Prep Rally: The Arcadia Invitational takes center stage


Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. This is a big week for big games and big events for multiple high school sports.

Arcadia Invitational takes center stage

One of the best track and field meets in the nation will take place Saturday night at Arcadia High. It’s the Arcadia Invitational, where the boys’ 100 meters is so loaded with top runners that the day meet was limited to athletes who had times of 10.76 or faster.


Seeing USC-bound Max Thomas go against Gardena Serra junior Rodrick Pleasant is worth the price of admission ($22) in the 100 and 200. But that’s just a teaser to a night that could produce lots of records. The 400, 800 and 3,200 will be memorable. The hurdle races will feature UCLA-bound Jadyn Marshall, coming in from Stockton St. Mary’s.

Newbury Park’s distance stars will be represented.

For girls, Mira Costa’s Dalia Frias, the Gatorade state cross-country runner of the year, will do battle with freshman Sadie Engelhardt of Ventura and Sam McDonnell of Newbury Park. Soccer star Alyssa Thompson of Harvard-Westlake will show off her speed going against Jordan Washington of Gardena Serra in the sprints.

But it’s not just track and field this week.

In baseball, No. 1 Orange Lutheran and No. 2 Yucaipa are traveling to Cary, N.C., to compete in the National High School Baseball Invitational that begins Wednesday. Also competing is Huntington Beach and Servite.

In the City Section, the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams, Granada Hills and Birmingham, are set for a two-game West Valley League series Tuesday night at Birmingham and Thursday afternoon at Granada Hills.

Corona and Norco will play three games in a huge Big VIII League series beginning Monday.

Seth Johnson is versatile

MISSION VIEJO, CA - APRIL 02: Seth Johnson, 18, a senior at Cajon High
Seth Johnson, 18, a senior at Cajon High, competes in the Trabuco Hills Invitational.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Seth Johnson wasn’t supposed to do anything special.

Two days earlier, the San Bernardino Cajon High track and field sensation had won the high school boys’ pentathlon at the Nike Indoor Nationals in New York. So for this March 15 dual meet against Beaumont, head coach Tracy Jackson convinced Johnson to rest. Just compete in one event, the high jump, instead of his usual four. Just notch a decent score and relax.

Sure, Johnson was listening. But he just felt good.

Taking photos on the side, his mother, Mia, told Jackson that her son was gearing up to hit a personal record. Before the coach knew it, his protégé was bending his spine like a slinky over a bar six-feet, nine-inches high. With the smack of his back against the pad, Johnson was suddenly the state leader in the high jump.


A look at one of the state’s most versatile track and field performers.

The Gabriela Jaquez story

Camarillo, CA - December 13, 2021: Gabriela Jaquez
Gabriela Jaquez of Camarillo earned a scholarship last July from UCLA before her senior year and was co-MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game last week.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

For those who feel disappointed about a lack of college scholarship offers, Gabriela Jaquez of Camarillo High is the perfect role model for what can happen in the offseason when a player works hard and continues to develop her skills.

In this day and age, when eighth-graders are receiving scholarship offers, Jaquez didn’t receive a women’s basketball scholarship offer from her dream school, UCLA, until July 16, 2021. That is considered very late in the basketball recruiting process and a remarkable achievement on her part.

“It’s a great story of how to hold on to your dreams,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “She had one Pac-12 offer going into her last summer and just worked and worked.”

Here’s her story.


There should be a large crowd for a rare City Section showdown under the lights on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Birmingham. The Patriots are taking on Granada Hills for West Valley League supremacy. It’s great that Granada Hills coach Matt Matuszak agreed to play the game under the lights because others have declined and it will allow players and fans from across the area to see the game.


Sierra Canyon continues unbeaten at 18-0 and isn’t likely to be challenged until playing in the Boras Classic April 20.

Here’s the link to this week’s top 25 rankings.

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame has the chance to clinch at least a share of the Mission League championship if it sweeps Loyola this week. The Knights are tied with Harvard-Westlake, which will still have six league games. Notre Dame finishes its league season, then will have just five games remaining — the Boras Classic and a nonleague game.

“It’s weird,” Notre Dame coach Tom Dill said.

During its trip to Alabama last week, Harvard-Westlake lost the reigning Mission League MVP, Touissaint Bythewood, to a wrist injury diving for a ball.

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Baseball protest

Left-hander Josh Pollack of Chatsworth threw six shutout innings against Birmingham.
(Steve Galluzzo)

Birmingham baseball coach Matt Mowry filed a protest in the bottom of the third inning last week against Chatsworth when the umpire failed to declare a batter out for using an illegal bat. Birmingham ended up losing 3-0.

A City Section committee will hear the protest on Tuesday and make a decision. It looks like the Patriots have a good chance of prevailing because the umpire failed to properly implement the rule. Mowry followed the procedure of protesting immediately. If the protest is upheld, the game would be replayed from the time of the protest with one out in the third and Chatsworth ahead 1-0.

Jarrod Hocking steps up

Jarrod Hocking of Servite.
Jarrod Hocking of Servite.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Jarrod Hocking’s arms are linebacker thick even though he hasn’t played football since his freshman year.

“At Servite, we definitely get after it in the weight room,” the 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior center fielder said.

