All six Foothill League track and field teams were on hand at College of the Canyons on a hot and sunny Thursday afternoon for the annual Foothill League prelims.
Excitement was in the air as spectators were treated to several close races, with runners from all six schools doing their best to qualify for next Thursday’s Foothill League finals.
Fans didn’t have to wait long for a thrilling finish, as the first varsity boys race of the day came down to the wire, with Hart’s Jeremiah Rasmussen narrowly defeating Golden Valley’s Daniel Rush in the boys 1600-meter.
Rasmussen finished with a time of four minutes and 21.71 seconds, while Rush followed right behind him at 4:21.75, a personal record.
“Really, I was trying to pace him,” Rasmussen said. “He was going for a good time, we’re friends. Going into the race I felt really sluggish, it was really hot today, so I was just trying to get a time to qualify. It’s really fun, the competition is great and you run fast times, it’s really cool.”
“It’s great, Jeremiah is one of my best friends in the league, I see him all the time,” Rush said. “It’s fun talking to him on and off the track, being friends with him and also being able to race at the same level. I felt pretty good. I was a little nervous about the heat, but it affects everyone the same way.”
West Ranch’s Sophia Hoelzel, a UCLA commit, won the girls 1600-meter with a time of 5:18.70.
Racing in the second heat, Hoelzel was able to better monitor her speed based on the results of the first heat, which Hannah Fredericks of Saugus won at 5:22.24. Fredericks finished second overall behind Hoelzel and her Saugus teammate Hailey Rutter finished third at 5:24.20.
“Today was just about qualifying for next week, so I just wanted to see the first heat’s times and base my pace off of that,” Hoelzel said. “From this time on I’m really looking to improve my times. Today was more about place, so next week I’m hoping to break five and get a good start into postseason.”
Golden Valley’s Tylar Gallien continued her stellar freshman campaign, winning the girls 400-meter with a PR of 57.76, defeating Valencia’s Juliana Anuakpado, who also set a PR at 59.25.
West Ranch’s Solomon Strader, who has the third-best time this year in the boys 400-meter in California, won the same event on Thursday with a time of 48.69. His teammate Justin Carver finished second at 50.18 and Golden Valley’s Samuel Malik finished third at 50.36.
Strader, a junior, was participating in his first Foothill League prelims and reminisced about last year when he watched the competition as a fan.
“It’s my first year in this league, I remember last year being able to come as a spectator and it was a lot of fun watching. So to be running, it’s really cool, and having great athletes it’s pretty neat to be able to run with all of them,” Strader said.
The boys 100-meter provided another exciting finish, with Hart’s Joe Hylton setting a PR and taking the top spot with a time of 10.91. Valencia’s Tylyn Cook finished second at 10.95 and Golden Valley’s Jalen Davis finished third at 11.04
Hailey Hunt of West Ranch won the girls 100-meter with a time of 12.43, edging Yleana Lopez of Golden Valley (12.56) and Kylee Davis of Saugus (12.85).
Canyon notched its first varsity win in the girls 800-meter, with Angelee Berganio finishing with a time of 2:19.48 to defeat Peyton Washington of West Ranch (2:20.48) and Julia Pearson of Saugus (2:21.48).
In the first heat of the boys 800-meter, Valencia senior Kai Wingo was trailing as he rounded the first 400 meters. He shot a smile toward his teammates who were watching and hit the afterburners, pulling ahead to win the heat at 2:00.24. Wingo holds the league record in the race with a time of 1:52.54.
However, it wasn’t enough on this day, as Golden Valley’s Antonio Abrego won the second heat and the overall race with a time of 1:58.76.
“I wanted to show Antonio that I still got it. He really wants to beat me so I just wanted to show off a bit,” Wingo said with a smile. “I always think karma is working around me, so I don’t want to think about it too much. Focus on my race, even though I did make a record. I think I can go further and I really want to go further in my time.”
“In prelims, I just want to come out and get the win. Doesn’t even really matter about time, just want to save my legs,” Abrego said. “I wanted to start off strong and let everybody know that I’m here and I’m ready.”
Gallien notched her second win on the afternoon, finishing with a PR of 25.45 in the girls 200-meter. Hunt finished second at 25.48 and Lopez finished third at 25.63.
Solomon grabbed another win in the boys 200-meter with a time of 22.37, defeating Cook (PR of 22.43) and Malik (22.64).
“Towards the end of the season you start to see who your top competitors are, kind of study the way they race, try to make sure you shape up your race,” Strader said. “For me, continue to work on my start, making sure my finish is good and keep working on that.”
Chloe Stewart of Valencia won the girls 100-meter hurdles with a time of 15.28. Golden Valley’s Jasmyn Lewis won the girls 300-meter hurdles at 47.15.
Hart’s Cole Shirakata won the boys 110-meter hurdles, logging a time of 15.03 and also won the boys 300-meter hurdles at 40.14. Mya Davis of West Ranch finished a hair behind him with a time of 40.15.
The varsity throwing events will take place on Wednesday at Hart High School and the varsity field events will start at 2 p.m. on Thursday at College of the Canyons.
The Foothill League running finals will start at 5 p.m. on Thursday at COC.
“I love the crowd here, a lot bigger than usual dual meets,” Abrego said. “It’s fun to compete against some of the best in our league. Can’t wait until next week.”