Foothill League action for boys and girls track and field begins on Thursday, with the West Ranch girls team aiming for a third consecutive league championship and the Canyon boys team looking to make it 10 straight league titles.
How fitting that the two programs will meet in the first league meet of the season at Canyon.
The Wildcats girls team is loaded with talent in almost every discipline, from sprinters to jumpers and throwers.
“This is probably the most well-rounded team I’ve ever had in terms of not just the field events, but in sprints,” West Ranch head coach Sara Soltani said. “We are very lucky. This should be a great season because we’re extremely well-rounded in almost every event.”
Junior Jenneh Sesay leads a skilled group of runners that includes seniors Peyton Washington and London Lewis, junior Celine Crooks and sophomores Leah Valles, Kamaria Simpson and Christine Riel.
At the Trevor Habberstad Invitational on Feb. 23, Sesay finished in first place in the girls 100-meter dash with a time of 13.25. Simpson placed fifth with a time of 13.61 seconds and Valles rounded out the top 10 at 14.08 seconds.
The team of Sesay, Valles, Crooks and Washington came in first place in the girls 1600-meter sprint medley with a time of 4:16.18.
Senior Shelbi Schauble, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo commit, returns as a dominating force in the triple jump event. She placed first at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational with a score of 38-1. Riel and senior Hailey Slate will look to make noise as well.
Amber Racina, a senior, finished first at the girls pole vault with a score of 10-6 and also competes in other jumping events.
Senior Natalie Ramirez, who is heading to UCLA after her senior campaign, broke a meet record in the girls discus throw with a score of 144-4 and came in second in shot put with a score of 43-8. Sophomore Erynn Pasamba joins her as one of the team’s best throwers.
West Ranch is so skilled that Soltani believes they can compete for a CIF championship this year.
“The girls, my vision for them is big. We’re so well-rounded I believe we can go after a CIF title if we stay very healthy,” she said. “Natalie is the top-returner in all of Southern California in shot put and discus. I’m hoping if we just stay healthy at the end of the season maybe we can bring two titles home on both the boys and the girls side at CIF. It’s a long road so we just got to take it day-by-day, week-by-week. I’m very blessed to have a superb team.”
She’s also hoping for a similar result with the boys, who have several skilled runners including seniors Michael LaQuay and Mya Davis, plus junior Solomon Strader.
Seniors Noah Bultman, Bryce Valles and Sean Mercado will headline the boys throwers.
“Can we hit the podium as a team having a great sprinter in Solomon Strader, and now having four or five great distance boys who have the potential to make it to CIF and state as well,” Soltani said. “Coming off the success of cross-country, that’s our goal to see what we can do. Can we be a podium worthy team?”
Canyon is young in some areas, but also has more depth than most on both the girls and boys side.
Senior Ethan Danforth heads a skilled contingent of runners that includes: sophomore Kyle Stevens and juniors Alfredo DeAnda and Frank Lofton, who finished third at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational in the boys 1600-meter relay. Sophomore Austin Hernandez, who competes in hurdles and jumps, will also be a key member.
Talented freshman Emily Guluzza, along with juniors Melissa Duncan, Angelee Berganio and senior Marisa Rodriguez came in first at the 1600-meter relay with a time of 23:04.78. They lead a young, but talented unit that includes sophomores Chandler Bietsch, Milca Osorio, Jordan Wise, Savannah Giller and Jaelen Bates.
Junior Tyler Cash is the one to beat in the boys high jump, earning the top prize at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational with a score of 6-4. He also placed second at the California Winter Track and Field State Championships in early February with a 6-5. His teammate Hernandez could be right alongside him.
Bates, Giller and junior Riley LaPlant will headline the girls jumpers.
Seniors Haylei Adeyemo and Justine Alberto could be contenders in both girls discus and shot put as could sophomore Karicia Gallegos and junior Natasha Surgick.
Jacob Lopez is the favorite to lead the Foothill League in boys shot put and discus. He set a record in the latest meet with a score of 177-2 1/2 in the discus throw. He finished in second in shot put.
Valencia will open at home against Saugus, with each Division 1 program looking to break out of the middle of the pack in the Foothill League for both the boys and girls.
Valencia is loaded with boys runners including the foursome of juniors Tylyn Cook, Joel Isidro and seniors Zaphyr Smalls and Kai Wingo, who set a record at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational in the boys 1600-meter sprint medley with a time of 3:35.38.
Cook also finished first in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.28.
Senior Adam West, who came in first in boys pole vault along with Albert Tambalo of Golden Valley, leads the boys jumpers, while the girls are stacked with young talent.
Senior Chloe Stewart is a favorite in girls hurdles and Valencia also boasts several other talented girls runners.
“We’re in a good position right now. What you do at practice, it will show at the track meet, so at practice we really got to push ourselves,” Valencia sprints and relay coach James Berkley said. “We got to work on our weaknesses, eat right, be on top of your grades, all that. Everything comes together, you got to balance it out. It sets an example for the younger kids to work hard.”
Saugus, who competed at the Trabuco Hills Roundup, has solid competitors in multiple categories.
Senior Kayla Medof, who also served as the starting goalkeeper for the girls soccer team, will contend in the girls discus and shot put.
Senior Gaetano Ferrera, who was a force on the football team’s line, will battle for the title in boys discus and shot put. He finished in first place in both events at the Roundup, with a score of 49 5 1/2 in shot put and 167-03 in discus.
Senior Isaiah Turner also came in first in the boys 100-meter with a time of 11.16. He leads a talented group of runners including juniors Kodi Oshiro, Azariah Beaugard and sophomores Brandon Cruz and Zachariah Turner, who won the boys 400-meter at 49.50.
Golden Valley will be at Hart to open league as the Grizzlies try to improve on last year’s second-place finish and dethrone Canyon on the boys side.
Senior Daniel Rush will be the main cog in the machine as he guides a bevy of talented runners. He’ll get plenty of help from Nate Dougherty, Joseph Clemons, Cameron Jacobs and Brandon Lucas Sanchez, all seniors.
Sophomore Antonio Abrego is another name to look out for. Along with sophomores Kory Bacon, Jalen Davis and senior Samuel Malik, they came in first in the 100-meter relay at 42.87 seconds, a meet record at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational.
The girls are stacked with young potential which includes sophomores Yleana Lopez, Delany Sherwood, Kayla De La Merced and Jasmyn Lewis. Freshman Tylar Gallien was also part of the team that finished in first in the girls 100-meter relay at 49.95 seconds.
Senior Shyann Franklin will challenge West Ranch’s Ramirez in girls discus and shot put. She finished in second to her in the discus throw, but earned first place and set a record in the shot put with a score of 45-0 1/2.
Sophomore Kienan Donovan will lead the Golden Valley boys in discus and shot put.
Senior Emma Rudolph will be in contention in girls pole vault along with several young jumpers who could make a splash in league.
Along with Tambalo, juniors Alec Walker, Maximiliano Gabriel and senior Brandon Sabelis will headline Golden Valley’s jumpers.
Finishing in last place a season ago for both the boys and girls, Hart will look to improve this year, using depth and young talent to shoulder the load.
Senior Cole Shirakata finished in first in the boys 110-meter hurdles at the Trevor Habberstad Invitational with a time of 15.84. He will be one of the leaders along with his counterpart Joe Hylton.
The girls will be anchored by juniors Victoria Paz and Brielle Wiley, along with a handful of underclassmen looking to make a name for themselves.
All three meets will begin at 3:00 p.m.