Running in the fast lane, West Hills’ Mongiovi becomes four-time state meet qualifier

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The 97th California state high school track and field championship meet took place June 5-6 at Buchanan High School in Clovis. It is annually regarded as the best high school track and field event in the nation, and with good reason.

This year’s meet featured one national record, one new state record, 31 new top 10 national marks and four new national leaders among the 864 student-athletes who participated in the two-day meet.

The 97th California state high school track and field championship meet took place June 5-6 at Buchanan High School in Clovis. It is annually regarded as the best high school track and field event in the nation, and with good reason.

This year’s meet featured one national record, one new state record, 31 new top 10 national marks and four new national leaders among the 864 student-athletes who participated in the two-day meet.

According to longtime observers, this year’s state meet ranked among the top 10, and possibly the top five, in meet history in terms of excitement level and dizzying performances. Certainly, the 16,115 fans filling War Memorial Stadium for the two days of competition got their money’s worth.

Obviously, considering the top-flight field of competitors, not everyone can medal. In fact, the awe factor can swallow up many competitors, especially first-time state qualifiers.

Just qualifying to compete in the prestigious event marks a major personal milestone.

West Hills High School senior Melissa (Missy) Mongiovi is among the few student-athletes who have done it four times in her high school career.

She became a four-time state meet qualifier when she competed in the girls 400 dash in preliminary qualifying on the first day of the meet. Her prelim time of 56.45 wasn’t good enough to advance her to this year’s finals (she finished 18th out of 30 runners), though she finished her career with two state medals (fifth as a sophomore and sixth as a junior) in the four trips to Clovis.

Mongiovi posted the section’s top state-qualifying time of 55.85. Her best remains the 54.70 she timed as a sophomore at the state meet in 2013.

“It’s been exciting each time,” explained Mongiovi, who is headed to Stanford in the fall. “I just wanted to go out and do my best. It’s been a great learning experience whenever you can compete against the best in the state.”

Though Mongiovi didn’t return with another state medal this year, three East County athletes did: Mt. Miguel junior Laulauga Tausaga (third in the girls shot put), Patrick Henry senior Tristan Zawadzki (fourth in the boys pole vault) and Valhalla senior Leah Molter (sixth in the girls 300-meter hurdles).

Molter, who finished second to Cathedral Catholic junior Dani Johnson by the flick of an eyelash in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdle events at the San Diego Section finals, competed in a very fast field in the 300 state finals.

Roosevelt senior Jasmyne Graham turned in a national-leading time of 40.73 to win the event; Graham did the same in winning the girls 100 hurdles in 13.17.

In fact, the 300 hurdles final produced three of the nation’s top six times this year.

Molter timed 42.32 to set a new personal record in the event to grab the sixth and final medal. She had timed 42.54 (then a personal record) to place eighth overall in prelim qualifying.

The athletes with the top nine prelim times advanced to championship runner event finals on the final day of competition while athletes with the top 12 prelim marks advanced to field event finals.

Graham’s national-leading time in the 300 finals was the eighth-fastest time in California and the ninth fastest time in U.S. history.

Johnson clocked 41.30, a new section record, to place third in the state finals to give the section two medalists in the showcase event.

(At the prelims the night before, Johnson set section records in both the 100 hurdles (13.86) and 300 hurdles (41.34), though she did not duplicate them in the finals the next day, placing ninth in the 100 hurdles in 14.00.)

Molter clipped two barriers in the 100 hurdles prelims — one at the start and one at the end — that greatly slowed her down. She finished 23rd out of 26 hurdlers with a subpar time of 15.46.

“I think my mind wasn't operating as fast as my body,” Molter quipped. “I caught myself and got back in step after I hit it the first time. But the second time I hit it, I had to do everything not to fall.”

Molter said the disappointing finish in the 100 hurdles prelim race — she timed almost one-and-a-half seconds slower than her time at the section finals — served as extra motivation to do well in the 300 hurdles finals.

“I wanted to show that I was better than what I did in the 100s,” Molter said.

The girls’ 100 hurdles final proved to be the event of the evening as Graham edged defending champion Mecca McGlaston of Dublin 13.17 to 13.18 to win in a photo finish. McGlaston won the event in 13.54 last year; her runner-up time this year was a personal record.

