Held at Freedom High School, the meet brought all BVAL schools together for an early season showdown.
The Patriots topped all competitors in all three competitions, sending a message to the league that Heritage will be a force again this year. Junior Noah Peña (3200 meters), senior Miguel Aguiar (400 meters), sophomore Frank Kurtz (200 meters), and sophomore Sydney Berry (long jump) were Heritage’s individual winners in the varsity events.
But the Patriots’ relays were also strong. The team of Isaac Obodo, Blaine Spencer, Shelton Wynder and Jan Robles won the 4x400 relay in the freshman/sophomore division. Joining them was the 4x100 team of Aguiar, Kurtz, James Finnie and Carter Blaise, the 4x400 team of Aguiar, Kurtz, senior Zachary Lim and junior Obinnaya Ihenacho, as well as the medley relay team of juniors Jason Brown and Robert Renteria, Lim and freshman Jacob Drees.
Kurtz also performed notably in the 100-meter race. His 10.93 was second to Freedom’s Darrell Daniels, whose time of 10.86 was one of the top 15 in the state of California this year.
The Falcons field one of the top groups of male sprinters in the area. Daniels spearheads a group that includes senior Adrian Perez and sophomore Joe Mixon. The girls’ speciality, on the other hand, is distance running – they won the league’s cross country championships. That group, along with a potentially strong group of young sleepers gives head coach Glenn Briggs reason to be optimistic.
“I’m really excited about them,” Briggs said. “I have high expectations for them and hope they realize what potential they have. They have to put the work in, which is a holdup sometimes.”
Among the top female athletes Briggs expects to carry the Falcons are junior Mariah Walker, senior Vanessa Espinoza, sophomore Olivia Herrera and junior Lisa Tilcock.
The coach hopes some of the younger runners can raise their games and add depth to the relay teams. Currently, Jordan Morgan runs the relays but also participates in the long jump and triple jump, limiting his effectiveness.
“I know that we’ve got some individuals that will do very well,” Briggs said. “A lot will depend on how things go injury-wise; we’ll have to stay on point there.”
The Wolverines’ advantage mirrors that of Heritage. While Deer Valley boasts its individual winners, the squad also thrives on its depth, and finishing high in nearly every event. Head coach Bernard Stephens’ group will win plenty of events this season, at least if the Marsh Creek Invitational is any indicator.
Junior La Shall Hamlin claimed the 100- and 200-meter sprints. Joining her was the 4x400-meter relay team of Sasha Newman (sophomore), Candice Brown (sophomore), Heaven Braggs (freshman) and Kourtney Burney (freshman).
The male division looks to be strong as well. Senior Shawn Simms complemented his long jump win by finishing second in the 200-meter race. Senior Isaiah Reed (800 meters), junior Dylan Winn (1600 meters), and junior Lavelle Hamlin (300-meter hurdles) all also claimed their individual events.
Unlike some of their league rivals, the Panthers don’t feature much depth. But Antioch has managed to find a niche for itself, boasting plenty of athletes who pose the threat of winning any meet or tournament.
Junior Lindsey McGrath won the 400-meter race at the Marsh Creek Invitational and finished in a respectable fifth place in the 800-meter event. Sophomore Jason Brown won the freshman/sophomore 400-meter race.
Also bolstering optimism for the Panthers’ present and future was the Sprint Medley team, comprising three underclassmen. Sophomore Cristian Garcia joined freshmen Auchavion Brewer, Damani Wright (freshman) and senior Ahmad Logan to win the event.
On the boys team, the Pirates are led by a quartet of seniors. Head coach Aaron Alatorre expects Miles Walker (200 meters), Javonte Brooks-Brown (shot put/discus), Brian Johnson (discus) and Austin Jones (100/200 meters) to lead a largely younger group of athletes.
“We’re diverse in all events,” Alatorre said. “Not sprint strong, not distance strong. We have a good core on both sides that I look forward to coaching this year. Boys are more senior leadership, hoping to carry young guys along. The girls side is young and talented. We have depth at all positions, in all events. I’m excited about this year for girls.”
One of the groups that the coach is excited about is the 4x100-relay team of juniors Jasmine Huey, Janeek Mollique, Chanel Jones and freshman Joi Parham. He also identified sophomore Crystal Rodriguez as a name to watch, as she has shown great prowess in the 400 and 800 despite limited experience in those events. Alatorre also expects the competition to be strong, even in the Pirates’ better events.
The strength of the Lions rests largely in their field events and distance runs – especially the boys.
In the field, sophomore triple jumper Stefani Bergerhouse joins polevaulters senior Jesus Morales and junior Clint Bishop, as well as triple jumper Christopher Davis as athletes to watch. They also figure to be good in the distance runs, as Cody Mayer was one of the top performers at the Marsh Creek Invitational at both the 1600 and 3200 meters.
At the same meet, sophomore Rebekah McCarthy gave Liberty cause for hope in the sprints, as she finished second in the 100 meters, which outperformed every one of her BVAL rivals.