Saugus' Park enjoys banner day at Foothill League Track Finals
Kristen Mohrhoff's late surge in the final 100 meters of the girls varsity 800-meter final was the biggest stunner of the meet, Justin Sherfey got a big win in the varsity boys 800-meter race on his birthday, and Victoria Hodge hung on tough to qualify for her first post-season race ever.
None of those were the highlight of this year's championships though.
In Santa Clarita, it's not often a frosh/soph or junior varsity runner outshines every varsity athlete, but that's what Mackenna Park did.
After winning last year's Foothill League junior varsity 400-meter championship and quitting soccer to focus on cross country after helping the Centurions win their 10th consecutive state championship in the fall, Saugus' Park showed everyone in attendance a glimpse of the future.
At the junior varsity level, she dominated the two-lap event in 2:22.03, set a meet record of 5:12.63 in the four-lap event, and held off freshman Jacqueline Cascione (11:24/5:15/61.9 triple herself!) in the eight-lap event to win in 11:22.68. Those times would have been sixth, third and fifth in the varsity finals.
The sophomore wasn't done, though, as she ended the night with a spectacular 59.6 second leg to help Saugus win the 4x400-meter relay in 4:12.41, three seconds shy of the meet record. Valencia beat the Lady Centurions to the line, but was disqualified after its anchor leg impeded a fast closing Dalie Young in the final 50 meters of the final.
Running six races within a two-day span, and winning five of them, while setting four personal bests and a meet record, is unheard of.
If you didn't know who Mackenna Park was before yesterday's championships, chances are you do now after her four historic performances.
In the first varsity final of the night, Golden Valley's Jonathon Bay held off a late charge by West Ranch sophomore Timothy Sterkel and Preston Pope to win his second straight Foothill League crown over 1,600 meters. Pope and Bay, who will attend Cal State Fullerton in the fall, returned in the 3,200-meter run to finish second and third in 9:36.20 - the fastest performance by a 10th grader in meet history - and 9:36.57.
Winning the race and extending Saugus' streak of crowns to five was senior Ryan Tate, who made a bid for Scott Schweitzer's 45-year-old meet record of 9:11.40 from the gun. The Utah Valley University signee put on a clinic, passing 1,600 meters in 4:35, but missed the record by less than six seconds, clocking a solo 9:15.88, the second fastest performance of his running career and No. 3 in finals history behind Schweizer and former teammate Brian Zabilski (9:12.82).
Tate's teammate, Ashley Heys, had reason to celebrate following another impressive double. After finishing second in 5:05.73 to teammate Mariah Castillo, who won the first championship of her high school career in 5:02.89, Heys won the 3,200-meter finals in style. The senior took the lead from teammates Castillo (fourth in 11:12.12) and Kaylee Thompson (second in 10:56.83, a PR!) with six laps remaining to motor home in 10:49.86 -- just off her 10:49.51 personal best, No. 9 in championship history, and her second 3,200-meter title in three years.
In the girls 800-meter varsity final, it was obvious defending champion Bianca Tinoco meant business in her Foothill League swan song. The senior was out quickly, blazing through 200 meters in 28 seconds and 400 meters in 63 seconds, before winning her second consecutive championship in 2:12.90, a performance that just missed Jennifer Owen's meet record by six-one hundredths of a second (2:12.84).
Tinoco - who will join Samantha Ortega and Chelsey Totten at Arizona State University in the fall - returned for the 4x400-meter relay, where she teamed up with Azaria Hill, the 100 and 200-meter champion, Lonyaa Merriwaether, the 400-meter champion, and Marianne Tolentino to dominate the field in 3:58.85, nearly six seconds ahead of Canyon (4:04.08) and three seconds off Saugus' 2010 championship record (3:55.36).
The biggest stunner of the meet occurred behind Tinoco, where Saugus' Kristen Mohrhoff went from sixth to third in the last 100 meters, despite missing the middle of the season to an injury and only having a personal best of 2:23.80. After several injuries and bad races, all the stars aligned for Mohrhoff in the biggest race of her career, as she kicked down Siobhan Rubio, last year's bronze medalist, super freshman Sophia Hoelzel, and senior teammate Emma Bahr, to take third in a huge personal best of 2:19.08 and earn the final spot into the CIF post-season. Bailey Pate finished second in 2:18.56, Hoelzel was fourth in 2:19.45, Bahr ended her prep career with a fifth-place finish in 2:20.37, and Rubio faded to sixth in 2:22.13.
The boys varsity 800-meter race was just as exciting, as West Ranch's Justin Sherfey and Jake Carver, as well as Canyon's Jordan Henry, battled all the way to finish. Sherfey's 17th birthday wasn't the only thing he celebrated yesterday, as the junior held off Carver and Henry for the win (1:58.92). Carver finished second in 1:59.70, with Henry dipping under the two-minute barrier for the first time in third (1:59.78!).
Also earning bronze medals and a trip to CIF was Saugus' Victoria Hodge, who gutted out a new personal best of 5:17.38 to finish a well-deserved third, and Golden Valley senior and future UC Riverside runner Mykasia Simpskins, who out-kicked Saugus' Castillo for third in the girls varsity 3,200-meter final (11:03.42 PR for Simpkins!).