VALLEY GLEN — After spending the past several months working on his mechanics, James Knowles started to see a difference each time he took to the track.
Having made the proper adjustments, the St. Francis junior took to the course and promptly won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the Mission League finals on Thursday afternoon at L.A. Valley College.
Knowles clocked a personal-best mark of 14.77 in the 110 and came back with a time of 39.43 in the 300.
"I kind of looked at my techniques on the 110 and I could see the small things that could make a difference," said Knowles, who will next participate in the CIF Southern Section Division III preliminaries at Estancia High on May 14. "I worked on things like my lead leg and that helped me go between hurdles.
"With the 300, I've learned my steps and I ran my hardest. It's just about being dedicated and I showed myself that I could improve and win.
"I've been able to improve my time, and I'm just going to keep working on my drills and try to improve for prelims."
Phillip Kostelnik of Loyola won the 800 in 1 minute 54.88 seconds. The Glendale resident also helped the Cubs win the 4x400 relay in 3:18.68 to move on to the Division II prelims at Moorpark High.
In the girls' portion of the meet, no members from Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy won a league championship. However, seven individuals and two relay teams qualified for the Division IV prelims, which will take place at Carpinteria High.
St. Francis Coach Pat Donovan said the competition level sparked Knowles, the lone qualifier from the Golden Knights.
"He went up against some great athletes," Donovan said. "I thought before the season that if all went well, he could challenge for league in both events.
"He's a hard-working athlete and it's great to see everything pay off for him."
Flintridge Sacred Heart had two second-place finishes, including Stephanie Vargas clocking 57.74 in the 400. Vargas closed out the meet by working with Drew Washington, Rebecca Armstrong and Daelyn Moon to place second in the 4x400 relay (4:01.10).
The Tologs' 4x100 relay quartet of Vargas, Noëlle Niederhaus, Moon and Washington placed fifth with a qualifying mark of 50.73. Also advancing to the prelims were Washington in the 400 (fifth, 59.54), Hailey James in the 300 hurdles (third, 50.46), Armstrong in the 800 (third, 2:21.71), Vanessa Romero in the shot put (third, 32 feet 3/4 inches), Niederhaus in the triple jump (fourth, 33-9) and Caroline Treinen in the pole vault (third, 9-4).
Before the season began, Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Mario Aguilar said the team goal was to send at least 10 athletes to prelims. While they missed the mark, Aguilar isn't complaining.
"We are rolling going into CIF," Aguilar said. "It's important for the school and team that we keep getting an increase in athletes advancing.
"For the program this year, it's a step forward."