TORRANCE — Whether it was the track, throwing circle or high jump pit, Foothill League track and field athletes excelled at the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet on Saturday at El Camino College.
Nine out of 11 athletes advanced to the State Meet next weekend and two runners finished in first place in their respective races. All four throwers who competed advanced and Natalie Ramirez of West Ranch finished in first place in both the girls shot put and discus.
Kai Wingo of Valencia took the top spot in the boys 800-meter, finishing with a time of 1 minute, 54.87 seconds.
In typical Wingo fashion, the senior used his incredible kick to surpass his competitors in the final 400 meters of the race to earn the victory.
Even with the win, Wingo wasn’t satisfied with his time. He currently holds the top-ranked time in California in the 800-meter, and he believes he can do even better next week at state to beat his PR of 1:52.08.
“I got first place and I’m very grateful for it, but the time says something different. It was kind of a bittersweet end for me,” Wingo said. “I worked really darn hard, but I didn’t expect it to be at this time, that’s what it makes it kind of bitter even though I won.”
To prepare for the State Meet, Wingo is going to get quality runs in this week, instead of just a high-value amount of runs, which is what he had been doing earlier in the season.
“This past season was more quantity over quality, but this coming week my coach and I are going to focus on the quality,” he said. “Getting out faster and finishing stronger so it’s going to be fast-paced, form-based.”
Solomon Strader of West Ranch hit a personal record in the boys 400-meter with a time of 47.04, earning first place.
The win marks the third time the junior will compete at state and although he’s pleased with his performance, he knows there’s still work to be done.
“I’m happy, it’s nice to win it especially considering last year coming up short. It feels good, but at the same time it’s just one meet, I still have two more to go,” Strader said. “It’s exciting to be able to do it my third year in a row, it’s just a big honor and hopefully I’ll do well up there.”
Canyon’s Ethan Danforth and West Ranch’s Evan Bates both advanced in the boys 3,200-meter. The former finished in second place with a time of 9:02.28 and the latter set a PR and finished in fourth place with a time of 9:03.24.
Junior Tyler Cash of Canyon qualified for the State Meet in the boys high jump, hitting a mark of 6-4 to advance.
“It’s the most satisfying part of it all. All my hard work, it shows out here on the field, it’s amazing,” Cash said. “I’m pretty amped up for next week.”
Joining Cash and Danforth from Canyon is thrower Jacob Lopez. The senior qualified for both the boys shot put and discus.
Lopez finished in fourth place in discus with a throw of 174. He finished in fifth in shot put with a mark of 58. Both high-marks came on his final throw in each event.
“I made it, I made my goal. I’ve been searching for it for four long years and it’s a sense of relief. I finally did it,” Lopez said. “It’s a feeling I can’t even put it into words right now.”
“It’s amazing that we got all three of us going to state this year,” Cash said. “It’s cool to see Jacob and Ethan, I see them both putting in a lot of work at practice. It’s really cool to see all of us advance.”
Joining Lopez in both the boys shot put and discus is Golden Valley sophomore Kienan Donovan.
Donovan finished in sixth place in discus (168-11) and ninth in shot put (55-7 1/2), but hit the qualifying mark of 55-3 to advance.
His teammate Shyann Franklin also advanced in the girls shot put, finishing in second with a throw of 43-10 3/4.
“It just represents us, it shows that we mean business, we don’t play around,” Donovan said. “Shyann, Natalie and Jacob all did great and I’m so glad that we all made it as a little community from Santa Clarita.”
“There was tension in the beginning because there’s a mark you need to get, so everybody was in their own heads,” Franklin said. “Personally with me, I know I can throw over 41, it was just like having the pressure on my shoulders. I just need to become one with myself again and find inner peace and once I do I’ll be set for shot.”
Ramirez, who will be continuing her throwing career at UCLA next year, dominated in both the girls shot put and discus.
She took home first-place honors with a throw of 153-7 in discus and a throw of 44-11 1/4 in shot put.
“I’m ecstatic, I’m blessed to have been able to compete here with all these amazing girls and continue my streak,” Ramirez said. “I’m feeling really good and excited.”
Ramirez is considered a favorite in both events and could come away from the State Meet with two titles.
She doesn’t mind having a target on her back, but instead thrives on the added pressure that being a favorite brings.
“It makes it interesting. It’s a little more pressure but it just keeps me motivated, keeps me going,” she said. “I just have to keep my mind right, focus on myself, that’s the biggest thing at this point. Everybody has physically peaked at state, it’s more who can do it mentally. Who can bring themselves to the place where they are prepared to be in a position to win a championship.”
Freshman Kylee Davis of Saugus finished in 13th place in the girls high jump with a score of 5, missing the qualifying mark of 5-4.
Hart senior Jeremiah Rasmussen finished in 10th place in the boys 1,600-meter with a time of 4:16.56, missing the qualifying cut by less than two seconds.
The nine athletes that qualified will travel to Buchanan High School in Clovis for the State Meet, which begins May 24 and concludes May 25.