The La Cañada High School girls’ track team continued its record-setting streak last week at the Simi Valley Invitational while the boys’ squad notched a podium finish and numerous personal records. The meet drew hundreds of athletes from more than 60 schools in Ventura and adjoining counties.
The LCHS girls’ distance medley relay (DMR) opened Thursday’s distance events with a bang by winning the race in 12 minutes, 40.44 seconds, which is a school and meet record. The DMR includes legs of 1,200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters (one lap is 400 meters), in that order.
Freshman Arielle McKenzie ran leg one, opening a 50-meter lead. Artis Phillips maintained the lead on her one-lap leg. Ellaney Matarese, saving energy for a second race later in the day, cruised the 800 and freshman Katelyn Matarese anchored the 1,600 in a breakout performance, running 5:12 to fight off a challenge from second-place Redondo Union High from Redondo Beach.
“This track meet had three levels,” said Spartan girls’ head coach Chris Matarese, explaining how the multiple competitive levels for each event were determined. “The top eight or so competitors are in the ‘invitational’ section. The next eight are in the ‘seeded’ section. And the remaining competitors, as many as 100 or more in some events, are in the ‘rated’ section.”
The highly-anticipated 1,600-meter girls race, featuring two of the state’s best middle-distance runners in Ellaney Matarese and Mayfield Senior’s Audrey Suarez, didn’t disappoint. After splitting the first two meetings, Suarez ran with a vengeance, leading Matarese through a brutal first three laps before pulling away over the final lap. Matarese stayed strong for second with a personal record (PR) time of 4:59.46.
In other heats of Thursday’s 1,600s, Jenna Milbrodt placed fifth in the girls’ seeded race with a 5:47.34. In the boys’ rated division, Max Smith ran a personal-best 4:53.07. In the boys’ 3,200, Jaden Milbrodt, fresh off his second-place finish in the Rio Hondo League cross-country finals two weeks ago, recorded a 10:11.24.
Saturday’s competition saw McKenzie return to action in the invitational girls’ 800 meters. After stalking the leader through 600 meters, McKenzie used a furious kick to pull away from the field, winning in a meet record 2:15.80 — currently the fifth-best time in the state. Fellow frosh Matarese passed a slew of runners in the homestretch to take second in 2:18.93, good for a top-12 state ranking. With senior teammate Ellaney Matarese currently sitting second in the state rankings for 800, other schools’ coaches were overheard referring to La Cañada as “800 High,” resurrecting a designation that belonged to the Spartans’ boys teams of the 1970s and 1980s when La Cañada regularly fielded the best groups of 800-meter runners in the state.
In the girls’ rated sprint events, Grace Payton ran a PR 13.66 in the 100, while Kaitlyn Creighton finished a step behind in 13.89. In the 200, McKenzie recorded a 27.70, the fastest Spartan frosh time this century and Payton ran 28.19 for third in her heat. Creighton made her season debut in the 400, running 68.79, a tick faster than Ellie Cucullu’s 69.67. Cucullu also ran 21.05 for the 100 hurdles and 59.70 for the 300 hurdles.
In the girls’ field events, Claudia Plocher nabbed gold in the seeded triple jump, going 31 feet, 9.5 inches. Audrey Butler went 29 feet to tie her PR.
On the boys’ side, Luke Johnson rebounded from a week of minimal practice to leap 5 feet, 10 inches in the high jump, good enough to tie for second place.
In other field event action, Steven Miketta carried on the family tradition in the pole vault—his dad was one of the top vaulters in the area and his brother David won the 2019 CIF championship in the event —with a PR of 11 feet, 4 inches.
In the sprints, Mentoa McKenzie tied the Spartan freshman record for 100 meters with a time of 11.78. Tyler Callahan set a PR at 12.24 and Josh Fung continued his long road back from injury with a 12.30 in the 100 and 25.36 in the 200.