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2016 Foothill League girls track and field preview

Teams take aim at unseating Saugus

Posted: March 23, 2016 11:28 p.m.
Updated: March 23, 2016 11:28 p.m.
Golden Valley’s Bianca Tinoco finishes the 800 at the CIF-Southern Section Division II track and field finals at Cerritos College on May 23, 2015. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Golden Valley’s Bianca Tinoco finishes the 800 at the CIF-Southern Section Division II track and field finals at Cerritos College on May 23, 2015. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Golden Valley’s Bianca Tinoco finishes the 800 at the CIF-Southern Section Division II track and field finals at Cerritos College on May 23, 2015. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
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Last season’s girls track and field Foothill League team championship came down to one event between Golden Valley and Saugus, according to Golden Valley head coach Sara Soltani.

By that ever-so-slim margin, the Cents seized the crown to end the Grizzlies' two-year reign atop the Foothill League standings.

But Saugus’ senior class was stellar last year, including sprinters Avery Schulhofer, Leah Eldrige, and distance runners Sabrina Janes and Samantha Ortega.

“That was an incredible girls squad that we were fortunate to have,” said Saugus head coach David Russell about his graduating class. “Avery has the school record in the 100-meter, Sam has school records in practically everything. How do you replace that?”

And that will be the Cents’ main question as they try to win back-to-back titles, all while the rest of the league tries to come after them.

Saugus

Schulhofer, Janes and Ortega were each All-Santa Clarita Valley selections, and they all ended their high school careers as CIF-Southern Section finalists.

“We graduated so much of our strength from last year. It’s going to be tough to duplicate and to stay on top,” Russell said. “Ultimately, our goal is to win league, and if we can put together the right pieces in the right areas then hopefully we’ll be able to.”

But it’s not like the Cents are short on distance runners.

Waiting in the wings in the 1600-meter run is senior Ashley Heys, junior Kaylee Thompson and sophomore Mariah Castillo, all of whom had successful cross country seasons.

Those three, along with Emma Bahr, will filter into the 3200-meter run and the 800-meter run and even the relays, as needed.

But Saugus will also look heavily to all-around athlete Brooke Thompson, who will be returning for her junior season.

Last season’s co-MVP for the Cents, Brooke Thompson scored an impressive number of their points, participating in the 100-meter hurdles, as well as the 100, long jump and triple jump.

Junior Audrey Chiu will help ease the load, as well as Tiffany Kuriger and sprinter Kayla Potrykus, who are both coming off of injury to anchor the Cents’ sprints.

Golden Valley

The Grizzlies are ready to take back what slipped through their grasp last season.

And they have the personnel to do it.

Golden Valley is returning the top 100 and 200 runner in the league, Azaria Hill. The senior has posted the fastest time of any Foothill-Leaguer in both events so far during preseason with a 100 time of 12.11 seconds and a 200 time of 25.44.

As a junior, Hill placed third at the CIF-SS Division 2 finals and won league titles in the 100, 200 and 4x100-meter relay.

Then, there is the CIF-SS D2 800-meter winner Bianca Tinoco.

The senior is coming off a strong cross country season, and is hoping to roll that into her track season. Last season, she took the CIF-SS gold in the 800 and placed eighth at state, but she had to overcome low iron levels and a late training start to do it.

Now, not only will she be doubling up in both the 800 and the 1600, if she stays healthy, the senior is looking for more.

“The difference with this year is, I’d like to describer her as she wasn’t satisfied with her results last year,” Soltani said. “She’s personally set bigger goals for herself. She knows we’re going into this season and we’re going to attempt to double at CIF running the 1600 and 800, if she stays healthy.

“The pressure is a little higher for her, but she’s willing to do anything for her team, along with her entire team.”

A challenge though for Golden Valley is its depth.

They rank in the top of most of the track categories, but they will need contributions from freshman thrower Cheyanne Franklin and junior Me’Lelani Brown.

Canyon

As with Saugus, graduation was tough on Canyon.

Cowboys head coach Paul Broneer said he doesn’t like to talk about that kind of thing very often, but this year it’s valid.

Canyon lost their top distance runner in Kyla Danforth, pole vaulter Raelyn Abbinanti (All-SCV) and the girls team’s MVP, Kendall Bietsch (All-SCV).

But junior sprinters Brittany Young, Keashon Foster and Alaycia Smith have all posted top 10 times in the 100 and 200-meter.

Seanna Nalbandyan will be returning for her third year in the 100 and 300 hurdles.

Basketball All-CIF member Rachel Bowers is taking to the throws in her sophomore season.

Where the Cowboys aren’t very deep is in the distance events, but Broneer isn’t too worried.

“We have to take it to them in the field events,” Broneer said. “Right now, we’re working on that. I really believe to win track meets you have field events, hurdlers and sprinters. Unfortunately, for distance they can only do two or three races usually.”

Senior Stephanie Martinez (1600) and junior Rosa Hernandez (1600, 3200) will try to help get those crucial points for the Cowboys.

West Ranch

If there is a team ready for a surprise run, it could be the Wildcats.

First-year head coach Sean Delaney called his ninth graders an “all-star freshman class.”

So far in preseason, the Wildcats have six spots out of the top 10 times in the 800 meters, three of them being freshmen — Sophia Hoeizel, Shelby Schauble and Peyton Washington.

But there is also junior Bailey Pate, and seniors Siobhan Rubio and Stephany Estrada on the list, all running 2 minutes, 29.24 seconds or under.

“The 800 team is really hot,” Delaney said. “Everyone is doing what we expected, we just need that to keep going in the regular season in the traditional events.”

Even on the sprinters side, freshmen are making waves. Hailey Hunt is currently ranked fourth in the Foothill League in the 100, and freshman Grace Waterman is ranked ninth in the 400.

“They’re going to do big things as freshmen this year on the varsity level,” Delaney said.

But Delaney said he’s been most impressed with freshman shot-putter Natalie Ramirez, who Delaney said is already one of the top girls in the state.

But will the Wildcats' youth hinder them?

“Where we end up, who knows, but we want to improve on a weekly basis and that’s what we practice for: to always get better,” Delaney said. “With that being said, we want to win everything along the way.”

Hart

The Indians are trying to improve on a 1-4 league season.

As with West Ranch, Hart is young.

But not that young.

The Indians return league triple jump champion Shannon Soto, a junior.

And sophomore Jorie Taylor already set a school record last week in the pole vault, hitting a 10-4 at the Friday Night Relays at Moorpark.

The Indians will also be good in the relays, having juniors Anely Avila, Lupe Alanis, along with sophomores Lindsey Jacobsson and Lilly Bollinger. They will incorporate sophomores Sophia Pearson and Lucy Yoshioka, who are recovering from illness and injury, respectively.

But one thing Hart is lacking is a standout that will automatically win it points.

“We just don’t have that big stud,” said Hart head coach Larry David. “It’s going to be a team effort. Everyone has to be ready to compete. You like to have that talent spread around if you can, but it’s just nice to say that person is going to get you points in certain events. We just don’t have that right now.”

Valencia

Valencia is returning most of its squad from a 2015 season where it finished last in league with an 0-5 record.

Twins Catherine Edwards and Catelyn Edwards are currently second and third in the Foothill League in both the 100 and 200.

But the Vikings also have freshmen Montana James and London Lewis, along with sophomore Jade Dodley in the mix in the sprints.

Veteran Michaela Banyi, an all-around athlete for the Vikes, will run the 800 and participate in field and throw events.

“We’re not as explosive as some other schools, but we’re young and we have depth,” said Valencia co-head coach Kevin Berns.

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