Serra’s Rodrick Pleasant sets sights on more record-setting sprints

Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra lets out a yell after anchoring a relay win.
Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra High has used his blazing track speed to his benefit as a top cornerback and the state’s fastest teenager.
(Nick Koza)

To witness the unexpected and experience the magic of high school sports competition, all it takes is a glimpse of Rodrick Pleasant unleashing his burst of speed this spring.

It’s unlike anything you’ve seen from a teenage athlete.

A year ago as a junior at Gardena Serra, Pleasant shattered what was thought to be an unbreakable state record in the 100 meters by running it in a state record 10.14 seconds. This season he wants to make his final moments as a high school athlete even more memorable by taking aim at the 200 national record of 20.13 seconds.

“I want to let myself run fast,” he said.

The state track and field championships at Buchanan High School in Clovis on May 26-27 will be his final track appearances for 2023 before he heads to Oregon to play cornerback and return punts and kickoffs for the Ducks. Until then, Southern California fans have plenty of time to enjoy his farewell tour.


“I’m excited about the competition, excited about the guys coming back, and it’s going to be a great season,” he said.

It began in Idaho this past weekend at the Simplot Games, where he ran in the 60 and relays. He finished second in 6.80 seconds.

A top event to let fans enjoy his speed will be at the Arcadia Invitational on April 8 at Arcadia High.

One reason Pleasant was able to fulfill his potential last season was the strong competition that pushed him to break the 37-year-old 100 meters record of 10.25 seconds set by Henry Thomas of Hawthorne in 1985.

Back to make Pleasant run even faster is junior Jordan Washington of Long Beach Jordan. He finished second to Pleasant at the state championships, running 10.44 to Pleasant’s winning time of 10.30. Devin Bragg ran 10.35 as a freshman at Los Alamitos and is now at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon determined to match Pleasant’s strong finish. Jaelon Barbarin of Simi Valley had some fast 100 times, so he can’t be dismissed either. And beware of Nathaniel Frazier of Santa Ana Mater Dei.

The good news is that Pleasant made it through the football season healthier than he has ever been, allowing him to begin training for track with no limitations.


“Last year I had two ankle sprains,” he said. “This year has been real fun.”

It’s shaping up as an exciting year for boys’ and girls’ track and field.

Two big coaching changes have shaken up things. Chris Mack, who guided L.A. Cathedral to a state championship in Division III, is now at Serra. Lonnie Davis, who built a powerful program at Santa Clarita Golden Valley, replaced Mack at Cathedral, and that has led to an exodus of top girls’ athletes at Golden Valley.

For boys, there’s defending City Section champion Dijon Stanley of Granada Hills hoping to break 46 seconds in the 400. There’s the Newbury Park distance crew of Leo Young, Lex Young and Aaron Sahlman coming off outstanding cross-country seasons. There’s hurdler Logan Lyght of Mater Dei.

There’s Xai Ricks and JaVon Hampton of Long Beach Poly expected to be big contributors in the 400 and long jump, respectively. State champion Brendon See of San Juan Capistrano JSerra returns in the discus. Kai Deines of Redondo Union has reached 63-6 in the shotput.

For girls, there’s so many top returning sprinters, it’s difficult to predict who might be best. The top three finishers at last year’s state 100 meters final return. Reign Redmond of Carson won in 11.56, followed by Gardena Serra teammates Brazil Neal in 11.57 and Jordan Washington in 11.62. Add former Golden Valley sprinters Ta’Ahjah Fann (now at Carson) and Adonijah Currie (Quartz Hill) and the sprint competition is scorching.

Serra, the defending state champion, might have the best sprint relay team having added Sadia Green from Long Beach Wilson to join Washington and Neal.

Sophomore Sadie Engelhardt of Ventura is set to dominate in the distance events. Aja Johnson of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame showed great promise last season as a freshman in the shotput. Meagan Humphries of Castaic reached 5-9 last season in the high jump at Golden Valley. State champion Alyssa Hope of Riverside King returns in the long jump. April Fontenette of Notre Dame finished second in the state discus.


Pleasant is offering no apologies for sticking around for track season instead of graduating early to start his college football career. He said he’s passionate about football but equally committed to track.

“This is something I love and is definitely a must,” he said. “I want to run faster and want to go back to back as a state champion.”

Sports fans in Southern California will be rewarded with three more months to see Pleasant put on a show before he’s off to Duck country.