Prep Rally: Biggest track meet of the year is Saturday

Patrick Ize-Iyamu of Chaminade poses in front of scoreboard after running 10.56 100 meters at Simi Valley Invitational

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. The biggest track and field meet of the year is the Arcadia Invitational set for Saturday at Arcadia High. Usually the best and fastest runners in the country converge at Arcadia. This season it will be only the best and fastest from California. There’s no state championships, so this meet will be it.


Patrick Ize-Iyamu of Chaminade poses in front of scoreboard after running 10.56 100 meters at Simi Valley Invitational

When Patrick Ize-Iyamu was 10, he remembers running the anchor leg for a 4x100 relay team in a race that reinforced his passion for track. Running out of lane 5, he was trailing by some 25 meters to the competitors in lanes 4 and 6. He took the baton and made up the deficit, splitting his competitors for a photo finish.

The crowd then went silent waiting for the public address announcer to reveal the winner... When Ize-Iyamu learned he had won, he received congratulations, cheers and adulation from parents and fans.


“That’s when I honestly started to love the sport for what it was,” he said.

Ize-Iyamu, the son of Nigerian immigrants, is ready to show off his speed and love for running during Saturday’s Arcadia Invitational at Arcadia High.

Here’s a profile of the junior sprinter from West Hills Chaminade. Here’s an interview with him from Friday Night Live.

Mia Barnett is ready

Mia Barnett ran the fourth-fastest time in the girls' 3,200 meters on April 17 during the Laguna Beach Distance Carnival.
(Matthew Barnett)

Over the months, some of the cars pulling into the drive-through deteriorated. They’d look dingier. Dirtier. Mia Barnett of Crescenta Valley would try to put on a smile behind her mask.


After sitting through Zoom classes last spring, Barnett would head to the Los Angeles Dream Center, strap on a pair of gloves and a surgical mask, and pass out free meals to a steady line of families in the center’s parking lot. She and other workers tried to create a cheerful atmosphere amid chaos. Once, she remembers, a woman cried after Barnett handed her food.

Barnett had plenty of reasons not to be happy in those months. Track season had been canceled, with cross country axed in the fall. Everyday runs at Rose Bowl Stadium were the only connection the runner had to her sport. But the time at the center did something important, father and LA Dream Center founder Matthew Barnett said: It showed her there were people with problems larger than hers.

Now she’s ready to focus on showing everyone her talent in distance races at the Arcadia Invitational. Here’s the link to a profile of one of the best 800 runners in the nation.

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100 meters competition

Jalen Davis of Golden Valley broke his own school record with a time of 10.60 seconds in the 100 meter.

Harvard-Westlake football player Jason Thompson served notice with a school-record performance in the triple jump.

Keeping tabs

Former Long Beach Wilson high jumper Rachel Glenn of South Carolina cleared 6-03.25 in the women’s high jump competition at an invitational in Florida.

CIF approves regional playoffs

The CIF announced there will be Southern California regional playoffs in June for the sports of boys’ volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, tennis and golf. There will be no state championships for track and field, swimming, wrestling and basketball for the second consecutive year.

Regional playoffs will give an opportunity for City Section teams to see how they match up against the Southern Section powers, such as Birmingham in boys’ soccer against L.A. Cathedral.

There could be teams deciding not to participate because regional playoffs come after graduation and some top players want to use June for travel ball competitions.

Newbury Park track and cross-country coach Sean Brosnan said his top distance runners will opt out from participating in the Southern Section championships in favor of a race in Tennessee.

Here’s the link to a look at dates for regional playoffs.

Problems at Dorsey

Dorsey has a proud history as being one of the top producing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District for athletes. Apparently not anymore.

The football team never was able to play a game during the abbreviated spring season. It had trouble getting enough players cleared to be eligible. Now the basketball teams, boys and girls, will not play in May.

To me, this is about lack of leadership. Somewhere, something has gone horribly wrong.

The LAUSD media office gave me this response when I asked why there will be no basketball season: “Dorsey High School did not field a girls or boys basketball team due to student interests.”

Really? No student interest in playing basketball at Dorsey High?

This is a sad time for a proud community. The alumni can’t be pleased.

Boys’ basketball

A look at the top high school boys’ basketball teams in the Southland.

