VALLEY GLEN — In order to be in line to repeat as Mission League champion in both hurdle events, James Knowles knew he had to be much sharper with his technique. Especially during the first part of each race.
The St. Francis High senior track and field standout specifically worked on avoiding stutter-stepping in between the first four hurdles, so that he wouldn't fall far behind his worthy competitors.
He didn't get off to the best start possible Thursday during the league finals at L.A. Valley College, but he managed to keep possession of both crowns as he captured the 110-meter hurdles in 14.74 seconds and the 300 hurdles in a season-best 38.48.
It certainly wasn't easy for Knowles, the reigning All-Area Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year, in the 110.
"That wasn't my best and I didn't have a great start," said Knowles, who edged out Loyola's Jordan Ferguson (14.77). "I felt slow coming out of the hurdles and I need to get out of the blocks quicker to the first hurdle, but I finished well.
"In the 300, that's the best time I've run on the year. I'm still working on getting through the first four hurdles better. I didn't stutter too much.
"It's great to be able to repeat. It's more motivation for me the rest of the way and I want to get to state."
Knowles will next participate in the CIF Southern Section Division III preliminaries on May 12 at Estancia High. In fact, he's the lone Golden Knight to advance.
St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan said Knowles, who reached the Masters Meet in the 300 and was an alternate in the 110 last season, proved he could finish strong in both races.
"In those last three or four hurdles, that's where he excels," Donovan said. "It comes down to his strength, tenacity and toughness.
"He finished the second half of both of his races very strong. It means a whole lot to have him repeat as champion. In this league, that's something to hang your hat on."
In the girls' portion of the meet, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy didn't win any league championships. However, the Tologs will send eight representatives to the Division IV prelims, which will take place May 12 at Carpinteria High. Flintridge Sacred Heart had two individuals record second-place finishes and the 4x400 relay team placed second.
Caroline Treinen of Flintridge Sacred Heart had a mark of 9 feet 6 inches in the pole vault to take second and move on to the prelims.
Stephanie Vargas clocked 59.41 to take second in the 400 and qualify to CIF. Vargas worked with Noëlle Niederhaus, Drew Washington and Kayla Montgomery to take runner-up in the 4x400 relay (4:02.32) and move on.
The Tologs' 4x100 relay team of Vargas, Washington, Daelyn Moon and Montgomery took fourth with a qualifying time of 50.23 Also advancing to the prelims for the Tologs were Madzie MacVaugh in the high jump (third, 4-8), Washington in the 400 (third, 59.44), Montgomery in the 400 (fourth, 59.33), Niederhaus in the 800 (2:18.08) and Hailey James in the 300 hurdles (third, 48.33).
Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Eddie Gorton said the Tologs met team expectations Thursday.
"This is amazing to have this many going in this league, which is one of the hardest in the state," Gorton said. "I couldn't be more proud.
"Now, we will go to practice and tweak a few things and try to improve. These marks are a starting point."