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Foothill League boys track and field preview: Separation time

No one wants to split title again

Posted: March 19, 2013 8:58 p.m.
Updated: March 19, 2013 8:58 p.m.

Saugus senior A.J. Yarnall is the defending Foothill League champion in the 3,200 meter run.

 

 

Splitting a Foothill League crown isn’t a way to make everyone happy.

None of the three teams who split it last year, Canyon, Golden Valley and Hart, were thrilled about it.

If one of those teams want to win it outright this year though, it will take some serious retooling.

Just about every team in the league lost a major contributor, including three CIF state qualifiers who are all now graduated.

Teams with long-standing traditions, like Canyon and Hart, can reload. Golden Valley has developed into quite the perennial track and field power, as well as the Grizzlies come in as league title favorites.

Though it took fourth place last year, Saugus is always a contender due to its dominance in the distance races, along with a few field events.

Despite a last-place finish last year, West Ranch returns a ton of talent, and Valencia comes in with a big roster loaded with potential.

 

Canyon

There’s a reason why Canyon has won at least a share of the last three Foothill titles.

That reason is the team’s ability to deal with the constant turnover of athletes, both planned and unplanned.

Last year’s senior-dominated team is replaced by another one this season as the Cowboys once again come in to the league season with one of the area’s most balanced and talented lineups.

“Our strength is the fact that we don’t have a real weakness,” said Canyon head coach Paul Broneer. “Not too many teams will go 1-2 on us in any events, and that’s how you win dual meets.”

Three quarters of last year’s CIF qualifying 4x400-meter relay team returns with seniors Joel Estrada and Devin Baldwin as well as junior Brett Molster.

Dominic Pennucci would have been the fourth returning leg of the sprint relay teams, but the senior chose not to come out for the team this season.

Senior Drew Wolitarsky will step in for both sprint relay teams as well as other sprints.

On the distance side, Canyon also has some strength with senior Zach Wims holding down both the 1,600 and 3,200 and 11th grader Adam Driedger adding depth in the 1,600.

Senior Timmy Tomizawa is already putting up pole vaulting numbers that make him a strong CIF sectional and state candidate.

Adding even more versatility to the team will be junior decathlete Jeremy Kimmer, who will compete in the long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault and various hurdles events during league.

That should provide enough depth to give Canyon a chance to compete for another league crown.

 

Golden Valley

It only took one meet to make the rest of the league realize that Golden Valley is still very much a top Foothill contender.

At the SCV Invitational earlier this month at Canyon High School, five of six league teams got to see a deep and balanced Grizzlies team which appears to have reloaded very well since losing some key distance runners.

The most notable improvement for Golden Valley comes in the sprints, where the school’s football and basketball talent shows plenty of promise.

Senior transfer Leon Jacobs, along with senior Chase Lewis and junior Jacob Ortiz come over from football and senior James Chevious comes from basketball to help run the sprints and jumps.

Though the team loses 2012 CIF-SS finalist distance runners Kristian Martinez and Juan David Garcia to graduation, seniors Nolan Del Valle and Brendan Tinoco should fill in nicely in those events.

“I would say that we’re probably not quite as deep this year,” says Golden Valley head coach John Quam. “But the distance kids are doing well and they actually ran a faster distance medley relay time than our team did last year.”

Quam took over the program this year after brothers Rob and Chris Evans stepped down as co-head coaches at the end of last season.

The Grizzlies will look for a good portion of its points to be scored by senior Diontre Harris and junior Deion Webber, who have both showed promise in the throwing events.

 

Hart

Yet another team with a strong distance running tradition comes in with plenty of talent despite the losses of elite athletes to graduation.

No team lost more of its top athletes than Hart, which graduated Signal All-Santa Clarita Valley Track and Field Athlete of the Year Tim White, along with fellow CIF state qualifier Austin O’Neil.

It’s not all bad news though, considering senior distance runners Josh Sherfey and Navy commit Billy Walker are looking impressive already.

Junior Conner West is another Hart athlete who has a chance to make it to the state finals, said Hart head coach Gio Guzman.

“There’s still a lot of upside, which is good,” Guzman said of the team. “We did lose a lot of keys scorers, but I’m looking forward to seeing what we’re capable of this year.”

Junior Bailey James is another distance runner on the team with a lot of potential, particularly in the 1,600.

Steven Meisner will fill in nicely in the jumps after White’s graduation leaves a vacancy in all three jump events.

 

Saugus

The plan is simple for Saugus.

Score as many points as possible in distance races and throwing events and count on a strong group of young, but versatile athletes to round out the rest of the team.

If Saugus can do that, it will have a good chance to gain ground after its disappointing fourth-place finish in league last year.

“Ultimately, we want to win league and try to carry that over to CIF, but we just want to try to improve upon our record from last year,” said first-year head coach David Russell.

Russell is Saugus’ third different head coach in as many years following Christian Standley in 2010 and John McKenzie last year.

For the 2013 Centurions, it will all start with senior distance runners A.J. Yarnall and Rodrigo Ornelas.

Those two, along with senior thrower Denley Rodriguez, all have CIF qualifying potential and beyond.

From there, the Centurions turn to a big group of juniors, many of whom are track and field first timers.

Returning junior Cameron Engle will try to score in the pole vault and all three jumps as he was named team MVP last year.

Senior Kevin Lee is another multi-talented athlete who will make noise in several different events.

Adding depth in the throws will be three juniors who share the same first name, Austin McKinney, Austin Davenport and junior newcomer Austin Dulany.

 

Valencia

The good news is most of Valencia’s top-notch group of sprinters from last season is coming back this year.

The bad news is the best athlete of that group, Clint Gingrich, is the one who graduated after advancing to the Masters Meet in the long jump last year.

He also took part in Valencia’s defending league champions 4x100 relay team alongside James Berkley, Nick Jones and Michael Kojin.

Those three are all back as the core of the team, though Berkley is still recovering from various injuries along with a few others in the lineup.

“We’ve got to get a little healthier too and if we get a little healthier, we’re going to come back a little stronger and make some noise,” said Valencia head coach Jeff Gilkey.

Beyond the three main sprinters, junior Austin James and senior George Dowlin will contribute in the sprints and jumps.

Christian Brouws looks to be Valencia’s top long jumper and he’ll contend for a league title in the event.

Dylan Mullaley should contribute in the high jump and Robert Allen is Valencia’s best thrower.

 

West Ranch

First-year West Ranch head coach Steve Welker doesn’t mind his team’s reputation of being strong in the 800.

He just wants to expand that success to the rest of the team.

The early returns indicate West Ranch is on the right track.

“We’ve got a lot of good, solid returners and it’s just a matter of getting everything to come together and make them as good as they have been in these early meets,” said Welker, who took over for former head coach Dave Saville after he resigned last spring.

Based on some of his early numbers, West Ranch senior Pierce Miller appears to be in position to win a league title in the 800 and perhaps make a run in the postseason.

But that’s only the beginning for this team. Senior Chu Oquejiofor is a promising sprinter who finished second in the 400 last year.

Junior Max Mazur has one of the league’s best 100-meter times so far this season.

In the field events, the Wildcats have promising sophomore thrower Nathan Bultman, who is following in the footsteps of his older brother Nick, a graduated CIF state qualifying shot putter.

Sophomore Max Cawley is expected to score some points in the high jump, long jump and triple jump while senior Harrison White is showing promise in the hurdles events.

 

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