Coyotes break new track and field records at Southern California Championships

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Grey skies greeted Cuyamaca’s track & field team at Cerritos College for the Southern California Championships last weekend, but the Coyotes’ performances seemed to break through the clouds  and the school record books.

Sophomore Sylvia Longworth finished fourth in the Women’s 3000m Steeplechase but her 11:45.40 time set a new standard for Cuyamaca athletes. Men’s discus thrower Jovann Letuli, a freshman, now sits atop the school’s list after finishing second with a 50.45m throw.

Grey skies greeted Cuyamaca’s track & field team at Cerritos College for the Southern California Championships last weekend, but the Coyotes’ performances seemed to break through the clouds  and the school record books.

Sophomore Sylvia Longworth finished fourth in the Women’s 3000m Steeplechase but her 11:45.40 time set a new standard for Cuyamaca athletes. Men’s discus thrower Jovann Letuli, a freshman, now sits atop the school’s list after finishing second with a 50.45m throw.

Both Longworth and Letuli, along with freshman runner Oscar Soto and sophomore pole vaulter Alexander Law, qualified for this weekend’s state meet in San Mateo. Longworth said she was proud to set the record but is already looking to improve.

“I’m really excited because I’ve never peaked at the right time before,” she said. “I actually P.R.ed by 32 seconds. Hopefully I can P.R. again next week at the state meet.”

After the first water jump (in a steeplechase, participants must clear a series barriers placed around the track, one of which is immediately followed by a shallow pool of water), Longworth fell to ninth place. She said she was able to remain calm because of her familiarity with her competitors.

“I was boxed in in the beginning,” she said. “That was sort of nerve wracking, but then I saw the girls that I’ve raced with before and I know their times, so when they started to move up I tried to move up with them.”

Letuli said he also had butterflies in his stomach.

“I was a little nervous at first,” he said. “I didn’t expect to do well, I just expected to become consistent. I was kind of inconsistent. I didn’t expect to P.R. again, but I did.”

Men’s head coach Patrick Thiss said he was elated with the Coyotes’ showing.

“You can’t ask for any more than kids having their top performance at the championship,” he said. “Even the kids that didn’t qualify like Briana Gaipa, she’s a first year track athlete, first year throwing hammer. She’s only been throwing for three months. She comes to the regional meet, the biggest meet of the year, and throws a P.R.… you can’t ask for better than going to a championship and throwing farther than you’ve ever thrown.”

Soto also set personal bests in the Men’s 800m and 1500m races, qualifying for the state meet in both events. He finished fifth in the 1500m, which started at 3:25 P.M. and finished fourth in the hotly-contested 800m just an hour-and-a-half later. Like Longworth, Soto fell to the back of the pack in the beginning of his second race and appeared to be out of the running. After rounding the final corner, however, he turned on the jets for the last 100m and locked into a battle for third-place with Bakersfield College sophomore Juan Calderon. Soto lunged towards the finish line, but to no avail. His 1:54.49 time was a mere five-hundredths of a second shy of Calderon’s time. Soto, still trying to catch his breath after the race, said he put all of his energy into his last-second push down the backstretch.

“I already knew the race was going to be fast,” he said. “I didn’t really look up the runners or anything, I just felt like it was going to be fast. The strategy I had was pretty much just stay relaxed and know when to react. Just run my race and finish strong.”

Law finished second in pole vaulting with a 4.83m vault, but his personal record of 4.90m is higher than both the Northern California champion, American River freshman Cambron Lyles, and the Southern California champion, Glendale freshman Jeremy Kimmer, setting the stage for a potentially fierce battle. Thiss said Law’s experience—he finished fourth in last year’s state meet—should help him in San Mateo.

“When you get kids that are in that range of getting a state title, as a coach that’s the highest level you can hope to attain,” he said. “Xander’s been to a state meet before… so you hope he’s grown from his experience as an All-American last year.”

Thiss credited the program’s event coaches with the team’s success, though he also said the athletes were already stoked for the championships.

“Last week, I had more of a fire and brimstone kind of speech,” he said. “Last night was more of a matter-of-fact trust speech. One of my athletes asked, ‘Why aren’t you trying to pump us up?’ And I told them, ‘Because what I see with me at this track meet, you guys are ready. You guys are mature enough athletically to go perform tomorrow.’ What I thought I saw in their eyes and heard in their words, that came out today.”

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