Carson girls wins their record ninth straight City Section track and field title

It was all about the dynasty for the Carson High girls team Friday during the City Section track and field championships at El Camino College.

The Colts dominated the sprint races on their way to capturing their record ninth consecutive title. Carson sophomore Christina Gray ran the second leg on the 4×100 relay, which placed first in 46.20 seconds, then won the 100-meter dash in 11.68 and the 200 meters in 22.40. For someone who has been competing in the sport since she was 6 years old, her finals effort was all she hoped for.

“I’m happy with my 100 time,” said Gray, who ran a personal-best 11.60 flat at Mt. SAC in April. “I think I ran a strong race and I was less nervous having a teammate in the lane next to me.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Gray leaped 17-2.5 on her fourth and last attempt to win the long jump, earning 10 valuable points toward the team title.

“It wasn’t a great jump for me — I could’ve done better,” said Gray, who achieved her personal record of 18-6 at a winter qualifier last year. “I just got new spikes last week and I haven’t been jumping as much this year.”

Canoga Park senior Angelina Valladares used her experience to full advantage, winning the 1600 meters in a personal-best 5:06.03, shaving five seconds off her third-place time a year ago. Forty minutes later, she took first in the 800 in 2:17.94 after top qualifier Annabelle Refnes opened a sizeable lead on the first lap.

“My strategy in the 1600 was to pace off of whoever was leading,” said Valladares, a UC Davis cross country and track commit. “I knew I had a stronger kick and I passed her [runner-up Angeles Feliciano of Santee] around the turn in the last 300. The 1600 is more my specialty and I want to go sub-five [minutes] for state.”

Palisades freshman Zoey Morris, who finished third in the 1600, bounced back to win the 3200 with a time of 11:19.93, almost seven seconds faster than Granada Hills sophomore Samantha Pacheco, whom she beat to win the Division I cross country title in the fall.

Carson racked up 103 points to far out-pace Granada Hills (77) and Palisades (63), earning its 11th team title. The Colts won their first two titles in 2006 and 2011, then won every title since 2014. The City finals were canceled in 2020 and no team champions were crowned the following year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While Gray was establishing herself as the fastest girl on the track, Jordan Coleman was doing the same on the boys’ side. The Granada Hills senior ran a scorching second leg to give the Highlanders a huge lead in the 4×100, which they won with a time of 41.26. He was on last year’s record-setting 4×100 team, which also included Dijon Stanley (the 400-meter state champion).

“I’m getting used to it,” Coleman said of running the second leg. “A good way start to the meet!”

Coleman then completed a sprint “double” by winning the 100 and 200. He was unfazed by two false starts in the 100, which reduced the field to seven runners, and won in 10.49. Birmingham junior Antrell Harris was second in 10.84.

“It’s not a PR, but this is definitely a good time given the conditions and the fact that there were two disqualifications,” Coleman said. “You try to block them out and refocus in the blocks. It wasn’t the best start but I wanted to make sure I didn’t false start and the last 50 meters of the race was really good.”

Coleman won a loaded 200 in 21.30 (his PR of 21 flat was achieved at Arcadia last year) and capped his day by running the first leg on the Highlanders’ 4×400 relay, which took first place in 3:22.85 after having qualified third.

In addition to his runner-up finish in the 200, Justin Hart pulled off an upset in the 400 meters, clocking 48.03 to edge fellow junior and top qualifier Nathan Santa Cruz of Venice by .55.

“I ran the first leg on the 4×100 relay, so it tired me a out a little but not too much,” said Hart, who shattered his previous personal record of 48.94 in the West Valley League finals. “It was a really talented field of guys and at the 150 mark they were picking it up, so I had to also.”

Hart had posted third fastest time at prelims, 1.35 seconds behind Santa Cruz and .41 behind Ronin Sherertz from Palisades.

Granada Hills secured its third straight boys title with 98 points. Palisades was second with 54 points, three more than third-place Carson.

Palisades senior Max Fields won the 3200 for the second time (he also won it as a sophomore) with a time of 9:21.09 while teammates Blake Sigworth and Axel Mammen finished second and third.

Cleveland senior Joseph Vargas repeated as 1600 meter champion in 4:15.72, beating Paul Tranquilla of Venice by 1.36 seconds. The UC San Diego-bound Vargas upset Fields to win the City Division I cross country title in the fall.

“I’ve been more speed-based this year,” said Vargas, who finished second to Tranquilla later in the 800. “This is not really my test … my goal is to go 4:10 for state.”

After fouls on his previous two attempts, Carson’s Jerald Martin Evangelista needed a 22-9.50 effort on his fourth and final leap to equal Sebastian Ikolo and he was declared the winner with a better second mark of 22-0.

High drama unfolded in the boys’ high jump, with Deshawn Banks and Ikolo both clearing 6-10 and Banks, who ultimately prevailed with fewer overall misses, almost succeeded on his third try with the bar at seven feet.

“I love winning and being alone at the top, but I like going against somebody, especially when you get up to the higher heights,” Banks said. “My goal is to go over 7 [feet] at state.”

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