The San Diego CIF Track & Field Championships is an athletic carnival unlike any of the other section championships. In one day, the top Division I and II performers in 32 events gather at one site and vie for titles that identify them as the best in their disciplines. These specialties require speed, strength, quickness, stamina, technique and mental toughness—some all at the same time. As an added incentive, the best of the best could earn an invitation to this weekend’s (June 1-2) 100th California State Meet in Clovis.
The 2018 edition that took place Saturday at Mt. Carmel High School produced a bundle of high quality feats, many coming from representatives of North Coast schools. One of the top North Coast teams was also involved in a bizarre chain of events. When the meet ended, the Torrey Pines girls were celebrated as the Division I team champions for the second time in three years, edging Olympian by two points in a battle that came down to the final event, the 4x400 relay. But several days later, after a review of the scoring, the top two positions were reversed with Olympian declared the 2018 champion, one point better than Torrey Pines. Cathedral Catholic was third in the Division II girls chase that was won by Coronado.
On the boys’ side, Cathedral Catholic improved from last year’s sixth place performance to capture the D-II crown with La Costa Canyon, competing without its junior standout Karson Lippert, placing fourth. Rancho Bernardo repeated as the D-I boys kingpin, winning by nearly 50 points.
Torrey Pines Head Coach Charlenne Falcis Stevens, who actually pointed out the scoring discrepancy, was philosophical about the turnaround. “It’s always fun to win, but there’s more to athletics than winning,” said Falcis Stevens. “We’re very proud of what the girls accomplished this season. CIF was only one of the goals and we achieved the top goal of making it to CIF State.
“But it takes every member of the team to make it this far. Your top athletes have to score well in their events—do what they were supposed to do—and you need to get some points where you might not have been expecting them. That’s a formula that’s worked for us.”
Eight local competitors won individual gold medals. Torrey Pines snagged a pair with seniors Jade Cany and Isabella Aguiar prevailing in the high jump (5-4) and 1600 (5:06.90) respectively. Accounting for section titles in D-II were LCC senior McKenna Brown (1600/4:53.54) and juniors Jessica Riedman (800/2:14.68) and Kristin Fahy (3,200/10:25.99), San Dieguito Academy senior Kevin Ward (pole vault/16-5) and junior Alyssa Fisher (pole vault/10-5) and Cathedral Catholic senior Joaquin Martinez de Pinillos (3200/9:19.27).
Below are some images from Saturday’s event along with an overview of the performances turned in by several of the top local athletes.
Prior to making his first attempt at 16-feet-5 in the pole vault, 5-foot-7 Ward walked past the standards, looked up at the bar and said to no one in particular, “That’s really tall.” A few minutes later, the SDA senior was walking tall, having cleared the height for the second best mark in the state this season. Earlier, he had clinched first place for the second straight year with a vault of 16-3 (see reaction above).
After missing three times (one a near miss) at 16-9 to finish the competition, Ward re-capped his day. “It was amazing,” he said. “All of the factors were there and the competition was there. That was the biggest thing—there was some stiff competition and I think it pushed me to go high but also make everything on the first attempt (he had just one miss lower than 16-9). That miss, his first try at 16-5, resulted in a bloody nose when he dragged down the bar and it whipped up, smacking him across the face. “Luckily, it was not too bad,” he said. “The trainer put a little thing in my nose and when I took it out to vault, my nose was so big I could actually breathe better, so maybe that helped me out a bit.” He’ll be at the State Meet this week, shooting for a San Diego section record of 16-9, and Cal Poly this fall.
The talented La Costa Canyon senior, battling the effects of a cold for the last few weeks, was still able to win her third consecutive 1600 title, nipping teammate Jessica Riedman at the tape with a gritty finishing drive.
When asked if she thought she was going to win it, she said, “Not on the third lap when Jessica passed me. She gapped me by a lot and my legs just wouldn’t go. Then, in the last 100, I saw her kind of slow down and I thought I could catch her. It wasn’t the way I’d planned but I’m happy I was able to push through.” Brown, the section record holder in the 3200, came back to finish second to another teammate, Kristin Fahy, in that race and will be running the 1600 in Clovis. “I didn’t feel like myself, but that happens to everyone sometime,” said the Cal-bound Brown. “It was not exactly what I wanted for my last CIF final but I have to be grateful that I’m even running and will be going back to state again. I’m going to give it my all, it going to be my last race as a La Costa Canyon runner.”
