By Jeff George l Ca.MileSplit l Link
As has been the case so far during the young outdoor season in California, the biggest question regarding the Redondo Nike Track Festival may be the weather.
At least we can say things are improving over last weekend.
Friday should be just about perfect for the distance runners, but we might have rain showers on Saturday that could put a damper on the power-event performances.
One thing that is not in question this weekend: the talent level on the track in Redondo, which will be enormous.
Nearly every event is stacked, and the entries are very deep. While the meet is huge, requiring many sections and flights, each of them should be very competitive. That will make the meet fun to watch, either in person or on our live stream.
Let's wade in hip-deep and look at every event at this weekend's Festival.
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Day one of the Festival is dedicated to two event groups: the distance runners and throwers. One of the interesting parts of previewing the Friday night distance races is trying to figure out the decisions teams will make with their top runners: will they stack the 4x800 or the distance medley? Do they have an elite 3200m runner entered (which might take them out of a relay)? Or will they load up and go for broke? I'll do the best I can to highlight the potential top teams, but we won't know for sure (until race time) whether a particular school has their top guns in the race.
This is a very interesting race. Nobody entered has an extremely fast time from the winter season, so we could be watching as several SoCal distance powers vie to establish themselves as the early favorites. Claremont (9:49) and Great Oak (9:58) both broke 10 minutes in the preseason, but you have to think they're aiming for better than those times this weekend. Los Alamitos and host school Redondo Union finished the 2017 season at CA No. 4 and No. 9, respectively, so count on them to be in the mix. J.W. North, led by super frosh Makayla Browne, is a wild card in this race, and it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Saugus battling with the leaders, too.
The two Wolfpacks, Claremont and Great Oak, both had tremendous squads in this event in 2017, finishing CA No. 2 (7:46) and No. 3 (7:47). Claremont took a bigger hit from graduation, but we could see these two squads battling yet again on Friday under the lights. The teams likely won't be alone, though: Eleanor Roosevelt and West Torrance were also in the final top five last year, with Loyola, Long Beach Poly, and Redondo all under eight minutes in 2017. Rowland won the winter championships with an 8:06, putting them right in the thick of this competition as well. This could be the best event of the weekend, let alone Day 1.
This race could boil down to a battle between fourths: Sydney Hwang ran 10:15 for 3000m this winter, which was the fourth-fastest mark in the state; Sylvia Cruz-Albrecht has the No. 4 returning 3200m time from last spring. Her Oak Park teammate, Sarah Shulze, also ran under 11 minutes (and after a very strong cross country season, she could be neck-and-neck with her fellow Eagle). Mikaela Ramirez will certainly be in contention in this race as well.
Tyler Spencer is the No. 9 returner in California based on his 2017 outdoor best, but you have to give the title of favorite to Colin Fitzgerald after his fantastic cross country season. Zach Arias, Britain Reynolds, and Shane Bissell all ran under 9:20 last spring, so count them in for the lead group. Likewise for Tyler Tickner, who was third in the Winter Championships 3000m. If you're looking for a dark horse candidate to run a breakout race here, keep an eye on Cathedral's Alexander Cantu, who had a very strong cross country season. Oh, and you definitely don't want to count out Evan Pattinelli, the Division 5 cross country champ this past fall, and Division 4 champ in the 3200m last spring.
Girls Distance Medley Relay
Claremont's girls have already run 12:17 this winter, which is only eight seconds off their best from the 2017 outdoor season. That makes them the squad to beat this weekend, although they will certainly have lots of competition (and they have Sydney Hwang entered in the 3200 Friday night, which might affect this squad). Great Oak is in the race, and they certainly have the depth to post a big time -- not to mention the firepower with the rise of Fatima Cortes and Tori Gaitan. Saugus, with Mariah Castillo on the anchor, should also be right up front, and you can say the same for Mira Costa and Palos Verdes.
Boys Distance Medley
Here's one of the big questions of the Friday session: will either Great Oak or Claremont (or both?) hold runners out of the 4x800 to focus on this event? They were 1-2 in this race in the winter championships a little under a month ago, and they held the same positions (but in the opposite order) at the end of the 2017 outdoor season. Roosevelt was only one second back from them this winter, which should make for a very interesting three-team battle. West Torrance, Loyola, and Redondo might also be able to stay up front, but if not they should be able to push each other well.
In the discus, a similar pecking order emerges: Sale is the top returner, but Ramirez has the best time so far this season (and she is CA No. 3 with a 141 already!). Franklin isn't quite as strong in this event as she is in the shot put, but she is still more than good enough to threaten the two favorites. The best marks drop off pretty heavily after the top three, but there should be a spirited competition for fourth place between Cassidy Arias, Alaina English, and several other up-and-coming throwers.
If you're looking for possible breakout stars this early season, consider Harrison Gould: he is currently CA No. 3 with a 57-9 toss, which is a half of an inch ahead of CA No. 4 and Great Oak teammate Jaime Navarro (who came into the season with the better credentials). They are very capable of going 1-2 in the shot put Friday, but it won't be easy -- Noah Holm (current CA No. 5 and No. 3 in the winter season), Daniel Bryant (CA No. 5 in the winter), and Silas Hurst (CA No. 7 in the winter) are in the competition. It doesn't stop there, either, as Jordan Palmer is the No. 9 returner in the state using 2017 marks. If the throwers can get hot in the relatively cool temperatures and push each other, we could see a complete rewriting of the early-season rankings here!
The boys discus should also be stellar, with the No. 3 returner in the state, Hurst, going up against the current No. 2 thrower this season in Navarro. They have both thrown over 170 feet in their careers, and seem to be very evenly matched. Bryant is also right there with his current CA No. 3 mark of 173-4, and it wouldn't be shocking to see Gavin Fua join them in the 170-club this weekend. If you want to see a future star in the throws, check out Notre Dame's Quinten Lyons, who is at 52 feet and has thrown over 150 as a sophomore.