Honor roll

East County athletes qualified to participate in 12 events in this year’s state prelims, with three individuals advancing to the finals.

Granite Hills senior Deajanae Harvey, the top section qualifier in both the girls’ long jump and triple jump, finished 14th out of 31 triple jumpers in the state prelims (37-6.75) and 22nd out of 32 long jumpers (16-8.5).

Harvey entered the state prelims with seed marks of 39-0.75 (triple jump) and 18-8 (long jump).

Steele Canyon senior Cedell Morris finished 11th out of 27 boys high jumpers in prelim qualifying. He cleared 6-6 — well blow his seed height of 6-9 at the section finals. Ten jumpers cleared 6-8 to advance to the state finals.

Helix finished 13th out of 26 teams in prelim qualifying in the boys’ 4×100 relay. The quartet’s prelim time of 42.18 was just off its seedtime of 42.02. The Highlanders’ unit included juniors Michael Austin, Mason Vineyard, Nate Stinson and Mekhi Stevenson.

Vineyard finished 22nd out of 25 prelim qualifiers in the boys’ 110-meter high hurdles (15.45). He entered with a seedtime of 14.91.

Valhalla sophomore Elizabeth Yocom placed 15th out of 24 competitors in the girls’ high jump prelims after clearing 5-2 to tie her personal best in the event.

Around the section

San Diego Section athletes combined to collect 12 medals at this year’s state meet. Oceanside junior Charles Lenford led the region’s medal parade by finishing first in the boys discus throw (195-4). The mark was sixth best all-time in the section record book. Lenford also placed fourth in the boys’ shot put (61-6.25).

Oceanside senior Jordan Miller matched Mt. Miguel’s Tausaga with a bronze medal in the boys long jump (23-2.5). Miller also placed sixth in the boys’ triple jump (47-4).

Coronado senior Erik Armes finished fifth in the boys’ 1600-meter run in 4:10.09. Armes’ time tied the section’s 11th-best in the record book.

Carlsbad sophomore Kiley McCarthy (2:08.85) and Rancho Bernardo junior Nia Akins (2:08.91) finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the girls’ 800-meter run. McCarthy’s time was fourth best in the section all-time.

Carlsbad senior Nathan Williams (9:06.63) and Westview senior Trevor Siniscalchi (9:06.90) finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the boys’ 3200-meter run.

Other section place-winners included Canyon Crest Academy junior Kelly Bernd (seventh in the girls 1600-meter run, 4:51.39), Rancho Buena Vista junior Devon Alvarado (seventh in the boys 110 high hurdles, 14.37), Rancho Bernardo junior Jackie Robinson (eighth in the girls 100 dash, 11.82), Morse senior John Kendrick III (eighth in the boys 100 dash, 10.82), Carlsbad sophomore Alana Snow (10th in the girls high jump, 5-1) and Hoover senior Esther Nofodji (10th in the girls discus throw, 133-0).

Bernd’s time was 12th-best in the section all-time.

Cathedral Catholic finished eighth in the girls’ 4×400 relay (3:49.88).

In the girls’ 3200 race, Torrey Pines senior Jacqueline Garner finished 20th in the field of 28 runners in 10:57.64, followed by Rancho Bernardo senior Bryanna Fuller (22nd, 10:58.97) and El Capitan senior Kayden Carpenter (25th, 11:21.59).

In the boys 3200 race, Del Norte senior Evan Jameson finished 14th in the field of 30 runners in 9:15.09.

Fast and furious

The Vista Murrieta Broncos captured the boys’ team title at this year’s state meet while the Oaks Christian Lions won the girls team title.

Vista Murrieta junior Michael Norman tied a national record by winning the boys 400-meter dash in 45.19. He also set a state record in winning the 200 dash in 20.30.

Other national-leading marks were turned in by Tesoro (Rancho Santa Margarita) junior Amanda Gehrich in the girls 1600 run (4:39.33) and Great Oak senior Destiny Collins in the girls 3200 run (9:53.79). Collins’ time in the 3200 ranks fourth in state history.

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