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2016 Foothill League boys track and field preview

Canyon looking for seventh straight Foothill League title

Posted: March 23, 2016 11:21 p.m.
Updated: March 23, 2016 11:21 p.m.
Canyon’s Steven Arrington, right, passes the baton to 400-meter relay anchor Connor Holcomb at the Foothill League track and field finals at College of the Canyons last May. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Canyon’s Steven Arrington, right, passes the baton to 400-meter relay anchor Connor Holcomb at the Foothill League track and field finals at College of the Canyons last May. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Canyon’s Steven Arrington, right, passes the baton to 400-meter relay anchor Connor Holcomb at the Foothill League track and field finals at College of the Canyons last May. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
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It’s easy to ask Foothill League coaches how they see the Foothill League shaking out.

And, without them having a crystal ball, it’s easy for them to answer, ‘It’s anyone’s league.’

But this year, not only is it the consensus among league coaches, it looks like they could all be right.

Canyon has won six Foothill League titles in a row.

But the Cowboys have graduated a number of seniors that helped them to a 5-0 record last year.

But multiple teams across the league also lost big names to graduation — namely West Ranch graduate Nathan Bultman and Saugus’ Brian Zabilski — adding to the sense of parity entering league.

Canyon

Canyon head coach Paul Broneer said he’s usually stacked with seniors. And last year he was.

But the Cowboys saw Israel Cabrera, last year’s 100-meter and 200-meter Foothill League champ, Steven Childs, CIF-Southern Section Division 2 finalist in the long and triple jump, and hurdler Shane Stach, CIF-SS D2 finalist, all graduate.

“This is going to be the toughest year to repeat as league champion,” Broneer said. “We’ve won the last six years in a row. But for us to do that again is going to be tough.”

So now that youth is on the Cowboys’ side, Canyon has tried to get into as many meets as possible to get as much experience as they could during preseason.

“We’ve got a lot of kids that have never been in a meet before and now they have a couple under their belt,” Broneer said. “I think everyone is a little more prepared to compete.”

Two who are already ready to compete are returning sprinters Steven Arrington and Connor Holcomb.

They both currently have the top times in the Foothill League in both the 100 and 200. Arrington, a junior, has posted the top time so far this season in both categories (10.94 seconds and 22.14 seconds), with Holcomb, a senior, close behind him (11.04 and 22.54).

Sprints have generally been the Cowboys strength for the past seven or eight years.

But this year, Canyon can add pole vaulters to that list, with seniors Jeremiah Chow and Jake Bennet impressing in the early going, along with junior Josh Kimmer.

Saugus

Chasing the Cowboys is the 2015 Foothill League runner-up, Saugus.

And helping the Cents chase them is a guy that’s pretty familiar with running, on the football field.

Foothill League Football Player of the Year Louis Eusebi is now using his speed on the track.

The senior, who ran for the Cents last year but came in late, has been impressive in the preseason. He has posted top 10 times so far this season in both the 100 and 200 with marks of 11.21 and 23.19.

“(His times are) not surprising,” said Saugus head coach David Russell. “I watched him during football season and he got faster and faster. He keeps getting bigger and faster. He doesn’t necessarily get out quick, but once he gets going, he gets going.”

Eusebi will be joined in the sprints by fellow football player Amir Bishop, who did not run last year due to injury.

Senior distance runner Ryan Tate will try to build on a strong cross country season. He’ll run the 3200 and 1600. Tate will try to fill the large shoes that Zabilski left when the All-SCV runner graduated.

“(Zabilski) is a difficult person to replace, but Ryan Tate will be able to step up and take on some of that workload,” Russell said. “We just don’t have that one-two punch. But with Louis (Eusebi) coming on, we’re going to pick up points where we didn’t pick up last year.”

Clifford Alvarez, who is a junior transfer from San Diego, along with junior Noah Turner, will hope to place in the long jump. Turner is already clearing 6-feet in the event to start the season.

Valencia

The Vikes tied for third place last season with a 2-3 record.

