It was a bountiful harvest of medals for East County runners, jumpers and throwers who competed at last Saturday’s San Diego Section track and field championship meet at Mt. Carmel High School.
Five student-athletes from East County schools won individual gold medals, with 13 more earning silver medals and 11 receiving bronze medals.
Add to that total one gold, three silver and one bronze medals in relay events.
The biggest number in terms of prestige was 14 – the number of events athletes from East County schools qualified to compete in at this weekend’s state championship meet in Clovis.
Grossmont and Helix high schools provided a power-packed final curtain call for East County by finishing first and second in the meet-concluding boys 4×400-meter relay.
Grossmont timed 3:19.19 to set a new school record, while Helix timed 3:22.21, second best among section schools on the season.
The Foothillers raced out to a commanding lead and maintained it throughout, winning by three seconds over a speedy Highlander unit bent on defending its section title.
The Grossmont foursome showcased the fleet feet of Devin Anders, Carson Sanchez, Xavier Bradford and Leyikun Solomon.
While each has his own individual strength, they combine their talents to function as a cohesive unit.
Solomon holds the top time this season on the team in the 400 dash (48.81) and ranks second in the 100 dash (11.51).
Sanchez has the top time this season on the team in the 800 run (1:56.08).
Anders has the second-fastest time on the team this season in the 400 (49.48) and the third-fastest time on the team in the 100 dash (11.62).
Bradford has the second-fastest time on the team this season in the 200 dash (23.12) and the third fastest (50.03) in the 400 dash.
The quartet entered last weekend’s section finals with the top time in the county; the Foothillers remain on top with the seventh-best qualifying time for Friday’s state prelims.
The unit has been together for the last three weeks since posting a winning time of 3:22.18 at the league finals.
“Our strategy is to get out and get the lead,” Solomon said. “We then want to widen the gap and finish strong.”
“Keep driving, keep pushing, never let up,” Bradford added.
“Always keep our hands moving,” Anders interjected.
“We’re always pushing each other every day,” Sanchez noted.
The Helix quartet, which also qualified for this weekend’s state meet, includes Nick White, Ty Sheridan, Marlon Brown and Eric Parker.
Parade of champions
Running events included two heats — a fast A-heat and a slow B-heat — based on times from the section prelims a week earlier. The athletes with the top three times between the two heats recorded at the section finals, plus those who met a predetermined standard, qualified to advance to the state meet this weekend at Buchanan High School in Clovis.
The state prelims are Friday, followed by finals on Saturday. The goal of all the state qualifiers is to advance to the second day of competition.
Athletes were separated by school enrollment level for awards, with students receiving medals in Division I and Division II tiers based on the combined results from the two heats.
Grossmont Conference schools piled up 13 individual medals in the Division I tier, plus three relay medals.
Division I gold medalists included Steele Canyon junior Jarel Sayles in the boys 110 high hurdles (14.47), Parker in the boys 400 dash (48.08) and Valhalla sophomore Ian Lipsey in the boys 100 dash (11.14).
Division I silver medalists included Solomon in the 110 high hurdles (14.72), Grossmont sophomore Madilyn Mayo in the girls 300 hurdles (44.32), Granite Hills junior Levi Knobloch in the boys 300 intermediate hurdles (39.28), Parker in the 200 dash (22.11) and Granite Hills junior Richard Harris-Williams in the boys triple jump (46-4.25).
Division I bronze medalists included Steele Canyon junior Emeliah Vaught in the girls 100 low hurdles (14.66), Anders in the boys 400 dash (49.48), Solomon in the 300 hurdles (39.34), Grossmont sophomore Madeline Minutelli in the girls 3200 run (11:16.14) and Harris-Williams in the boys long jump (22-1.5).
It was a big day for Solomon after qualifying for the state meet in 110 high hurdles, 300 intermediate hurdles and 4×400 relay.
Parker qualified for the state meet in the 400 dash and 4×400 relay. He’s ranked sixth among state qualifiers in the open 400.
He said winning the quarter-mile event was something he expected to accomplish after finishing second last season.
“I was out to win it (the 400) because of all the hard work I’ve put in,” the returning state meet qualifier said. “The season isn’t over; there’s still one week to go. I still want to improve my time.”
Both Steele’s Sayles and Vaught qualified for the state meet. Sayles won the section A-heat and is ranked fourth in the state; Vaught finished third at the section finals.
It will be the first trip to the state meet for both Cougar hurdlers.
“I’ve been tough on myself,” explained Sayles, who edged Solomon by 0.25 seconds to win the high hurdles. “I just wanted to do a personal record each week. I’ve critiqued myself on my form and what I needed to do to get this.”
“It feels really great,” added Vaught, who finished just 0.22 seconds out of second place. “I give all the glory to God, of course.”
Other East County state qualifiers included Mayo in the girls 300 hurdles, Harris- Williams in the boys triple jump and Knobloch in the boys 300 intermediate hurdles.
Lipsey moved up the field in the final 50 meters to notch the top time among Division I runners in the two heats.
“I was nervous but I got a great start, got up there and kept moving from there,” he said.
Lipsey was part of the Valhalla unit that finished with the silver medal in the Division I 4×100 relay in 42.86.
Christian finished second among Division II girls teams, placing just four points behind team champion University City.
The Patriots were dominant throughout the meet.
•Sophomore Miranda Nichols won the Division II gold medal in the girls discus throw (130-4) to qualify for the state meet.
•Sophomore Alaina Zamorano finished with individual silver medals in the Division II girls 800 run (2:15.00) and 1600 run (5:03.74)
•Junior Simone James finished with silver medals in the Division II girls 100 hurdles (15.06) and 300 hurdles (45.38).
•Senior Jasmyn Crawford finished the bronze medal in the Division II girls 100 dash (12.25).
•Christian earned a silver medal in the girls 4×100 relay (49.02) and a bronze medal in the girls 4×400 relay (3:58.50).
West Hills sophomore Brandy Atuatasi won the gold medal in the Division II girls shot put (43-7) to qualify for the state meet.
This will mark her second consecutive trip to the Clovis meet after qualifying in both the shot put and discus throw as a freshman.
She has eclipsed last year’s mark in the shot put by nearly five feet, and enters Friday’s state prelims ranked eighth among this year’s qualifiers.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I was so nervous last year because I was only a freshman. This year the shot put has become my dominant sport. I wasn’t happy about my performance in the discus throw (a very subpar 105-3 to rank seventh in the division after throwing 133-5 at the section prelims). I was nervous that I might not qualify in the shot put but I knew I had to redeem myself.”
Her best on the season in the shot put is the 45-1.5 mark she made at the Dick Wilkins Frosh-Soph Invitational on April 27.
She’s hoping to do better than this weekend.