Hot Rio Mesa relay can get even faster

Rio Mesa Relay
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© Rob Varela/VC Star
Rio Mesa High School's Blake Selig hands off the baton to teammate Cameron Roach as the 4 x 100 relay team goes on to win in a meet record time at the Ventura County track and field championships at Moorpark High School Friday. © Rob Varela/VC Star
Pressure? Yes. Letdown? Not a chance.

If the expectations continue to soar like the space shuttle for the Rio Mesa High boys 4×100-meter relay unit, it hasn’t affected the results.

The Spartans led off the Ventura County Track and Field championships with their latest sizzling time Friday. The quartet of Marcus Alford, LaDarrin Roach, Blake Selig and Cameron Roach rolled up a winning time of 41.18 seconds, good for a meet record and just a tad off their No. 4 in the nation top time this season.

“There’s always pressure because it’s not just about you,” said senior LaDarrin Roach, who later won the boys 400. “Others are relying on you to do your best, and you never want to let your guys down.

But, ultimately, you block all that out and just run their best.”

The Spartans’ best held off Oaks Christian’s foursome, which ran its own hot time of 42.18. Rio Mesa’s leading time this season is 41.13, which is best in the state.

The clocking also topped the former meet record of 41.54 set by St. Bonaventure in 2008.

The Spartans say they can run faster, a lot faster.

“It’s a little disappointing because we wanted to go under 41 seconds today,” said Cameron Roach. “We messed up the handoffs on the second and third legs, so I know we can go faster.”

LaDarrin Roach agreed.

“We just need to keep practicing,” he said. “If we clean up the handoffs, we can reach our goal.”

Fast times, as usual, ruled the county meet at Moorpark High.

Among the top performances came from Camarillo runners in the boys and girls 1,600.

Even though he was a second-place finisher in the CIF-SS Division 2 championships a year ago, Erik Pinuelas may be the “other” distance runner at Camarillo behind senior standout Heyden Wooff.

Not on Friday.

Pinuelas used a powerful finishing kick in the final 200 meters to cross the finish line in 4:16.14.

Pinuelas passed up Wooff (third in 4:21.23) and held off Ventura’s Easton Tackett (second in 4:17.15) to win his first county championship.

“It’s definitely a big win for me,” said the senior. “The race unfolded just as I hoped. I was able to stay in the top 4, and make my move on the final lap. It’s my first county championship, so it means a lot.”

He added: “Every once in a while, it’s nice to get out of Heyden’s shadow.”

Wooff came back to win the boys 3,200 in 9:22.60.Camarillo’s Raquel Lambdin finished first in the girls 1,600 in what shaped up as the race of the day.

The Scorpions senior posted a way-out-there personal best of 5:00.37. She came into the race with a top time of 5:06.97.

“I don’t even remember what I did out there,” she said with a grin at race’s end. “All I know is that I had to give everything I had to win the race.”

She did, indeed, with Oak Park’s Kaycee Holcomb placing a tight second in 5:00.64, and La Reina’s Rachel Brajkovich taking third in 5:01.23.

In fact, five runners finished the race under 5:06.

“That definitely pushed me,” said Lambdin. “Everybody was so fast. I had to come up with the time of the life to win it.”

Another racer pushed to her max was Oaks Christian sophomore Danni Alakija in the girls 400. She notched a winning time of 55.32 to barely edge second-place Morgan Thompson of Newbury Park (55.50).

“I was so excited when I found out she (Thompson) was in the race,” said Alakija, who later won the girls 200 in 25.22. “I knew I had to run my best to beat her.”

Newbury Park posted a sweep in the boys 800, with Sean Grumney taking the boys race in 1:56.18, and Megan Thompson winning the girls competition in 2:17.80.

Agoura’s Johnathan Cabral, competing in his final county championships, posted typical dominance. He racked up two meet records by taking the boys 110 hurdles in 13.46, and 300 hurdles in 37.23.

Oaks Christian sprinters swept the 100. Ishmael Adams won the boys race in 10.99, and Alex Courtnall took the girls race in 12.27.

Simi Valley freshman Sarah Baxter, the nation’s leader in the girls 3,200, won her specialty in 10:30.47.

Big performances also came in the field events.

Ventura stalwart senior Alex Morgan racked up her second consecutive county sweep in the throwing events and rang up her fifth individual county title by winning the girls discus and shot put.

She won the discus with a toss of 159 feet, which ranks her No. 4 in the nation. Her winning throw in the shot put was 42-8.

“It means a lot, because I always want to do my best in this meet,” she said. “This is the time of the year when I want to be at my peak. Hopefully, I’ll be at my best for the state meet.”

In the girls pole vault, Ventura’s Holly Tokar and Oaks Christian’s Kim Sanchez both cleared 11-6 to share first place. The boys pole vault was won by county leader Connor Stark in a meet-record 16-0.

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