High school elite use V.C. meet as a springboard to postseason success

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© Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers
Rio Mesa High junior Reagan Nizdil easily clears the bar in thefinal rounds of the Invitational girls’ high jump at the Ventura County Track and Field Championships on Fri., April 27. Following a jump-off with Buena’s Erinn Beattie, Nizdil clinched the high jump victory with a new county record of 5-7. © Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers
The Ventura County Track and Field Championships had a little bit of everything.Broken records. Personalbest times. Thrilling comebacks. Dominating finishes.

Student-athletes put on a show during last weekend’s county meet at Moorpark High.

“The season is just about to start,” said Blake Selig, a Rio Mesa High senior already looking forward to next week’s CIFSouthern Section preliminaries.

Sydney Lewis of Oak Park won the Invitational girls’ 100-meter dash in a blazing 11.63 seconds.

“It felt so good,” Lewis said. “Finally, my hard work’s paying off. To get an 11.63, that’s huge. I am very happy and surprised.”

Westlake freshman Abigail Smith was second the girls’ 100, finishing in 11.73 seconds.

The county meet started on a high note.

Camarillo’s Kathleen Dunne, Rachel Naumann, Meghan O’Connell and Taeylr Finfrock shattered the girls’ 4×800 relay meet record by 22 seconds, completing the race in 9 minutes, 33.18 seconds.

In fact, the five fastest teams in the girls’ 4×800—Camarillo, Ventura, Oaks Christian, Simi Valley and Moorpark—all broke the previous record.

Selig was named boys’ Athlete of the Year by the Ventura County Cross Country Track and Field Coaches Association.

Simi Valley’s Amanda Hamilton sealed girls’ Athlete of the Year honors.

Selig won all four his events: the 200 (21.74 seconds), long jump (24 feet-1.25 inches), 4×100 relay (41.69) and 4×400 relay (3:22.28).

The Spartan surprised himself in a school-record long jump.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Selig said. “I’m happy, but I feel like I can improve.”

Hamilton won the girls’ 300 hurdles (44.34) and triple jump (37-10.25). The Pioneer senior was also third in the 400 and 4×100 relay.

“It’s amazing,” said Hamilton after defending her county hurdles title. “My main focus was to get to that first hurdle before anyone else and keep it going.”

Hamilton set six school records this spring: in the 300 hurdles, triple jump, 4×100, 4×200, the sprint medley and the distance medley.

Newbury Park freshman Kendall Mader set personal records while winning the girls’ discus (129 feet) and shot put (40-10).

Mader said she’s striving to eclipse the school discus record of 133 feet.

“I’m happy with how I did,” Mader said. “I expected to win shot put but not discus. It feels good. I have four more years to work on it.”

Michael Guerrero, Spencer Flynn, Tyler Hughes and Matt Teague of Thousand Oaks won the boys’ 4×800 relay (8:20.27).

Guerrero’s surge in the final leg propelled the Lancers to victory against crosstown rival Newbury Park (8:21.27).

“I just told myself no one else can beat me; no one can beat us,” said Guerrero, a junior. “I was determined to win.”

Mady Richards, a Simi Valley sophomore, soared to victory in the girls’ long jump (18-9).

“I had to calm down and focus on my form,” said Richards of her career-best long jump. “It’s probably my best and favorite event. I really enjoy it a lot.”

Rio Mesa junior Raegan Nizdil broke a 12-year-old county meet record in the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 7 inches.

She won a jump-off against Buena’s Erinn Beattie.

Nizdil was the defending champ in the event.

“It was exciting to do the jump off,” Nizdil said. “I got an adrenaline boost from that.”

Senior Connor Stark of Oak Park tied his own meet record (16 feet) in the boys’ pole vault.

The future UCLA Bruin’s personal pole vault best is 16-6.

“A 16-7 would have been nice,” said Stark with a smile after defending his county title.

“There’s definitely good competition here. It helps push me.”

Frances Barnes of Moorpark won the girls’ pole vault with a mark of 11 feet. Oaks Christian’s Kim Sanchez also vaulted 11 feet.

Anthony Teart of Rio Mesa captured the boys’ triple jump crown (44 feet).

Cameron Roach, a Spartan senior, was part of victorious relays in the 4×100 and 4×400. Roach also nabbed second in the 200 to Selig and second in the 100 to Oaks Christian’s Ishmael Adams.

Adams won the boys’ 100 in 10.81 seconds. Roach crossed the line in 10.9 seconds.

