The La Cañada track team returned to action this past Saturday at the Pasadena Games, held at South Pasadena High School, and the Meet of Champions, contested at Arcadia High School. The meets were the first-allowed track and field invitationals in Los Angeles County this season, and both meets were held to strict COVID-related protocols — including pre-meet online screenings, mask-wearing and social distancing.
At the Meet of Champions, a competition that featured only distance events and annually draws the best runners in Southern California, La Cañada’s trio of elite girls’ middle-distance runners competed in a 800-meter race that featured four of the top five-ranked performers in the state. Crescenta Valley’s Mia Barnett set a blistering 62-second pace for the opening lap, with Spartans Ellaney Matarese and freshman Arielle McKenzie close behind. Barnett pulled away to win in a meet record and state-leading two minutes, 7.31 seconds, but Matarese stayed in the hunt, running 2:12.43 for third, while McKenzie set a personal record (PR) of 2:13.57 to claim fourth. Freshman Katelyn Matarese, following a mishap at the start that left her at the back on the pack, charged late to claim sixth place in a PR 2:18.76. McKenzie joined senior Matarese this season in bettering the previous Spartan record for 800 (2:13.94, set by Matarese in 2019).
Across town at the 75th running of the Pasadena Games, the Spartan boys opened the day’s competition by going 1-2 in the high jump. Luke Johnson was no surprise as the victor at six feet. The surprise was teammate Dominic Corrente, in his second high jump competition, improving his PR by four inches to claim second at 5-10. Steven Miketta cleared 5-4 for fourth.
The morning’s field event competition saw more Spartan PRs. Miketta returned in the pole vault to clear 11-6, a PR that earned second place. Corrente claimed his second podium finish with a vault of 11-6, good for third place — Miketta was awarded the higher finish based on fewer overall misses. Tyler Callahan PR’d in the triple jump with is leap of 35-10, and Jeshurun Liou continued the boys run of PRs with a mark of 16-1 in the long jump.
Spartan sprinters opened the afternoon running session with a victory in their heat of the 4×100 relay. The lineup of Zain Bangash, Josh Fung, Corey Cheung, and Mentoa McKenzie held off a late charge from league-rival Monrovia for the win.
In the 100 meters, Ivan Ostry, two weeks removed from playing quarterback for the La Cañada football team, ran the top Spartan time, winning his heat in a PR 11.63. Bangash won his heat, too, running 11.92 (PR), while newcomer Cheung, also fresh off the football team, had to run his race twice after the field failed to hear the recall gun following a false start — in the rerun, Cheung ran a PR 11.85. Senior Josh Fung, the Pasadena Games frosh-soph champion two years ago, continued his struggle to return from injury, posting a 12.20.
In other boys’ action, Jaden Milbrodt placed sixth out of 49 runners in the 1600, running a PR 4:46.14. Max Smith was a few ticks behind in 4:55.11. Ryan Armijo ran 2:09.09 in the 800, good for seventh place.
The LCHS girls’ effort was led by the 4×400 relay squad of Artis Phillips, Ellie Cucullu, Kaitlyn Creighton, and Leslie Dick. Phillips used the lead leg to put distance on the field, and the other three girls stretched that lead to claim victory in 4:26.66.
La Cañada’s 300-meter hurdles laid down a dominant performance, claiming five of the top seven spots, all with PRs. Phillips was third overall in 50.64, followed by Dick (52.05), Cucullu (54.16), Karla Cadman (54.47), and Nicole Van Slooten (54.59). The latter four also ran the 100 hurdles, with Cadman recording 18.92, Van Slooten a PR 19.07, Dick 19.92 and Cucullu a PR 20.98.
In the girls 1600, Jenna Milbrodt ran a 5:42.93 for fifth place. Catherine Mispagel recorded a PR 5:48.42. Also PR’ing was Caitlin Roehmholdt in 6:06.87.
The Spartan girls field event competitors tapped into the theme of the day. Annalise Evans PR’d in the high jump, soaring 4-10 for fourth place. Sundara Wakeman and Chiara Matuska both cleared 4-4.
The long jump produced PRs for every Spartan competitor. Audrey Butler led the way with her leap of 15-3.5. Claudia Plocher went 15-3, Kaitlyn Creighton 14-6, Katelyn Hung 13-11, and Arianna Kim 11-10. Plocher and Butler returned in the triple jump, recording marks of 32-8 (another PR) and 28-11, respectively.
The Spartan boys and girls ride their wave of weekend PRs into this Thursday’s league-opening meet against Monrovia, on the Spartans’ home track, starting at 3:15 p.m.
FLINTRIDGE PREP, ST. FRANCIS ATHLETES COMPETE AT INVITATIONAL
While schools as far away as Rancho Cucamonga, Thousand Oaks and Fullerton attended, several local high schools did, as well, including Maranatha, Mayfield, St. Francis and Flintridge Prep.
None of those teams were at full strength for the Pasadena Games. Flintridge Prep only brought three freshmen boys to compete in the 1600 meters. Mayfield was missing a couple of its best runners while St. Francis could have some multisport athletes skip the track season entirely due to the pandemic-shortened break between the end of the football season and the start of spring workouts.
St. Francis got three top 10 finishes from Dario Rock, who took eighth in the 100 with a personal-best 11.35 time, second in the 110-meter hurdles (14.94) and third in the long jump (20-11.5 inches).
“Dario is really a hard worker,” St. Francis head coach Mike Russell said. “I just like his attitude toward what he’s supposed to be doing and what he is doing. I’m very happy with him.”
Andrew Howard finished sixth in the 100 with a 11.29 time. Baylor Buchanan and Cole Seley finished 14th and 17th in the 400 with 53.87 and 55.93 times, respectively.
Flintridge Prep’s three freshmen boys only competed in the 1600 – Evan Guyer finished 41st at 5.35.85, Nicolas Stanton was 43rd at 5:44.27 and Max Goodman was 45th at 5:48.96.