Rank, school, wins-losses, comment, last week’s rank

1. SIERRA CANYON (5-0); Amari Bailey is playing like Amari Bailey; 1

2. ETIWANDA (4-0); Marcus Green scored 28 vs. Rancho Cucamonga; 2

3. MATER DEI (15-0); Monarchs face St. John Bosco on Wednesday; 3

4. SANTA MARGARITA (7-1); only loss is to Mater Dei; 4

5. ST. JOHN BOSCO (11-1); Jeremiah Nyarko is a key player; 5

6. CORONA CENTENNIAL (10-1); big week for Donovan Dent; 6

7. DAMIEN (19-1); RJ Smith is one of the best junior guards; 7

8. HARVARD-WESTLAKE (10-2); Cameron Thrower is a reliable scorer; 8

9. RIBET ACADEMY (0-0); finally, the season begins this week; 10

10. BIRMINGHAM (3-1); David Elliott had a 42-point game; 13

Let him have cake

Larry Shelton of Downey received a cake after his 500th basketball coaching victory.

Downey basketball coach Larry Shelton has his team at 10-1. And he got a nice tasty chocolate cake for his 500th career victory. He has been the head coach for 34 years.

David Elliott of Birmingham scored a career-high 42 points in a win over Campbell Hall. Elliott has signed with Loyola Marymount.

LAUSD boys and girls basketball teams in the City Section are expected to begin practicing this week inside gyms and begin playing after waiting for two weeks to fulfill safety site requirements of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Lynwood decided to end its boys’ basketball season. Several players were committed to playing travel ball, which most certainly would have affected the high school team.

Rest in Peace

Henry Polee, a familiar basketball official for the City Section in the 1970s and 1980s, has died. He was 88.

Polee was the uncle of former Manual Arts basketball great Dwayne Polee.

In retirement, he’d come out to watch the great City Section matchups.

School record for Keith Higgins Jr.

Chaminade guards Kenneth Simpson Jr. (left) and Keith Higgins Jr. led the Eagles to a win in their Mission League opener.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Keith Higgins Jr. has been a four-year starter at Chaminade. He came through with the best performance of his career on Saturday night, setting a school record with 51 points.

Here are some comments from coach Bryan Cantwell.

Girls’ basketball

Caia Elisaldez of Mater Dei intercepts a pass against Long Beach Poly.
Caia Elisaldez of Mater Dei intercepts a pass against Long Beach Poly.

(Jeremiah Soifer)

For now, Santa Ana Mater Dei is looking pretty good at 12-0 after a 77-24 rout of Long Beach Poly. The Monarchs have been doing everything right.

West Torrance is 9-0 and owns a win over Harvard-Westlake.

Corona Centennial is 7-0. Guard Londynn Jones, a UCLA commit, is averaging 22.4 points.

Harvard-Westlake is 11-2 and McDonald’s All-American Kiki Iriafen continues to have an outstanding season, averaging 19.8 points and 14.5 rebounds.


Thousand Oaks, at 15-0, continues to beat up on Ventura County competition. The Lancers have hit 25 home runs. Roc Riggio has seven home runs and Charlie Saum and Dylan Jackson have five apiece. Thousand Oaks primarily relies on its hitting, which will be an interesting challenge when the Division 2 playoffs start, since having a standout pitcher is usually really important. Going unbeaten this long, however, shows how good the Lancers are.

Harvard-Westlake, at 15-4, has gotten a big lift from junior center fielder Toussaint Bythewood, who started the season injured. He was the backup to first-round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Healthy and given the chance to play, he’s leading the team in hitting with a .467 average with 14 hits in 30 at-bats, including four triples. He had four hits in a game against Crespi last week.

If he needs any good videos produced on his hitting, he can always ask his mother, Gina Prince Bythewood, writer/director of “Love & Basketball.”

JSerra began Trinity League play with a three-game sweep of Mater Dei but nothing was easy. The two teams played a 12-inning game that ended up as a 1-0 win over JSerra. JSerra began the year as the No. 1 team in Southern California, then dropped out of the rankings. Let’s just say come playoff time, with pitchers Gage Jump, David Horn and Eric Silva, the Lions will be tough to beat.

Granada Hills made a move in the City Section, getting a two-game sweep of Chatsworth in the West Valley League. The Highlanders are loaded with talented players from the class of 2022.


Just when you thought Los Alamitos was in a slump the Griffins handed Villa Park its first defeat.

Norco is 12-1 and 3-0 in the tough Big VIII League.

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is 10-0 and Ella Parker is hitting .575 with eight home runs.


Maya Angelou football player Bruno Silva has a 4.0 GPA.
Maya Angelou football player Bruno Silva has a 4.0 GPA.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

For all those who worked so hard to make sure high school seniors had the chance to play spring football, Bruno Silva of Los Angeles Mayo Angelou is an example why the sacrifice and determination was worth it.

He played in his final ever football game on Friday night against Los Angeles Wilson. He learned so much from playing football the last four years. He came here from El Salvador at the age of 3 and joined the football team as a freshman. He has an academic scholarship to Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Here’s the link to his story.