Roach said he was pleased with the Spartans’ effort in the 4×100.

“I’m happy with how everyone showed up,” Roach said. “Our handoffs were solid.”

Caitlin Turner of Thousand Oaks broke five minutes in the girls’ 1,600, taking first place 4:55.81.

Turner led wire- to- wire, breaking away from the pack during the final lap.

“ I was feeling good and wanted to keep my lead and keep it going,” said Turner, who will head south to Long Beach State in the fall.

“I feel real good about my time.”

Westlake’s Nicki Ghazarian made a valiant effort in the last 200 meters to catapult into second place in the girls’ 1,600 (5:02.17).

“I had a burst of adrenaline,” said Ghazarian, who plans to run and study international relations at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I’m pleased with my time and place. I knew I was going up against a lot of fast runners.”

Tommy Lopez of Thousand Oaks set a personal record while capturing the boys’ 1,600 championship in 4:19.87.

Lopez held off a game field that included Camarillo’s Adam Lucero (4:22.8) in second.

“It’s awesome,” Lopez said. “Last year here, I didn’t have the best meet.”

Lopez, who will run at UCLA, is heating up just in time for the postseason. The Lancer broke the school record in the 800 (1:54.63) the previous weekend at the Mt. SAC Invitational.

Thousand Oaks senior Karsen Sper defended her title in the girls’ 100 hurdles (14.62).

“I tried to do my best,” Sper said. “I just like (hurdles). I think it’s fun. It’s exhilarating going over them.”

Sper starred in volleyball at Grace Brethren as a freshman before transferring to TOHS. She was a varsity volleyball player for the Lancers as a sophomore, but didn’t start track until the following season when she became a county champ.

Sper credited assistant coach Jerry Sawitz for helping her excel in multiple events, which include the high jump, triple jump and sprints. Sper, who said she hopes to earn a scholarship from San Diego State, wants to be a heptathlete in college.

Sullivan Wall, a current Grace Brethren standout and former Thousand Oaks Lancer, took third in the boys’ discus (149- 5.5) to Ventura’s Eric Beilke (169-5.5) and Rio Mesa’s Christian McNair (166-5.5).

“I threw (162) in warmups,” Wall said. “I couldn’t capture it the in the competition.”

Rio Mesa’s Darion Zimmerman won the boys’ 400 (48.6) after getting fourth in the same race in 2011.

Zimmerman also upended adversary Eric Holguin of St. Bonaventure (48.93, second place) for the first time in six matchups.

“I had Eric to push me,” Zimmerman said. “It’s my first time beating him.”

Simi Valley’s Sarah Baxter continued dominating the longdistance running circuit.

One of the best runners in the country, Baxter, a sophomore, was almost a minute faster than the next closest finisher in the girls’ 3,200, completing her race 10:21.61.

Moorpark’s Monika Gyalay (11:10.7, third), Ashton Padberg of Thousand Oaks (11:12.43, fourth) and Royal’s Sophie Mateu (11:16.16, fifth) were the other top locals in the 3,200.

A Highlander senior bound for Brown University, Mateu said she was pleased with her performance.

“This is my best race this year,” said Mateu, who reached the cross country state meet as a junior. “I accomplished getting back in the groove.”

Gyalay put her race in perspective.

“Sarah’s way ahead of everyone,” said Gyalay, a freshman who broke the MHS 3,200 record in her very first race. “She’s really fast. One day I’m going to try to be somewhat near her.”

Gyalay broke her own record in the 3,200 at Arcadia with a time of 11:01.

Collin Gordon of Royal sealed the boys’ 300 hurdles title (39.21). Rio Mesa’s Geno Arthur captured the 3,200 in 9:23.26.

Oaks Christian’s Danni Alakija won the girls’ 200 (24.33) and 400 (55.72). She was also part of victorious 4×100 (47.53) and 4×400 (3:53.04) relays.

The Lions’ 4×400 quartet of Asha Culhane, Sarah Johnson, Schuyler Moore and Alakija toppled Rio Mesa’s previous record of 3:55.34, which stood since 1989.

Kelly Reinke of La Reina won the 800 in 2:18.59.

League track and field championships run this week.

The Tri-Valley League finals were Thursday at Carpinteria.

Marmonte League championships take place today at Moorpark High.

The Pacific View League’s final meet is today at Hueneme.

Sports editor Stephen Dorman contributed to this report.

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