Prep Rally: Southern Section track and field championships produced some great performances

Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena won the Division 4 100 in 10.16 seconds, the second fastest all-time.
(Dylan Stewart / PrepCalTrack)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Prep Rally. My name is Eric Sondheimer. Track and field competition has two more weeks of action. Runners are trying to reach peak form. The Southern Section championships produced some great performances. The City Section championships and Southern Section Masters meet takes place this week.

Superman makes appearance

The greatest 100/200 double by a high school athlete in history took place at the Southern Section track and field championships. Rodrick Pleasant of Gardena Serra, a junior football star, pulled it off, running the 100 meters in a wind-aided 10.16 seconds and the 200 in 20.40. Not Michael Norman, not Quincy Watts, not anyone has run that fast in those two events on the same day.


Max Thomas of Servite, the winner of the Division 3 100 in 10.35 seconds, put it best: “That dude is insane,” he said.

Pleasant came to Serra wanting to live up to the multi-sport athlete tradition established by the likes of Robert Woods, Adoree’ Jackson and George Farmer. He has succeeded and now gets to be an example for future Serra athletes with another year to go in high school.

It sets up for a great 100 meters at Saturday’s Masters Meet at Moorpark. Here’s a report from the championships.

And if anyone is surprised how fast the sprinters are running, here’s a look back to March when all the signs were coming out about a pending moment.

City finals

Arlis Boardingham of Birmingham will be competing in the triple jump at Thursday's City finals.
(Steve Galluzzo)

Thursday’s City Section track finals at Birmingham will have some very good athletes on display.

Football standout Arlis Boardingham of Birmingham delayed heading off to Florida because he wants to end his high school career as a City champion in the triple jump and long jump.

At last week’s City prelims, Reign Redmond of Carson and Mykale Mundy of Dorsey were all smiles after looking up at the Birmingham High scoreboard to see their final heat times in the girls’ and boys’ 100 meters. Each ran a time that made them confident for the finals.

Redmond zoomed home in 11.78 seconds. She has little competition other than against teammates and is gearing up to make an impact at the state championships in Clovis.

“I’m really focused on running against the clock,” she said.

Mundy ran a career-best time of 10.89.

Here’s a report from the City prelims.

Bunt madness

Just when you thought the art of bunting was disappearing, Brandon Gonzaga of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame comes through with the bunt of the year to eliminated No. 1-seeded Orange Lutheran last week in the Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs and send the Knights into Tuesday’s semifinals against Huntington Beach.

It came with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning and lifted Notre Dame to 5-4 victory. The bunt was so well executed and so unexpected that Orange Lutheran’s pitcher and catcher were left helpless as the winning run crossed home plate.

The semifinals Tuesday matching Notre Dame and Huntington Beach and JSerra against Villa Park should produce two evenly matched contests. The winners will advance to Friday’s championship game at Cal State Fullerton.

City playoffs begin

The Roosevelt duo of pitcher Lino Zepeda (left) and catcher Matias Nolasco.
The Roosevelt duo of pitcher Lino Zepeda (left) and catcher Matias Nolasco will try to lead the team in the City Section playoffs that begin on Tuesday.

When Lino Zepeda makes the 10-minute walk from his family home in Boyle Heights carrying his backpack filled with books and baseball bag filled with equipment, it’s like a peek back in time to when everyone lived close enough and felt safe enough to walk to their neighborhood school.

There are few communities in Los Angeles more loyal, proud and family oriented than Boyle Heights, home to Roosevelt High.

Zepeda is the star 6-foot-2 senior pitcher hoping to lead Roosevelt to the only place nearby that is worshipped more than the high school — Dodger Stadium.

Roosevelt hasn’t played in a City final since 2001, the year the Rough Riders lost to Chatsworth in a memorable 2-1 game that ended on a controversial called third strike on a 3-and-2 pitch with the tying and winning runs on base.

Zepeda and standout junior catcher Matias Nolasco have been waiting for the City‘s Open Division playoffs to begin. They will be in the spotlight on Tuesday when No. 5-seeded Roosevelt hosts No. 7 Reseda Cleveland, with the winner advancing to face Palisades on Friday in the quarterfinals.

Here’s a report.


El Camino Real pitcher Brooke DeSmet started for the Royals in their City Section Open Division playoff opener.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

The City Section Open Division softball semifinals Tuesday has a rare matchup of 17-time City champion San Pedro taking on 17-time champion. El Camino Real. That’s a lot of rings being worn. Kennedy will be at Carson in the other semifinal. The championship game is Saturday at 3 p.m. at Cal State Northridge.

