The traditions are always the same for the Valencia High boys 4×400-meter relay team. Why change them for today’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1 finals?
Before the race, which will be at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Kai Wingo will bow to the block in accordance with Japanese tradition.
“You have to respect the track and thank the track for letting you run it,” Wingo, a sophomore who moved to Valencia from Japan, said.
After his portion, he’ll hand the baton to sophomore Tanner Berney, who will be donning the same exact outfit he wore for the last race and the one before that, and the one before that. Right down to the socks.
“Just because I feel like if I switch it up, I might bring some bad luck,” Berney said.
Then it’s on to Joshua Pikes, a senior who will be ready to go after completing his warmup ritual, which consists of running on the opposite side of the field and praying to his great grandmother.
“She passed away a while ago, but she was a big role model in my life,” Pikes, who will also run the 200-meter dash, said. “So I always pray up to her and she’s been helping me out so far.”
And finally, there’s senior Sam Pica, an anchor who will compete in the long jump and 400-meter run in addition to the 4×400.
Pica eats the same meal the night before every race: salmon and rice.
“That’s my superstition that I’ve done since I was little,” he said. “It’s been the same restaurant lately – Marston’s.”
All of the above has been effective for the relay team thus far. The four came out on top at the Foothill League finals and ranked third in the CIF-SS prelims last week to advance to the finals.
Today, they’ll have to be one of the top nine teams to move on to the CIF Masters Meet.
“We’re really confident,” Pikes said. “We think we can really make some noise in the state and we’re looking forward to running against some of the best competition.”
Also in Division 1, West Ranch’s Natalie Ramirez will compete in both the shot put and discus.
Last season, Ramirez threw in Division 2 for the Wildcats and did not surpass the finals.
Her teammate Adaugo Oguejiofor, who battled injury earlier this season, will be in high jump.
Preston Pope is the lone Wildcat representing the boys team. He’ll run in the 3200 after qualifying for finals with a time of nine minutes, 13.75 seconds at prelims.
Golden Valley throwers will be representing in the shot put and discus events today at Cerritos College.
For the girls, Shyann Franklin returns to the finals after being the only Santa Clarita Valley athlete to move on to the CIF-SS Masters Meet in two events last season in her freshman campaign.
This year, she’ll be looking to go even farther than that after qualifying for the finals after ranking second in shot and fourth in discus at prelims.
Gabriel Coronado will be representing the Grizzly boys in both shot and discus after ranking third and second at prelims, respectively.
“The goal is just to move on to the next round,” said Golden Valley throwing coach Diontre Harris. “It shouldn’t be a problem with him in terms of pressure or with her with pressure because you’ve seen how it is, you know how it feels, so going into this meet, it shouldn’t really be a problem for them.”
Also for Golden Valley, Alexxys Banuelos will compete in the long jump for the first time in her high school career.
Canyon’s Gabby Sanchez will compete in discus after breaking the school record at prelims with a toss of 136 feet, 1 inch.
Seanna Nalbandyan also represents the Cowboys in the 300-meter hurdles and Steven Arrington, one of Canyon’s most dominant runners this season, will run in the 200 after a fourth-place finish at prelims.
Quinn Melssen, Taylor Tepesano, Jeremiah Finley and Kevin Stone will be the Cowboys’ 4×400 team. The four finished sixth at prelims.
Hart will have two relay teams competing, but both have two different objectives.
The 4×100 relay team of Gabe Halekakis, Chris Sorenson, Joe Hylton and Henry Sojico wants to get to the Masters Meet.
“They’re the first people there at practice and the last to leave,” said Hart sprint coach Matt Nali. “They’re like a group of brothers together.”
The 4×400 team is chasing a school record that’s been standing since 1973.
Halekakis, Sorenson, Joe Hylton and John Campbell clocked a 3:25.07 at prelims and the record is 3:23.2.
Campbell will also be pole vaulting today.
“Last week he only had about five minutes to get ready for the 4×4 and he was just dead exhausted,” Nali said. “So the recovery time from him vaulting to doing the 4×4 will be a little longer so I think he’s going to do really well.”
Saugus High’s Mariah Castillo will run the 1600 and the 3200. She just made the cut for the 3200 in prelims, finishing in ninth place.
Jake Rockford will run in the 800 for the Centurions and Blake Walkowiak will throw in discus.
Freshman Solomon Strader will run in the 200- and 400-meter races for Trinity Classical Academy.
He finished second in the 400 and fourth in the 200 at prelims.
The stadium at Cerritos College opens at 9:30 a.m. and the first event, the girls pole vault, begins at 10:30 a.m. Running events begin at 1 p.m.