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Column: Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra is ready to unleash his speed

Rodrick Pleasant showing off his medal at the Arcadia High track meet last June when he ran the 100 meters in 10.32 seconds.
Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra showing off his medal at the Arcadia High track meet last June when he ran the 100 meters in 10.32 seconds.
(Dylan Stewart / PrepCalTrack)
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If you like speed, Southern California is the place to be this spring. The number of high school runners capable of causing coaches to shout “Wow!” while holding up their stopwatches continues to grow.

Last weekend at Redondo Union, the wind was blowing hard, and junior Jaelon Barbarin of Simi Valley ran a wind-aided 10.37 seconds to edge Max Thomas of Anaheim Servite in the 100 meters. Wind or not, that’s a wild time for this early in the track and field season.

“I don’t think we’ve seen this much speed this early in a long time,” said Rich Gonzalez of PrepCalTrack.com.

The fastest of all, junior Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra, made his season debut on Wednesday as part of a 400 relay team that ran the fastest time in the state at 41.31. He’s scheduled to run his first sprint next weekend in Texas. After two months off following a bruising football season that saw him sustain high ankle sprains in both legs, he says he’s completely healed.

“I feel the best I’ve felt in a very long time,” he said.

Pleasant ran 10.32 seconds in the 100 last June in the same race that former Santa Ana Mater Dei football standout Domani Jackson tied Henry Thomas’ state record of 10.25 seconds, which was set in 1985.

“That race showed me what I could do,” said Pleasant, who turned 17 last month. “It helped me run 20.5 in the 200. I was hurt I lost. I’m a huge competitor. I hate losing, but to compete against somebody like that was amazing. It was great to see another two-sport athlete. I salute him coming out there. You see very few football players out there running track, especially in California.”

Except in the 100 this spring, there is a football connection. Besides Pleasant, a standout cornerback, Arizona-bound running back Rayshon Luke of Bellflower St. John Bosco will return to sprinting after a two-year absence. He was one of the state’s fastest as a freshman. Barbarin is a receiver and running back for Simi Valley.

Then there was Santa Ana Foothill three-sport athlete Austin Overn running a 10.73 100 against the wind at another meet. It was the first 100 he has run in competition. . Who knows how fast the USC-bound receiver and outfielder is going to run with a little practice.

In fifth place at Redondo Union was Patrick Ize-Iyamu of West Hills Chaminade. The Oregon commit ran 10.67 in his first race since suffering an injury last May. “I’m happy I ran,” he said. “It lets me know what I need to work on.”

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Everyone is gearing up for a showdown at the Arcadia Invitational on April 9 at Arcadia High. Izye-Iyamu is the meet’s defending 100 champion. Meet participants won’t be trying to reach peak form, but begin the process of preparing for section and state championships in May.

It’s an exciting time for track in Southern California, from the record-setting Newbury Park distance runners to the promise Thomas is showing in his new favorite race, the 400. He set a Servite school record by running 48.12 seconds soon after running his blazing 100 time Saturday. That brings back memories of the great Michael Norman during his Vista Murrieta days.

PrepCalTrack.com’s Gonzalez said of Thomas’ double, “Max ran the freaking 100 an hour earlier. That’s insane.”

Pleasant said he has shut down football workouts to concentrate on track. His older brother, Dominic Davis, did both at Mission Hills Alemany and USC.

“It’s been something important to me, and competing at a high level is something I have to do,” he said. “It’s something my family instilled in me. Football is getting faster. Linemen are running 4.8 speed in the 40. Speed is important.”

He was inspired by the days seeing his brother compete against the state’s No. 1 sprinter, TJ Brock of Chaminade.

“I love track being able to compete and not having anyone else to blame except for me,” he said. “You’re in the block. You’re alone. You have to be mentally focused, which is different. Some people don’t understand how hard track is.”

Pleasant is also trying to keep up the Serra tradition of producing outstanding football/track athletes, such as Robert Woods and Adoree’ Jackson.

“I’ve been trying to uphold the standard,” he said.

Pleasant is the favorite to win a state title in the 200, but don’t think he’s going to let anyone beat him in the 100. The faster the competitors, the better he runs.

“I love seeing dudes run fast,” he said. “You have to execute your race to win.”

Ize-Iyamu is ready to make a bold prediction.

“I think we’re going to have the fastest crew in the nation,” he said. “The top eight guys in the state, everyone is going to go faster than 10.5.”

Wow.

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