Watsonville High junior Patrick Miller-Brown will compete in the 300-meter hurdles at the upcoming Pacific Coast Athletic League Masters Meet at Pacific Grove High School on May 3. (Raul Ebio/The Pajaronian file photo)

The road to the CIF Track and Field State Championships begins this week as local athletes gear up to compete in their respective league championships.

Pacific Grove High will host the Pacific Coast Athletic League Masters Meet in Pacific Grove on Friday at 4pm, while the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Finals will take place at Soquel High on Saturday at 10am.

Aptos High junior Logan Brantley who advanced past Thursday’s SCCAL Trials and is one of the favorites to win it all in Saturday morning’s Finals. 

The Mariners’ standout thrower set the program’s all-time record in the shot put event with a toss of 54 feet during a league dual meet against Santa Cruz High on April 18. The previous record of 53-9 1/4 was set by Frank Knights in 2007.

Brantley also improved 40 feet in the discus. He set a personal record of 152-02 to place second at the Central Coast Section Top 8 Invite in Los Gatos on April 20.

Aptos assistant coach Thad Moren said there’s a “secret” throwing place in the county called Shaffer Park—a 24-acre workout oasis built with some track and field facilities, including a discus throwing field and an outdoor weight room. 

“It’s really a unique place,” Moren said. 

On the girls team, it’s been senior Tiana Smith shining in the spotlight. She set a personal-best throw of 28-6 in the shot put in an SCCAL dual meet against Soquel High on March 28.

Smith also tossed a personal-record of 89-5 in the discus during a league meet against Scotts Valley and Mount Madonna on April 11.  

“It’s kind of cool [Brantley and Smith] taking advancement in that sport and understanding the details,” Moren said. 

Moren currently focuses on the throwing athletes and his daughter, Cerah—who threw javelin at Arizona State—coaches the sprinters and runners.

One of the standout sprinters is senior Ella Shoemaker, who won four events at the inaugural Santa Cruz County Meet of Champions at Aptos High on April 13. She was victorious in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles in 15.84 and 47.22 seconds, respectively. 

Shoemaker was also part of the 4×100 relay team that won in 50.45, and the 4×400 relay team that won in 4:13.20.

The Santa Cruz County Meet of Champions served as the county championships, bringing all 15 schools in Santa Cruz County together to compete. 

It was a new concept that Moren talked about with former Aptos athletic director Mark Dorfmann last year. The event is similar to what high schools are doing in Stanislaus County, an area where Moren used to live.

“We’re always going to Gilroy for track meets instead of trying to put together something for ourselves here,” Moren said. “A lot of people were happy not to travel out of town.” 

Despite the rainy weather conditions, the county championships were a success. Moren said he just wanted the athletes to have a memorable experience with hopes of returning next year.

Other Mariners athletes to watch for are freshman Bella Hartnett in sprints, freshman Sam Hansen in distance running, senior Ava Churchill in all jumping events (long, triple and high) and senior Mateo Calfee in the high jump. 

“There is a culture here, it’s just finding the right kids,” Thad Moren said.

Monte Vista Christian

Monte Vista Christian won both the boys and girls team titles at the PCAL Santa Lucia Division Championships on April 27. 

The girls’ squad captured a championship with a team score of 115. Ashley Drago, Madison Bandy and Kylie Brunelli will represent the Mustangs in the upcoming Masters Meet.

Bandy and Drago put on a pair of top performances. Bandy won the 100-meters (13.21) and 200 (27.54), and Drago won the long jump (14 feet, 8 1/4 inches) and 400 (1:03.23), also setting personal records.

Brunelli displayed her endurance and skill by winning both the 1600 (5:38.47) and 3200 (12:35.15) races, while Finley Castro took second in the 800 (2:43.57) and set a personal record in the 1600 (5:43.60). 

Patrick Tracey, Josh Tepoorten and Conor Gilliam led the boys’ team to victory at the Santa Lucia finals with a team score of 137 points. The trio of Mustangs also qualified for this weekend’s PCAL Masters Meet.

“I’m very proud of this team and their accomplishments during the Santa Lucia Division Championship,” MVC head coach Erik Beckmen said in an email. “Both the girls and boys stepped up, and some of the athletes competed in four events where we had quite a few 1-2 finishes.” 

Tracey was victorious in both the 100 (11.36) and 200 (23.08) races. Tepoorten won the 400 (52.96), followed by teammates Trent Hendricks (54.13) and Gilliam (54.57) in second and third, respectively. 

Gilliam (2:08.95) and Justin McCullick (2:09.59) had a 1-2 finish in the 800, which was good enough to advance into the Masters Meet.

Other Mustangs athletes competing Friday include Aiden Lopes (110 and 300 hurdles) and sophomore Gavin Beckmen (1600).

Both the girls’ and boys’ 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams also advanced to the Masters Meet. 

The boys’ 4x100m relay team (Tracey, Hendricks, Boston Ashe, Connor Pallott) and 4x400m relay team (Tepoorten, Tracey, Hendricks, Pallott) won their races in 45.57 and 3:31.37, respectively.

The girls’ 4x400m relay team (Corinna Giannelli, Finley Castro, Hannah Woodford, Bandy) won their race in 4:44.99, while the 4×100 relay team (Kaitlyn Burbatt, Bandy, Nyree Delfin, Drago) took second in 54.52.