Confirmed Servite baseball coach Shawn Gilbert: “He likes the weight room.”

With those powerful arms, quick feet and uncanny hand-eye coordination, Hocking has discovered that baseball fits him perfectly. He entered this week batting .437 with 17 hits, nine RBIs and six extra-base hits as the leadoff hitter through 11 games.


He comes from a family where sports are worshipped and appreciated 365 days a year. His father, Denny, was a major leaguer for 13 years. His mother, Venetta, played basketball at Cypress College. His twin sisters, Penelope and Iliana, were soccer players at USC and Arizona, respectively, and set the stage for their younger brother to follow with passion and dedication.

Here’s a profile of Hocking.

Linemen making impact

Allegiance Athletics based in Orange County held a one-day camp for high school linemen in Orange County, and one of the directors, Chris Ward, offered thoughts on some of the top linemen he saw.

MVP on offense was Kahlee Tafai of Leuzinger, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound class of 2023 player. Other blockers that were impressive include Luke Baklenko of Oaks Christian, Sean Na’a of St. John Bosco and Sean Haney of St. John Bosco.

On defense, Michael Hughes, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior from Santa Ana, was one of the best players, along with class of 2025 lineman Jireh Moe from Orange Lutheran and 2024 lineman TJ Ford from Chaminade.

Identifying and developing linemen is one of the toughest tasks for college recruiters. It’s not always about size, with the focus also on strength, technique and commitment.

Zach keeps getting better

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet talking at the end of Saturday's spring practice. He's up to 220 pounds.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Former Oaks Christian running back Zach Charbonnet decided to return for another season at UCLA and he’s not resting on his laurels. He looked bigger, stronger and faster last week during spring practice.

Here’s what he said during an interview on Saturday.


Hunter Greene debut

Hunter Greene, a Sherman Oaks Notre Dame grad who was taken No. 2 overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2017 amateur draft, is set to make his major league debut on Sunday in a start against the Atlanta Braves.

Greene’s fastball has reached 100 mph. He has come back from Tommy John surgery. He’s considered among the top prospects in the Reds’ organization.


Anaheim Canyon won the Michelle Carew tournament with a 2-1 win over Orange Lutheran in the championship. The pressure was on all week for a tournament that brought together the top teams in California, and no one was better than Arizona State-bound pitcher Kylee Magee of Canyon.

Magee struck out 17 in the final to prevent Orange Lutheran from celebrating its breakthrough week that saw the Lancers knock off No. 1 Villa Park and also defeat Norco. Pitcher Brianne Weiss continues to excel for Orange Lutheran. She struck out 13 against Canyon.

Mya Perez of Norco is having quite a junior season. She has hit 10 home runs and is also contributing as a pitcher.

Birmingham already has nicest softball field in the City Section and it will get better next season because the Patriots will be getting lights.


The Patriots also pulled off an upset, knocking off Granada Hills 2-1 in eight innings.


Mater Dei continues to look like the team to beat in boys’ lacrosse.

In the Monarchs’ latest big win over a quality opponent, they defeated Corona del Mar 14-8.

Evan Curry and Nate Chu each scored three goals.

Notes . . .

Charter Oak has hired Marcus Bryan to be its boys’ basketball coach. . . .

Cleveland has hired Dagem Asfaw to be its boys’ basketball coach. He’s a Cleveland grad who was an assistant at Cal Lutheran. . . .

Chance Stephens from Riverside Poly has committed to Loyola Marymount basketball. . . .

After 25 years as an assistant girls’ basketball coach at Rosary, Matt Raya has been hired as head coach at El Dorado. . . .

Standout point guard Cruz Billings from Foothill has committed to Chapman University. . . .

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame baseball coach Tom Dill earned victory No. 500 in his coaching career. . . .

San Pedro has hired assistant Corey Walsh to be the school’s new football coach. He is the son of former Pirates coach Mike Walsh. . . .

Notre Dame has hired former LPGA professional Bari Brandwynne to be the women’s golf coach. . . .

From the archives: Carter Graham

Former Chaminade infielder Carter Graham leads Stanford in hitting.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Sophomore infielder Carter Graham is off a great start in his sophomore baseball season at Stanford.

He leads the Cardinal in hitting with a .382 average, including six home runs.

During his days at Chaminade, he was a top hitter and top student.

Here’s a profile from 2020 on Grahada and his girlfriend dealing with the COVID-19 shutdown.


The food taster

Let’s start a new feature — highlighting high schools that offer pretty good food choices for fans attending their sporting events.

First up is Notre Dame, which has a great snack bar for its night baseball games. On Lent, when Catholics are not supposed to eat meat, Shrimp Jambalaya was on the menu and what a tasty meal it was for $6. Rice, shrimp, delicious soup.

This is going to be fun tasting schools’ best dishes. You’re welcome to welcome the food taster to drop by.


From, a story on when high school sports ends, it’s tough on parents, too.

From, a story on Amari Bailey of Sierra Canyon.

From, a story on former El Camino Real baseball player Ryan Lavarnway explaining whether his Ivy League education was wasted after playing 15 years of baseball.


From, a story on Mater Dei volleyball being the top challenger to Loyola.

From the Los Angeles Times, a story on a man who makes hoop dreams come true to play overseas.

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Until next time...

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