The Patriots found themselves racking up points and an overall victory at the East Bay Invitational earlier this month. Mikey Aguiar, a junior, clocked in at 51 minutes, 56 seconds in the 400 meters dash, just 1.29 seconds short of first place. Billy Eng, a senior, brought Heritage another second place in the high jump at 6 feet, 4 inches.
Senior Eric Morford surprised everyone by adding a few more points for the Patriots in the 1600-meter race when he took first place with a time of 4:40.79.
One of the Patriots’ key athletes at the invitational was senior Jacob Rounds, who took first in the discus and whose 51-foot, 7½-inch throw placed second in the shot put.
“I think we proved to everyone that we are a formidable track team in the East Bay,” Bain said.
Senior Alex Grant, who competes in the 800- and 1600-meter races, is also primed for a successful year. Senior sprinter Asha Giles placed fifth in the 100-meter dash at last year’s North Coast Section Meet of Champions. Juniors Brittney Kuykendall and Nikayla Shodeen, in the high jump, should be competitive as well.
Though Deer Valley has started slowly, the Wolverines’ program is traditionally strong, and this year could be more of the same.
Head coach Bernard Stephens pointed to the Wolverines’ 100- and 400-meter relay teams – which include senior Jesse White, junior Shawn Simms, senior Andrew Hunte and junior Tajai Smith-White – as two of the program’s highlights.
Deer Valley should field another successful team of girls this year, including senior Darnella Jenkins, who competes in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, as well as the 100- and 400-meter relays and the long jump. Stephens also sees a solid year for senior sprinter Joy Gee and senior hurdler Erica Wilson. The girls relay teams should also be highly competitive in the section.
Falcons head coach Glenn Briggs likes the way his team is put together so far, especially his short-distance runners. Last year, senior Timazray Shepherd made it to the state meet in the 100-meter dash. Senior D’Amora Cooper figures to be another key athlete in the 100-meter race as well as the hurdles.
Briggs likes what he sees so far in his 100-meter low hurdler, senior Sara Radda, and junior Vanessa Espinoza in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Freshman sprinter Amy Garcia, sister of former Freedom track athlete Josh Garcia, figures to be a factor as well.
Senior high jumper Mike Kicenski and junior long-distance runners Mike Valdez and Ezra Zamora should finish competitively this year. Kendell Imrisek-Kawalkowski, who competes in the 800- and 3200-meter runs, looks to build off a freshman year in which she qualified for the NCS meet.
Freedom isn’t the only BVAL team with talented sprinters. Athletes such as seniors Shamawn Wright and Khadija Suleman could help Antioch make some noise in short races. Head coach Josh Tezeno said the Panthers have been working out the kinks on the relay teams, but other than that, the squad looks solid.
Wright placed fifth last year in the 200-meter dash at the Meet of Champions, while Suleman is the top-ranked 100-meter runner in the section. Seniors Alex Simmons, Dejon Lewis and junior Joshua Oseguera could also post good times in the shorter races. Tezeno noted that his girls relay team of sophomore Lindsay McGrath and seniors Taevionna Wilson, Suleman and Le’Shay Evans is also one to watch.
Pittsburg head coach Aaron Alatorre said about 150 students came out for this year’s team, one he feels could enjoy success.
Javen Butler, one of the few seniors, should have a good year in the high jump. Sophmore Janeek Mollique is an athlete to watch this year and in the near future in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as well as the relays. Austin Jones, a junior, was the league’s frosh/soph champion in the 400-meter dash last season.
As far as long-distance goes, seniors Christina Georgopolos and Marcie Torres should pace the Pirates. In the field, junior JaVonte Brooks-Brown looks to build off a solid season in the discus and the shot put.
The Lions, led by head coach and athletic director John Ambrose, hope to be more competitive in the league this season. Sprinters such as junior Bobby Davis and sophomore Orianne Goodspeed made solid showings in Liberty’s meet with Heritage earlier this month. Long-distance runner Jesus Morales, a junior, took home a win in the 1600-meter run and the pole vault against the Patriots. Junior Cora Williams ran well in some of the longer races.
Deer Valley journalism student Callib Carver contributed to this story.