Beckmen said the sophomore and junior classes are doing the brunt of the work on the track because they don’t have too many seniors on the roster. He mentioned how they shifted athletes from a 100-200-meters runner to a longer 200-400m distance. 

Beckmen is pleased with this year’s group, especially how they overcame minor injuries and some late-season illnesses (cold/flu) that was going around.

“This team has been a great team to coach and watch them grow throughout the season,” Beckmen said. “All of them have stepped up, and have shown major improvements throughout the track season.”

Pajaro Valley

Pajaro Valley High sophomore Emily Lopez and senior David Hernandez will represent the Grizzlies at the Masters Meet in Pacific Grove.

Lopez won the girls 800-meter race in 2:40.48 and Hernandez took third in the boys 800 race in 2:10.59 during the Santa Lucia Division Championships at Monte Vista Christian School on April 26.

Pajaro Valley second-year assistant distance coach Yafeet Garcia, 26, has turned the program around by bringing out the best in his athletes.

Hernandez—who jumped to No. 4 all-time in the Pajaro Valley record books—is part of the 4×400 relay team (Hernandez, Erik Michi, Izaak Ocampo, Carlos Anaya), and the 4×800 relay team (Patrick Lopez, Luis Martinez, Michi, Hernández) that also advanced to the PCAL Masters Meet.

Michi placed fifth in the 800 (2:12.91) and sixth in the 1600 (4:57.18), which moved him up to No. 8 and No. 11 all-time, respectively, in the school’s record book. 

In the 3200, Martinez (11:01.65) moved to No. 9 all-time, followed by Emmanuel Barrientos (11:37.80) at No. 16 and Lopez (12:01.26) at No. 19.

Garcia said the improvement began when a group of distance runners trained in the summer of 2023. They also competed for the cross country team in the fall.

That same group ran at bigger meets including the Rams Invitational in San Francisco, which is where Garcia used to compete while attending Berkeley High.   

“That definitely helped their mindset moving forward not only in cross country, but in track,” Garcia said. “Don’t be intimidated by history or talentwise from these bigger teams. Just run your race like we have.” 

Garcia’s main goal is to recruit more athletes. He also intends to create a culture at PV for either transfer students or incoming freshmen who want to join the team.

“Just keep creating this community, to keep pushing that we don’t just run, we do travel a lot, we do have fun,” Garcia said.

Other PV athletes making the trek to Pacific Grove include junior Izaak Ocampo (high jump, long jump, 200), junior Luis Torres (discus), junior Carlos Anaya (pole vault), junior Aron Bernabe (shot put), senior Kimberly Aguirre-Orozco (triple jump) and junior Ellie Moore (pole vault).

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Yafeet Garcia is the Pajaro Valley High track and field head coach, which is incorrect. Garcia is an assistant distance coach, not the head coach.

St. Francis

St. Francis High sophomore Peyton Orradre won the 100 hurdles in 17.92, took second in the high jump (4-04) and placed fourth in the long jump (13-8 3/4) at the Santa Lucia Division finals.

St. Francis head coach Ramona Young said Orradre is looking to improve by a one second differential to get her to the next level.

Orradre is also subbing in the second leg on the 4×100 relay team with freshman Malia Madrigal as the lead, followed by Orradre and senior Neveah Litel in the middle legs and senior Aaliysah Gomez as the anchor of the Sharks. 

Gomez will also compete in the triple jump after winning the event with a leap of 30-11 at last week’s Santa Lucia Division finals. 

On the boys’ side, sophomore Coy Jordan placed second in the triple jump (35-10 1/2) in the division championships. 

Jordan advanced to this weekend’s Masters Meet, while fellow teammate sophomore Robert Gomez (5-2) took third in the high jump and will be an alternate in that event. 

Gomez will still make the trip to Pacific Grove with the boys’ 4×100 relay team (Joseph Dayrit, Anthony Silva, Markel Parker, Gomez), which took second in 46.95 seconds at last week’s division finals. 

Watsonville High

Watsonville High junior Nate Aguilar won the triple jump with a leap of 42 feet, 1 1/2 inches at the PCAL Mission Division Championships at North Monterey County High School on April 26. He also took second in the shot put (39-10) and third in the high jump (5-8), qualifying him for all three events at this weekend’s Masters Meet. 

Fellow teammates senior Ruben Mora and junior Patrick Miller-Brown both advanced in the 300 hurdles. Senior Giancarlo Mendo will compete in the 1600, Joshua Murillo is set to compete in the pole vault event and Lisandro Pantoja will show off his throwing strength in the discus. 

On the girls side, junior Katelynn Ruiz won both the 1600 (5:27.74) and 3200 (11:52.36) in the Mission Division Championships, punching her ticket to Pacific Grove for Friday evening’s PCAL finals.

Joining Ruiz on the trek is Lizbeth Gomez Abrica (1600 and 3200), senior Jocelyn Guzman (300 hurdles), Jayleen Arredondo (pole vault), Joselyn Gutierrez-Gutierrez (pole vault) and senior Evangelina Gaona (high jump and triple jump). 

The 4×400 relay team (Guzman, Gomez Abrica, Aileen Reyes, Liz Torres) also sprinted their way into the Masters Meet.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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