It was also quite a scene last week for El Camino Real’s opening game.

Jodi Borenstein, the seventh-year softball coach for No. 1 seed El Camino Real, was asked if she felt any added pressure for the team’s opening game of the City Section Open Division playoffs considering that Hall of Fame former coaches Neils Ludlow and Lori Chandler were in attendance. After all, they had guided many of the school’s 17 City championship teams.

“I love it,” she said. “I love the support.”

El Camino Real went on to secure a 14-4, five-inning win over Eagle Rock. Pitcher Brooke DeSmet gave up one hit. Courtney Cohen had a two-run single in the first inning and finished with two hits. Sofia Fisher also had two hits.

Top coach vs. top coach

The coaching matchup for this week’s Southern Section Division 1 softball championship game can’t be better than Rob Weil of Los Alamitos taking on Mike Smith of Eastvale Roosevelt. They’ve been elite coaches for years.

Weil has won six CIF championships, including five at Garden Grove Pacifica and one at Los Alamitos. Smith won two championships at Chino and one at Chino Hills.

Los Alamitos ended the 31-game win streak of unbeaten Oaks Christian in the semifinals 4-0 behind pitcher Sydney Saldana. Giselle Alvarez hit a three-run home run.

Roosevelt received a shutout from pitcher Priscilla Llamas. The game will be played in Irvine on Friday or Saturday.

Here’s the latest pairings.

Donna Lee resigns

Donna Lee, who founded the softball program at Valencia in 1994, is stepping down as coach after 28 years.

Her teams won 14 Foothill League titles and had a run of winning 10 in a row from 2001-10. She won two CIF titles and her 2007 team was one of the best in the USA.


Palisades' Hunter Martinez on the attack against Chatsworth.
(Steve Galluzzo)

Who predicted the No. 1 seeds in the Southern Section and City Section volleyball playoffs would go down to defeat in the championship matches?

It happened. In the City Section Open Division final, Palisades knocked off defending champion Chatsworth 3-1. Here’s the report.

In the Southern Section Division 1 final, Newport Harbor defeated Loyola in five sets. Here’s the report.

The Southern California regionals begin this week.


Downey, CA - May 13: Corona del Mar's Lucas Newton.
Downey, CA - May 13: Corona del Mar’s Lucas Newton celebrates while holding the championship plaque after beating Foothill in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 boys’ lacrosse final on Friday, May 13, 2022 in Downey, CA. (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)
(Scott Smeltzer/Los Angeles Times)

There must be something in the water in Newport Beach. Or they love lacrosse, because Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor won lacrosse championships last week.

Corona del Mar won the Division 1 boys’ title and Newport Harbor took the Division 2 girls’ title. Foothill won Division 1 girls.

Here’s the story on Corona del Mar’s triumph.

Here are the championship results.


Irvine University has been the team to beat in high school boys tennis all season, and the team came away with the Southern Section Open Division championship, beating Corona del Mar in the final.

Here’s the story on how University won it all.

Help is on the way

Coach Keith Adams said guests are steered far away from California School for the Deaf-Riverside’s football field during tours.

The Cubs made program history last season on a bumpy mess of grass and dirt. Lit by dim LED machines. In front of a set of concrete bleachers with a home capacity of about 150. The football team was the pride of CSDR, becoming a nationwide sensation — and they were embarrassed by their home turf.

“I grew up playing with a lot of big schools, on their fields, and [at] our school it was real grass, holes and dirt,” junior quarterback Trevin Adams said through a video interpreter. “It just kind of felt disrespectful, almost.”

Finally, the Cubs have earned their respect. One worth millions.

On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed funding for a complete overhaul of CSDR’s athletic facilities in a revised budget, a request through the Department of Education with a total project cost of $43.1 million.

After the Cubs’ 12-1 season — during which players took it upon themselves to champion the deaf community — the state took notice.

Here’s the report on the improvements coming.

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Mater Dei troubles

Mater Dei high school logo
(Mater Dei High School)

A handful of short sentences written by a police dispatcher laid out the allegation in stark detail.

In a locker room at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, several football players forced a teammate to the floor and exposed their genitals. Then they held him down, as one player “began humping” him from behind, through his pants.

The incident happened in late August, according to a Santa Ana Police Department document, two weeks after the student started school at Mater Dei, home to one of the country’s most celebrated high school football programs. He wasn’t physically hurt, but the episode left him suffering from anxiety, police said in the document. He left Mater Dei shortly afterward.

