NORWALK — James Knowles felt a sense of accomplishment before even running a race at the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Divisional Championships at Cerritos College on Saturday.
As the only St. Francis High athlete who qualified for the meet, Knowles was just happy to be representing the Golden Knights. Turns out, he'll be the only Golden Knight competing in the CIF Masters Meet, as well, after placing ninth in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 38.38 seconds.
"I'm going into Masters looking to set a personal record like always, make it into state and keep on going," Knowles said.
Knowles' goal was to set personal bests in both of his races and he did just that in the 110-meter hurdles. His time of 14.62 in the 110 hurdles was good for 10th overall, making him an alternate for the Masters event, which will be held at Cerritos College on Friday, as he missed the automatic cut by .07 seconds.
"The  felt good, I set a personal record, which I'm always looking to do," Knowles said. "It was a little distracting with the crowd, but I had to focus on my own race and do well."
Knowles was the only area track and field athlete to definitely extend his season Saturday and qualify outright for Masters by placing in the top nine across all four divisions in an event. Phillip Kostelnik, a Glendale resident and Loyola student, was named an alternate for the Masters in the 800 after taking fourth in the Division II heat with a time of 1:54.73. He automatically qualified for the Masters as a member of Loyola's 4x400 relay team, along with Lee Hightower, Andre Brown and Elias Gedyon. The group took third in the Division II heat and eighth overall (3:19.59).
Justice Shank, a Burroughs High student, took third in the Division I girls' high jump (5-02.00) and her teammate, Austin Allen, took fourth in the Division I boys' pole vault (14-03). Flintridge Prep's Kate Kennedy took fourth in the Division III 300 hurdles (45.39) but neither could make the cut for Masters.
It was a disappointing day for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy squad, as Stephanie Vargas was hampered by a hamstring injury that popped up about a week ago. She tested it out in the 4x100-meter relay, but it started bothering her again and she was held out of the 800.
"It was a little bit of a heartbreak," Tologs Coach Mario Aguilar said. "The 800 is her bread-and-butter race and that's what we thought was our best shot at moving on, so it's unfortunate.
"I think we have a core group of girls that we can bring back and make a run at Masters next year, though. We have no seniors here today so that's a silver lining."
The Tologs 4x100 relay team of Vargas, Noëlle Niederhaus, Drew Washington and Daelyn Moon finished seventh in the Division IV heat (50.58). Washington also took eighth in the Division IV 400 (60.36) and Armstrong finished ninth in the Division IV 800 (2:27.37).
Glendale's sophomore standout Michael Davis didn't have his usual day, taking seventh and eighth in the in the Division I 200 (22.01) and 100 (10.92), respectively. Davis admitted to feeling a few butterflies.
"The atmosphere is pretty intense, the pressure gets to you a little," Davis said.
Marv Thompson, Glendale's assistant coach, said it was still quite an accomplishment for Davis to reach the CIF Southern Section Divisional Championships as an underclassman.
"It's incredible, it's like uncharted territory," Thompson said. "It's tough jumping in some place new that you've never been before."
The Glendale boys' 4x400 relay team of Davis, Paul Archer, Dillon Fuller and Jeffrey Massin, finished sixth in the Division I heat (3:23.10).
McKenzie Paul, Burbank's only athlete to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Divisional Championship and the 2010 All-Area Girls' Cross Country Athlete of the Year, finished a disappointing eighth in the Division I 800 heat (2:15.92).
"You always want to set a personal best on your last race, that didn't happen for her today but we're proud of what she's accomplished," Burbank Coach Darin Wolf said.
Wolf hopes Paul's performance this season inspires the rest of his Burbank squad in 2012.
"We have a lot of young runners we hope to bring here next year," Wolf said. "Greg Dotson set the stage for us last year and McKenzie did it this year. Our younger kids are seeing they can get here so we hope to bring more next year."