The Wolverines, who had trailed the Patriots throughout the week, earned 26 points in the two events, compared to nine for Heritage, and put them in position to capture another BVAL team title.
But the drama wasn’t finished. Heritage earned three points in the 3200-meter final to regain the lead by two points entering the 4x400-meter relay, but the Wolverines came through in the final event – and got some help along the way. Needing to finish two spots ahead of Heritage to win the title outright, Deer Valley’s quartet of Raven Fox, Erica Wilson, Joy Gee and Kaniya Samm placed second behind a strong Antioch foursome.
The Wolverines got help when Pittsburg beat Heritage by three seconds for third place, allowing Deer Valley to outscore Heritage 126-124 for the team championship. The Wolverines have won the girls’ league title each year since 2006.
Deer Valley was paced by six individual titles to complement the 4x100-meter relay crown. Wilson and Audrena Harlan were double winners for the Wolverines. Wilson easily captured the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdle races, while Harlan swept the long jump and triple jump. Fox won the 400-meter dash for the champions, while Chantell Taito won the shot put by nearly eight feet.
The Antioch Panthers also received strong performances in the girls’ sprints, leading them to a third-place finish as a team. Khadija Suleman cemented her status as the top female sprinter in the league, powering her way to convincing victories in both the 100 and 200 meters. She also teamed up with Le’Shay Evans, Gianna Lucido and Lindsay McGrath to capture the 4x400-meter relay.
The Patriots, meanwhile, scored a bulk of their points in the middle distances and field events, led by Sarah Toelkes and Alex Grant in the 800 and 1600 meters, respectively. Toelkes, just a freshman, won the 800 over teammate Grant by more than six seconds, running 2:23.08. Grant, meanwhile, captured first in the 1600 meters in addition to her second-place finish in the 800. The Patriots also swept the top five places in the high jump, led by champion Brittney Kuykendall. Another top individual performance in the girls distances came from Freedom’s Carmen Martinez, who captured the 3200-meter title by 34 seconds over teammate Lisa Tilcock, while also placing second in the 1600 meters.
In the boys’ meet, Heritage captured its second consecutive team title by easily outdistancing runner-up Deer Valley. The Patriots racked up 187 points, while the Wolverines’ 92 points earned them the second spot.
The unofficial top athlete of the meet was Heritage’s Eric Morford, whose day began with a wire-to-wire victory in the 1600 meters. Morford posted a time of 4:33.01, outpacing Liberty’s Jesus Morales by seven seconds. Morford then placed second to teammate Brandon Brum in the 800 meters, both runners running fast times of 1:56.90 and 1:57.87, respectively. Morford could be seen pumping his arm in the air as the times were officially announced.
Morford finished his day by capturing the 3200-meter title, beating teammate Noah Pena by 19 seconds. Freedom’s D’Amora Cooper joined Morford as a double winner, capturing the long jump and the 110-meter hurdles. The Patriots also finished their team victory in style, beating Deer Valley by two seconds in the 4x400-meter relay with a strong time of 3:23.69.
But the dramatic storylines didn’t end with the team titles. Following the meet, many questions remained regarding the league’s top male sprinters. Defending state qualifier Shamawn Wright of Antioch pulled up with a hamstring injury during Thursday’s 100-meter trials, leaving him doubtful for a hardship to Tri-Valley. In addition, the 200-meter final on Saturday resembled a triage unit after the race. Following the race, which was won by Deer Valley’s Shawn Simms, all eyes were on two sprinters lying on the track – defending state qualifiers Jesse White of Deer Valley and Timazray Shepherd of Freedom. White re-injured a hamstring during the race and as of Monday morning was considered doubtful for next week, while Shepherd suffered a calf strain, but was hoping to return in time for the Tri-Valley meet at Granada.
The frosh-soph championship meet featured multiple double winners. Lauren Tolliver of Deer Valley won four events, including the girls 200- and 400-meter relays. Amanda Schweitzer of Freedom captured both hurdle events, while Derin Ocluniami won the shot put and discus for Deer Valley.
On the boys side, D’Andre Carson of Pittsburg took the 200 and 400 meters, Joseph Fajardo of Freedom won the 1600 and 3200 meters, and Michael McKeen swept the hurdle events. Joel Sepulveda of Freedom won the shot put and discus, while Pittsburg took the boys relay races.
The top six in event, plus at-large qualifiers, advanced to this Saturday’s Tri-Valley Championships at Granada High School, where the top seven will advance to the North Coast Section Meet of Champions.