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Spartans’ gold rush

Greg Vann is brooding.
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Athletes from Acorn country struck gold at the CIF State Track and Field Championships last weekend.

Oaks Christian High’s girls’ 4×100-meter relay team helped the school claim its first state title. Rio Mesa senior Greg Vann took home the boys’ long jump gold medal while teammate Zaria Francis, a junior, claimed girls’ state titles in the 100 and 200 sprints. Simi Valley senior Alexander Billing crossed the finish line first in the boys’ 110 hurdles.

“After my freshman season,” Billing said, “I set a goal to win the state championship as a senior. Everything’s built up to that point and to finally achieve it was amazing.”

Local competitors at the state meet also hailed from Agoura, Moorpark, Newbury Park, Oak Park, Thousand Oaks and Westlake.

Sophomore Lauren Rain Williams led the Lions with secondplace finishes in the 100 and 200 sprints. She joined forces with seniors Schuyler Moore, Sarah Johnson and Miah Webb to bring home the 4×100 relay gold medal in 45.66 seconds.

Moore tacked on points by finishing seventh in the 100 and sixth in the 200 finals. Johnson took sixth in the 400 finals. Junior Maya Hutchinson competed in the girls’ high jump.

Francis’ blistering times in the 100 (11.31 seconds) and 200 (23.09) paced the Spartan girls to third place with 23 points. She teamed up with juniors Subria Fontes, Patricia Leggett and sophomore Devyn Weisenberger in the 4×100 for a sixth-place finish.

Vann helped the boys’ side to a 10th-place finish by launching himself 24 feet, 6 inches in his final attempt in the long jump.

“I realized it was my last jump but it didn’t completely hit me as in ‘Oh, I’m down. I really need a big jump,’” Vann said. “I just cleared my mind and focused on getting a good jump. I wasn’t stressing or pressuring myself.”

The senior, bound for the University of Oklahoma, had struggled in the event throughout his run to the state meet. He said he was sure he’d perform well on the big stage.

“I was being more confident with myself,” Vann said. “It made a big difference than the last couple of meets. It was a great feeling knowing all of the work over the past month and practicing in the hot sun fi- nally came together when I really needed it to.”

Vann and fellow seniors James FitzGerald, Isaiah Batis and Cameron Wrout snagged sixth in the 4×400 relay.

Agoura sophomore Tara Davis found the podium three times at the state meet. The versatile star took silver in the triple jump (41-6.75) and bronze medals in the 100 hurdles (13.55) and long jump (19-7.5). She took sixth place by herself in the girls’ team standings.

“My performance overall was really good,” Davis said. “I don’t think I could have done any better.”

Davis, who will compete in the 2015 World Youth Track and Field Trials later this month in Illinois, said she’s motivated to try for state gold in her final two years at Agoura.

Newbury Park senior Kendall Mader took second in the girls’ discus and seventh in the shot put.

“I was happy about the mark in discus,” she said. “I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the win, but I think overall I did pretty well under the pressure.”

Mader reached the state meet in each of her four years with the Panthers. She will continue throwing at California-Berkeley next season.

“It was an awesome experience,” she said of her high school career. “I’ve learned a lot from the beginning of my freshman year to my senior year. My technique’s changed so much.

“I’m really excited to go to Cal. I think I’ll get better as a thrower and an athlete.”

Alexa Coubal, a Thousand Oaks senior, claimed the seventh spot in the girls’ discus. Lancer teammate Rachel Craft, a junior, competed in the girls’ pole vault.

Westlake junior Kyle Carrillo and sophomore Noelle Schiller each reached the finals in their respective events. Carrillo finished sixth in the boys’ discus while Schiller took 10th in the long jump.

Oak Park sophomore Abby McPhillips also competed in the high jump. Her best jump at the meet was 5-foot-2 despite consistently converting on 5-foot-5 jumps all season.

Moorpark junior Michelle Magnani missed the cut for the finals in the 800.

The Musketeer said she was proud of reaching the state prelims.

“It’s a dream I’ve been working towards for a couple of years now,” she said. “It’s pretty great.”

Magnani, who will compete in the USA Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championship later this month in Eugene, Ore., qualified in the 800 and 1,600 runs but decided to only compete in the half-mile event at state.

“I was striving to get a better PR and hopefully make finals,” Magnani said. “My coaches said this year’s times were the fastest qualifying times ever at state. Last year I would have made it in but this year was much faster.”

Magnani completed the 800 in 2 minutes and 10.97 seconds, good enough for 14th. If she ran the same time last year, she would have earned eighth place and one of 12 spots in the finals.

Billing, who is taking his hurdling talents to the University of Colorado next season, said the meet showed him he has what it takes to compete at the collegiate level. Billing won the 110 hurdles in a personal record 13.68.

“It gives me confidence going into next year,” Billing said.

“I think I can run really fast as a freshman. It should be in- teresting.”

Top local medalists

Rio Mesa
• Zaria Francis,
girls’ 100, gold, 11.31;
200, gold, 23.09
• Greg Vann, boys’ long
jump, gold, 24-6
Agoura
• Tara Davis, girls’ triple
jump, silver, 41-6.75;
100 hurdles, bronze, 13.55;
long jump, bronze, 19-7.5
Oaks Christian
• Lauren Rain Williams,
girls’ 100, silver, 11.39;
200, silver, 23.16
• Lauren Rain Williams,
Schuyler Moore, Miah
Webb, Sarah Johnson,
girls’ 4×100, gold, 45.66
Newbury Park
• Kendall Mader, girls’
discus, silver, 155-3
Simi Valley
• Alexander Billing, boys’
110 hurdles, gold, 13.68

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