Headed to Florida State

Former Rancho Verde quarterback AJ Duffy announced he has committed to Florida State.

Duffy left Rancho Verde to enroll at IMG Academy in Florida, where he intends to play his senior season this fall. His father remains head coach at Rancho Verde.

City Section season ends

The spring football season is officially over after the City Section completed its four-week run.

Here’s a column looking at Birmingham’s final game against Chatsworth.

Birmingham won 44-0 but the most amazing moment was watching all 11 Chatsworth players on defense try to tackle Birmingham’s 6-foot-5, 227-pound Arlis Boardingham. They never got him down. They were saved by the whistle.

San Pedro went 2-0 and would get my vote for No. 1 in the City Section. It was a tough month, with teams such as Dorsey, Eagle Rock and Franklin not even having a season. It’s time to regroup and for some programs start over.

The Trinity League released its all-league team. Raesjon Davis of Mater Dei was selected MVP.

Cade Moran makes impression

Murrieta Mesa coach Darrel Turner is convinced junior linebacker Cade Moran, 6-2, 230 pounds, is a “baller” to watch for this fall.

“This kid can play at the next level,” Turner said.

Here’s his Hudl highlights from the five-game spring season.

Spring star at St. Genevieve

St. Genevieve coach Billy Parra found a spring standout to help his team this fall.

Junior running back Camdan McWright rushed for 774 yards and eight touchdowns in four games.

St. Genevieve won its first league title since 2008.


L.A. Cathedral (13-0), Servite (11-1) and Birmingham (11-0) continue to be the best in boys’ soccer. With regional playoffs on, these teams could face off at some point this season.

In girls’ soccer, Harvard-Westlake has been in a class by itself with a 9-0 record. The Thompson sisters, freshman Gisele and sophomore Alyssa, continue to dominate.

From the archives

Former Taft, USC and New York Giants WR Steve Smith.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Steve Smith will always be known as one of greatest City Section receivers I’ve ever seen.

From Nov. 17, 2000, I led a story about Smith this way: “He’s no longer Steve Smith of Taft High. Just call him Stevie Wonder.”

Smith was 15 and starring as a sophomore. From his catches to his running, he was sometimes unstoppable.

Taft coach Troy Starr had warned me about Smith when he was a freshman of how talented he might be.

From 1999, I wrote: “It’s time to go on the record about freshman sensation Steve Smith of Taft: He’s the best nonvarsity football player I’ve seen since Russell White was tearing up freshman teams at Crespi in 1985. Smith, a receiver-free safety, has scored 15 touchdowns, including three touchdown catches last week against Granada Hills. He’s 6-2 and doesn’t turn 15 until May. The coaches at UCLA and USC would be wise to mark down Smith’s name.”

He was a fantastic athlete who could dunk a basketball, dribble a basketball and be just as impactful in basketball as in football.

He’d go on to star at USC and win a Super Bowl with the New York Giants. His younger brother, Malcolm, also became a standout linebacker at Taft, USC and in the NFL.

What a family they were. Their mother and father always cared about academics and making sure they turned out to be good people. They did and they are.

$20,000 for View Park Prep

Congrats to View Park Prep, the charter school down the street from Crenshaw High. With an enrollment of 450, View Park has been given a $20,000 grant from the Aspen Institute as part of its initiative “Reimagining School Sports in America.”

Despite no gym and no full field, View Park has been a leader in making sports available to its students, including rugby and surfing.

Here’s the link to story on the grant.


Sienna Brooks of Corona del Mar.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Huntington Beach’s girls’ tennis team knocked off Corona del Mar to win the Surf League championship.

It’s only the second league title for Huntington Beach.

Here’s the report from the Daily Pilot.

Big games this week

In baseball, unbeaten No. 1-ranked Thousand Oaks will face its biggest challenge from Westlake, which had an 11-game win streak end on Thursday. In the Foothill League, Hart and unbeaten West Ranch are playing in a two-game series Wednesday and Friday. They end their regular season at Hart on May 26. JSerra with a nine-game win streak plays Santa Margarita with a 13-game win streak in three-game series.

In basketball, Windward is hosting Sierra Canyon on Tuesday in outstanding boys and girls league games.


From the Los Angeles Times a profile on former Oaks Christian softball standout Maya Brady, who has become a star at UCLA and is the niece of Tom Brady.

From Slate a story on the Supreme Court having to decide whether public schools can “actually abridge their students’ free expression beyond the schoolhouse gate” involving a foul-mouthed cheerleader.

From the New York Times, a story on Ivy League athletes denied a sports season but figuring way to have gap year.

Tweets you may have missed

Until next time...

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