The document, which The Times obtained through a public records request, is a single-page, eight-sentence description of the alleged assault that the police dept. entered into its computer system Sept. 16. The document does not address whether the Aug. 31 claim of sexual assault was investigated, or whether students, school officials or family members contacted police.

The document said the incident was reported to the student’s coach, who informed “school officials,” but did not specify when. The police received secondhand information about the incident from social services, the document said.

Here’s a look at the continuing issues surrounding the football program.

Discovering life skill

Edgar Vazquez of Fremont discovered he loved running.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

High school life is about experimentation. You can’t discover if you will like something unless you have the courage to try. For 17-year-old Edgar Vazquez of L.A. Fremont High, joining the cross-country team last fall changed his life.

“At first, I was scared,” he said.

He thought he’d have to race for 10 miles. When he heard it was three miles, it reduced his concerns. Friends also were joining the team, so that helped strengthen his mettle.

“I tried it out and really loved it,” he said.

At the Coliseum League track and field finals, he finished second at 1,600 meters in a close finish. It means his track season was over since he didn’t qualify for the City Section preliminaries.

Just being on the track was a victory.

He’s a COVID boy, a Los Angeles Unified School District student subjected to restrictions for three of his four years of high school. He wasn’t certain when he’d get to run.

“Honestly, I never thought it would actually happen,” he said. “But as soon as restrictions ended, it opened up for me.”

Here’s his story of discovering a life skill he’ll keep through adulthood.


Aidan Chiles poses for a photo at the Long Beach Millikan passing tournament.
(Luca Evans / For The Times)

St. John Bosco won the first major seven-on-seven football tournament of the spring/summer, winning the Long Beach Millikan tournament and beating Servite in the final.

One of the quarterbacks on display was Aidan Chiles of Downey.

A body crumpled to the turf, landing on Chiles’ arm last fall. In the snap of a bone, everything was back to where it started.

Back to the shadows of the sidelines after spending fruitless years there at Los Alamitos. Six games, six brilliant games of dual-threat magic, weeks of clawing for a starting job at Downey – whisked away.

Chiles kept a happy face in that game last year, as custom. But the first week after that broken wrist ended his junior season, he was in pain.

The external hurt was fine. The internal, much worse.

“I didn’t know how to feel – I didn’t even go to school,” Chiles said. “I was in a cast. I ain’t even shower. Bro, it was sad.”

He stands an imposing 6 feet 4 today, his combination of lightning-quick delivery and wheels drawing recruiting buzz across the nation. But in his mind, Chiles is still the same skinny, 5-8 quarterback from his underclassmen years, stuck behind Malachi Nelson. The same kid who Downey offensive coordinator Justin Alegria had no idea even existed.

Three seasons in his high school career have been lost. This, Alegria told Chiles, is his arc. This is his journey to the mountaintop. He’s been ready, for years, for the climb.

“I got more heart than most of these dudes out here, I’m just gonna keep it a stack,” Chiles said. “If I gotta compete with somebody, I’m gonna compete.”

Here’s a report on Saturday’s seven on seven competition.

Notes . . .

Volleyball coach Matthew Marrujo will be doing double duties at Servite. He has been named the school’s new athletic director. . . .

Jason Porter is the new basketball coach at Inglewood. . . .

Peninsula has promoted assistant coach Matt Acres to head basketball coach. . . .

Reseda and City Section football has lost one of its best coaches in Alonso Arreola, who is stepping down after 22 years coaching football for the Regents. The leading candidate to replace him is former Reseda lineman Austin Ward, who has been a college graduate assistant and is moving back to the Southland. . . .

Aaron Dorlarque has resigned as baseball coach at St. Francis. . . .

Junior Samantha Bland of Chino Hills, the Baseline League softball MVP, has committed to Nebraska.

From the archives: Michelle Palmisano

A member of the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame, Palmisano was a star girls’ basketball player at Thousand Oaks High who’d go on to play for UCLA and Vanderbilt. She earned 12 varsity letters at Thousand Oaks from 1988-92 in basketball, tennis, track and swimming.

She scored 2,798 points in basketball and was The Times’ player of the year three times.

She’d go on to become Dr. Palmisano.

Here’s a 1990 story on Palmisano. Here’s a 1988 story on the Palmisano family.


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From, a story on former Taft High star Gabe Kapler.

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Until next time...

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