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year. It’s a season that likely will have Molina wanting to achieve more accolades in 2019.

There were also plenty of other story lines, which included a slew of area athletes winning league championships and reaching the CIF Finals and beyond.

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Here is a closer look at the boys’ and girls’ teams.

ST. FRANCIS

Molina did plenty right in leading the charge for St. Francis in 2018. He won Mission League championships in the 110 hurdles in 14.96 seconds and the high jump at 6 feet, 7 inches. At the Division III finals, he registered winning marks of 14.73 in the hurdles and 6-6 in the high jump before reaching state in the high jump with a sixth-place finish at 6-6.

“What Matthew did last year was absolutely incredible,” St. Francis coach Mike Russell said. “It’s about his determination and belief that he’s the best. He’s certainly capable of becoming a seven-foot jumper. He’s bigger and stronger now.”

Molina will be joined by senior Stuart Serventi (distance), senior Malcomb Wallace (sprints/jumps/hurdler), senior Dennis Flowers III (sprints), junior Bryson Reeves (sprints/high jump), and junior Miles Mason (sprints/relays).

“We’re looking forward to the season,” Russell said. “We have experience in certain events, but will be young in other events.”

CRESCENTA VALLEY

It will likely be a bit of a transition season for both Falcons’ squads.

On the boys’ side, Crescenta Valley lost standout distance runners Colin FitzGerald and Artin Allahverdian to graduation. FitzGerald and Allahverdian reached the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet in the 1,600- and 3,200 events, respectively. Alladverdian placed 22nd in the 3,200 run in 9:17.48 at the state championships

The Falcons don’t figure to be bereft of talent, bringing back senior Manan Vats (distance), senior Grant Lauterback (distance), senior Esai Bribiesca (sprints) senior Vince Lieberman (hurdles), junior Dylan Wilbur (distance) and junior Max Grant (jumps).

“We’re looking good and I’m impressed with the way we’ve been running,” said Crescenta Valley coach Mark Evans, whose team competes in the Pacific League. “We have a very good group of distance runners. If our sprinters can keep coming along, then we’ll be that much better in a league that again will be solid.”

For the girls’ team, the Falcons will be anchored by junior distance runners Sophia Atin and Ily Nelson. They will be joined by senior Eliza Clark (hurdles), senior Izzy Lieberman (jumps, middle distance) and sophomore Julianna Cheney (middle distance).

“We should be strong again with our distance runners,” said Evans, the reigning All-Area Girls’ Track and Field Coach of the Year. “Overall as a team, we are pretty well balanced and we are getting stronger.”

FLINTRIDGE PREP

Things appear bright for Flintridge Prep, a member of the Prep League. Both boys’ and girls’ squads will bring back a contingent looking to make their move up in league under coach Scott Jung.

“We’ll have plenty of new faces on the boys’ side,” Jung said. “The good thing is that we’ll have a lot more depth in different events and we think we’ll continue to show a lot more improvement.

“With the girls, we’ll be pretty strong in the distance events and we’ll be expecting to compete for more points in the field events. We just need a few more pieces to challenge for the league championship.”

Paving the way for the boys will be senior distance runners Carson Hasbrouck and Sebastian Evans, along with junior Evan Gi (sprints), junior Alex Boquet (jumps) and sophomore Andrew Odom (middle distance).

The girls will turn to senior distance athletes Haley Allen and Sasha Codiga, junior sprinter Julie Lee and freshman Chase Sullivan (throws/jumps).

FLINTRIDGE SACRED HEART ACADEMY

There will be a handful of returning athletes for Flintridge Sacred Heart, which will spend the next two seasons competing in the Sunshine League after being in the Mission League.

The Tologs will bring back their core, yet will look vastly different with the addition of athletes who previously competed on the junior varsity squad.

Flintridge Sacred Heart coach Johnathan Keys said he’s intrigued about the prospects of the Tologs’ foundation.

“We’ll have a lot of quality athletes,” Keys said. “I think we are set up pretty nicely for the next couple of years.

“I think we’ll be able to do fairly well and surprise some people.”

The Tologs will rely on junior Lauren Bolte (middle distance), senior Kelly Carney (jumps) and junior Lauren Nettels (distance). Bolote, who recently helped the soccer team win the CIF Southern California Regional Division III championship, placed ninth in the 400 at the CIF Division IV finals last season at 1:00.19.

GLENDALE

Many good things happened a season ago for the Nitros, which included winning three Pacific League championships. Glendale’s boys’ team won two league crowns and the girls’ side captured one.

Even better for Glendale: Both teams will have their nucleus returning.

Glendale will be paced by standout junior sprinter Dylan Andrade, who won a league crown in the 400 in a personal-best mark of 49.83. In addition, Andrade teamed with Thomas Khan, Ostap Mejia and Dane Tamme to win the 400-meter relay in 43.67.

Khan, a junior, comes back as a top sprinter and will be joined by senior Arvin Sales (distance) and senior Julius Reyes (discus/shot put).

“We have closed the gap on most of the league, but we still came up short in a couple of them,” Glendale coach Bob Bailey said. “I am hoping that we can flip at least one of those close losses this year. That will require our second tier athletes to step it up and come through for us.

“For our key athletes, we want to go beyond just making CIF prelims. They all want to take the next step, and it would be nice to take a group of athletes to the next level, not just a single one.”

On the girls’ side, the Nitros will turn to senior Faviola Ramirez (shot put/discus) and senior Kendall Gaskin, (sprints). Ramirez won a league championship last season in the shot put at 33-5.

“We have only three seniors, so a major team goal will be gaining competitive experience with the young group we have,” Bailey said. “I am not sure who will blossom at the end of the season. We shall wait and see. Would like to see Favy make it to CIF finals. It has been quite awhile since a GHS girl made it past prelims.”

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HOOVER

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Numbers will be about the same as last year for the Tornadoes, who will field about 15 athletes for the boys’ team and eight for the girls’ squad.

“We’d like to have had some more turnout on both teams, but it will be an opportunity for the athletes to participate in maybe two or more events,” Hoover coach Jack Sallakian said. “We’ll have some key returners and there’s some talent here. it’s just about going out there and being able to reduce their times and marks.”

Hoover’s boys’ team will be paced by senior Jeffrey Nguyen (pole vault), senior Eric Pullen (sprints) and junior Luke Baneham (distance).

The girls’ squad will include junior Lia Yaghisaei (distance), junior Elizabeth Ghazanchian (shot put/discus) and sophomore Jazzmin Simmons (sprints/middle distance).

HOLY FAMILY

The Gaels will be relatively young and will include many first-year athletes.

Holy Family coach Greg Ziomek said he’s expecting there to be a sizable learning curve this season.

“My goal is individual improvement,” Ziomek said. “They are just learning what a track and field team is all about.

“I want them to experience the sport, learn the techniques, set a time or a mark, and improve on that steadily and gradually.”

Holy Family will have a lineup that features senior Katherine Castro (sprints/long distance), senior Erika Mae Delfin (middle distance/jumps), junior Brianna Cindrich (sprints/hurdles), freshman sprinter Maddie Gonzalez and freshman Citlali Navarro (sprints/middle distance).

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