But the good new for the Vikings is that Sam Pica returns with potential to score points in almost any event co-head coach Kevin Berns puts him in.

The junior is posting impressive marks in the 200, 400, and can high jump 6-feet.

“He’s our hybrid athlete,” Berns said. “He can do just about any event you want him to do. He can do anything from the 200 to the 800, the mile, long jump, high jump, triple jump.”

Valencia’s strength is in its sprints and relays.

Pica, along with Chris Kojin, Blake Beeler and football running back Jahmar Berkley are slated for the relays at the moment.

Although there is depth in the sprints, Valencia throwers are still developing.

But Berns isn’t too worried, because he feels his squad can compete with the best that the Foothill League has to offer.

“I can’t remember the last time you could pick a name out of a hat and they could win league,” Berns said. “Canyon’s good, we’re good, West Ranch is good. Each school has their strengths, and if all comes together in one day, anybody can beat anybody.”

West Ranch

There might not be any bigger puzzle piece missing than Bultman, who was the All-SCV Track and Field Male Athlete of the Year. The shot-putter won the CIF-Southern Section D1 title and placed sixth at state with All-State honors last year.

“When you lose a kid like Nathan Bultman, that’s a big blow to your program,” said first-year West Ranch head coach Sean Delaney, who is well aware of Bultman’s loss. “He’s was Foothill League leader in the shot put and discus and now he’s one of the better throwers at USC. You can’t argue that he is (not) missed, as well as Max Cawley.”

But as high as he is on his freshman class, Delaney knows the Wildcats can try to pick up points in other areas.

Junior transfer Collin Maloof joins the sprints for West Ranch, along with Justin Sherfey in the 800-meter.

Distance events are where the Cats will shine. Sherfey, who has the top 800 time so far on the season, will be joined by cross country veterans Preston Pope (sophomore), Timmy Sterkel (sophomore) and Tucker Welker (senior).

“That whole distance boys group, that’s a solid team,” Delaney said. “They work hard, they train hard and they’re going to continue to pick up where they left off, No. 7 overall in the state (for) cross country.”

Hart

If the Indians want to improve on a season where they tied for last place, it’s going to be a team effort.

Juniors Angel Luna and Nick Amendola lead a distance group searching for depth.

“In the distance, most of our talent is in the frosh/soph level,” Hart head coach Larry David said. “We definitely have some talent, but how we’re going to finish in league is another story. We have to be able to break up some of the powers of West Ranch and Saugus to have any chance. We have to score there. The rest of the group will be scoring points for us.”

The rest of that group includes a strong events core, led by twin juniors Nelson and John Campbell in the pole vault and the triple jump, along with Brandon Walsh in the long jump.

Walsh, though, will be competing in multiple events, including the 100, 200 and triple jump.

“He’s just a competitor,” David said of Walsh.

DJ Aponik and Jared Redrow have the hurdles on lock, both posting top 10 times so far out of Foothill League competitors in the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles.

Drake Carter and Sam Kelley have also posted top marks in the 100 hurdles.

Senior John Luke Wilson will exclusively run the 400.

Also highlighting the Indians’ season is senior distance runner Justin Gallegos, who will try to qualify for the state’s first-ever Paralympics events for the California State Meet.

Golden Valley

The good news for the Grizzlies is they didn’t lose a ton of talent from last year’s squad.

The bad news, they still lack in depth.

Senior distance runner Jonathon Bay will have a lot of weight to carry, as Golden Valley head coach Sara Soltani said he might have to triple for the Grizzlies quite often.

But it shouldn’t be a problem for the senior, who was last year’s Foothill League champ in the 1600 and finished fourth in CIF-Southern Section for Division 2.

“He’ll probably have to triple for us quite often,” Soltani said, “with the 1600, 800 and 3200. He’s a competitor and he works extremely hard."

Hurdler Nathan Ray will take his 15.85 time in the 110 hurdles (good for second place so far on the season) as one of the Grizzlies' top hurdlers.

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