Although he didn’t win an event, the versatile Cathedral Catholic junior may have been the most important cog in the Dons’ title run. Fernandez was fourth in the long jump at 22-4.5, second in the high jump at 6-4 and third in the triple jump with a personal best 45-1.5. The budding decathlete is headed for Cal Poly next year.
“I’m ecstatic with today—three top four finishes,” said Fernandez. “The long jump went exactly as I wanted and I qualified for state and 6-4 is a good clearance for me in the high jump.” Also a 14-foot pole vaulter, just making it through three demanding events against top flight competition like he did Saturday is an accomplishment. “Every event I’m doing is just jump-after-jump-after-jump, so I have to make sure I’m hydrated, keep the right mentality and stay focused,” he said. “When I’m at long jump, all I think about it long jump, at high jump, all I think about is high jump, and so on.”
One would not have blamed LCC junior Riedman for calling it a day after her stunning loss to teammate McKenna Brown in the 1600 after she seemingly had the race in hand heading for home. Looking totally spent at the finish line, more than one observer wondered if she would have enough in the tank for her best event, the 800, against a well-rested field roughly two hours later. Those people just don’t know Riedman.
Second with less than 100 to go and appearing to be in a hopeless situation, she somehow found another gear, dug deep and reeled in Julia Morales of Scripps Ranch to secure her first CIF title by less than a tenth-of-a-second. She wasn’t sure herself if it was possible. “I was thinking ‘aw, she’s pulling away’ and then I just said to myself ‘oh my gosh, this is my last CIF race, it’s only one runner and she knows somebody is coming behind her,’ ” recalled Riedman afterward. “I thought, McKenna did this to you, you can do it to somebody else.” And so, she did—amazing even her coach, Bill Vice.
“In the 1600, I was proud of the way Jessica had the confidence to go after McKenna on the third lap and equally proud of McKenna for hanging in there and coming back at the end,” said Vice. “Jessica is a college coach’s dream because she’s only been doing this for three seasons and there’s so much upside. She’s a bulldog, you just saw it in the 800. That was a gutty, bulldog performance—that’s what we love about her.”
A multi-sport star at Torrey Pines, Thomas may have saved her best for her last San Diego CIF outing. The swift, strong, tenacious senior posted personal bests while placing second in both the 100 (14.89) and 300 (43.52) hurdles and then led off both Falcon relay teams which finished sixth (4x100) and second (4x400), the latter clinching Torrey’s team championship. She’ll be competing in both hurdle events and the 4x400 at the state meet.
“I finally made it into the 43’s,” she exalted after rallying in the final stages of the 300 hurdles to narrowly earn silver medal status. “I was running blind again (starting out front in the staggered start) which is no fun. I was feeling confident over the first hurdle but when I reached the last 100, I felt I was pretty far behind, so I tried to kick it into gear—I couldn’t feel my legs at all. It felt so good, though, when I saw the time, especially because I’d PR’d in the 100 hurdles earlier.” Thomas will matriculate to BYU after graduating from Torrey Pines.
San Diego’s No. 1 female cross country runner (D-III individual champion) this past fall, the slight Fahy has been something of an afterthought during the track & field season. Running well but still recovering from some injury down time after XC, she came into the CIF meet a bit under the radar, hidden by the numbers being posted by teammates Brown and Riedman. She strutted her stuff Saturday, though, winning the 3200 handily, leaving the weakened section record holder Brown 17 seconds behind in second. Even at 100%, Brown would have had her hands full with Fahy on this day.
“I was planning on just sticking with McKenna the whole time but it was kind of a slow pace so I thought I might as well go to the front and see how I feel,” said Fahy, who also won this race at last year’s CIF meet. “It turned out I felt really good and after running just to qualify in last week’s prelims, it was nice to finally be able to run faster. Honestly, I thought it was going to come down to a really close finish with McKenna but I was really excited to come away with that win, qualify for state and come close to my p.r.”