If it is truly a battle to crown the best of the best, then leave it all on the track.
Throughout Saturday night, California’s top athletes tested the limits of themselves and one another in the 100th CIF state track and field championships at Clovis Buchanan High.
The margin of victory was razor thin in some cases, none more anticipated than the showdowns in the short sprints.
Yucaipa’s Asani Hampton, the favorite in the boys’ 100-meter dash, got a slow start out of the blocks and was upset by Tulare Union’s Kazmier Allen (10.44), who leaned past Hampton (10.45) at the finish line.
The Michigan-bound Hampton sank face down on the track immediately after the results appeared on the scoreboard.
Allen has committed to UCLA for football.
The girls’ 100 went to Calabasas’ DeAnna Nowling (11.47, sixth in U.S. this year), who beat a loaded field that included Gardena Serra’s Jazmyne Frost (11.61) and Long Beach Poly’s Ariyonna Augustine (11.65).
“The key to winning was to drive, stay in my phases, maintain and relax,” Nowling said. “To have a top time in the U.S. feels amazing. To say this is the best day of my life is an understatement.”
Repeat championships were an early theme on Saturday, with the Serra girls’ 400-meter relay team (45.69 seconds) and Oak Ridge girls’ 1,600 runner Maddy Denner (4:42.77) defending titles on the track.
The Serra girls’ 400 relay team posted the top time in the state and fifth in the nation this year. The Cavaliers also walked away with the girls’ team state title, topping Oak Ridge 36-33.
Murrieta Mesa won the boys’ team state title 35-30 over Temecula Great Oak.
Upland’s Jada Hicks backed up her strong showing in the preliminaries. The top seed ran 13.35 to win the girls’ 100 high hurdles.
In the girls’ 300 intermediate hurdles, Breanna Bernard-Joseph tied the eighth-best time in the nation this season, clocking in at 41.76. The USC signee called her top-10 time and the win “a blessing,” adding that she stuck true to form in order to finish strong during the stretch run.
“For me, I always remember what my coach and my mother said,” Bernard-Joseph said. “‘Pump those arms.’ I’m pretty much the fastest girl on the field.
“All that matters is that I can hurdle. Use your arms and run. It doesn’t matter who is there.”
Berkeley St. Mary’s Malcolm Clemons won the boys’ long jump with a wind-aided mark of 25-1, matching the second-best jump in the nation for all conditions this year.
As the night went on, state meet records were in peril. Davis’ Sondre Guttormsen did away with the boys’ pole-vault meet record, clearing the bar at 17 feet, 10 inches. The meet record previously belonged to Los Gatos’ Nico Weiler, who jumped 17-3 in 2008.
Simultaneously, Trabuco Hills’ Sean Lee was making noise over at the boys’ high jump. After winning the event with a clearance of 7-2, he took his chance at the state meet record of 7-3 1/4, set by Glendale’s Lee Balkin in 1979. But he clipped the bar with his legs.
“Last year [was the] first year I never PR’ed, so it was kind of a disappointing year, in my opinion,” Lee said. “It made me hungry to come back this year and show my full potential.”
Lee, a UCLA commit, did not fall short of anything in his career. He placed in the top three at the state meet four times, winning the state title the last two years.
The Mustangs’ senior has made many memories. His favorite was the day he set his lifetime best and the current Orange County record of 7-3.
“I think the most memorable was probably the 7-3 day because I PR’ed three times in a row, and I’ve never done that before. That was probably the highlight of my high school career,” Lee said.