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CLUTCH LEAP TAKES KING TO TITLE

Posted by King Track & Field at May 13, 2021 3:16PM PDT
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May 12, 2021

RIVERSIDE:    “Clutch. Just clutch.”

Three words head coach John Corona said in front of 125 assembled members of the King Track and Field team. His words were directed toward and about senior Dryden LaCour who had PR’d in the high jump to finish a crucial second place in the high jump.  His 5’ 8" clearance had the whole team watching with somewhat bated breath as the other 15 events on the docket were completed and the outcome of his jumps would determine if the boys team tied for the 2021 League Title with the Santiago Sharks, or if they’d go home having lost by one point.

75-75 read the final score.  “We had preached to the kids for over a week that this meet was going to be razor thin close and that the intensity would be high” Corona said later. “Boy, did that turn out to be an understatement!”

Santiago came out and hit King hard early.  The Sharks delivered the message that they wanted the title as much as King did, and after Santiago won the opening relay and took 6 of the 9 points in the 1600, King would have to chase points for the rest of the afternoon.

“It was tough sledding and it seemed like we just couldn’t catch a break and make a run” Corona said.  Tough, because a number of events were decided by fractions.

Kyrien Strickland (Sr) and Austin Goetsch (Jr) salvaged a few points in the 110 high hurdles finishing 1-3 respectively.  The 400 had Santiago taking first but 1-2 they went in the 100.  The 800 turned into a barnburner, with Jack Slavin (So) taking the lead with 250 meters to go, then relinquishing three spots with 150 left, before storming down the stretch to close in second, a heartbreaking 3/100ths of a second out of first.  It was a stirring performance nonetheless.

“That kid is just a tough nut” Corona said of Slavin and his racing guts.  While the Sharks would go first and third in that event, Slavin’s surge seemed to indicate that the Wolves were not just going to go away whimpering from the Shark attack.

“It was disheartening at times but the kids kept working, they kept their focus, they didn’t back down” Corona said. Jared Beasley took his school record in the vault another three inches to win it, while Greg Pedaline took 3rd. Jacob Cook and Anthony Foye scored 11 points between the two throwing events.

As the track events neared their conclusion, Ryan Hernandez (Sr) picked up an important 3rd in the 200 while Austin Goetsch and Kyrien Strickland went 1-3 in the 300 hurdles.

In the penultimate event, the 3200 meters, Gray Mavhera (Jr) set a strong pace, daring the field to chase him down. It had a withering effect, it seemed, on Santiago’s top runner who was beginning to fade by lap 6.  Fransico Zavaleta and Edgar Ortega would take 1-2 in that race, a big 8 points that was due as much to Mavhera’s work as it was the two seniors’.

Minutes later King mounted a stirring come-from-behind victory in the 1600 relay and completed the track events with both teams deadlocked in the score.  Only two field events were still to finish, the high jump and triple jump.

King edged ahead 65-62 after the triple jump as Brandon Benson and Dryden LaCour went 1-3 respectively.

And then all eyes turned to the high jump.  It didn’t begin well as King’s jumpers struggled to clear the necessary heights and there were times when it looked like it was over for the Wolves.

But Mr. Clutch stepped up.  LaCour made 5’ 6" then after one stressful yet successful 3rd attempt at 5’ 8" – the highest bar he’s ever cleared – Coach Jones said “Dryden brought us back from the ashes on that one.”

“Talk about high drama!” Corona exclaimed.  “For him to earn the points to get us that final tie, and in the way he did it, well, we’ll be talking about that in the program for a long time to come.  He took a few years off my life having to make a couple of heights on his last attempt but I am so proud of him and so happy for him. He has been one kid during the last 15 months that never lost faith in what was possible this year for him and for the team. From my perspective, it was apropos that he be the one who finished it for us.”

The girls didn’t have quite the same drama as the boys did, but a victory would secure the Runner-Up spot in the Big 8 this season and a victory was had by King with a score of 82-54.

“I would put our girls team up against just about anybody in the Inland Empire” said Coach Corona. “Their growth has been off the chart.”

Alyssa Hope had the best field event day King has seen in a long time, going 17-2 in the long jump and 36-9 in the triple and 5-0 in the high jump.

Audrey Brunken ran a PR early in the meet in the 1600, winning by a large margin. Andrea Guadian and Evenie Fuentes both ran strong efforts to go 1-2 in the 3200. Sarah Ajayi won the 100 hurdles with a lifetime PR of 15.80 and would later win the 300.  Brittany Jordan, Brooke Shiflett and Emalee Spencer-Millard swept the shot put, while Tia White won the Discus with a PR and Juliet McKee took victory in the vault.

“I am very proud of this entire team.” Corona said.  "These kids faced challenges no team before them has ever had to face. We weren’t sure we would even have a season. They have shown great flexibility in dealing with the constantly changing COVID landscape and great courage even just coming out for the sport. I can’t say enough about them and the legacy they have built. This is one year we sure went  “All the way together.”

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May 8, 2021

RIVERSIDE:   It took some 4 weeks to put together proposals and safety plans; to get approval from the Riverside County Department of Health and to organize three different sites for the12th annual  Raincross Tradition  but it all came to fruition this past Saturday in a most spectacular and efficient way.

To be sure, it certainly wasn’t the same event as years past. Only 8 of the schools that usually participate could take part; the number of entries was limited; the field events were spread out to three different sites in the morning while the running events took place at ML King High in the afternoon. It was an abbreviated version of a meet that has come to mean much to the Riverside community but it WAS a multi-team event  nonetheless and if you were to judge by the competitive spirit exhibited and the smiles on the faces of the kids, you would have thought it was just another year.

“I am just so excited and thankful we were able to do this,” said Meet Manager and King Head Coach John Corona. “It certainly was a challenge but the high school Track and Field coaches in this town really came together in making this happen. Their cooperation; support and their willingness to take part made all the difference. The results we saw on the track and in the field substantiate that. The kids — from all our schools — performed well.”

Though most of the events were smaller in number than usual, that did not keep  the athletes from  performing at the top of their game. On the girls side, Poly’s Kalista Tibbels won the mile(5:26) and the 800 (2:24) and came in second in the 3200. In fact, in that girls 3200-there were 4 girls under 12 minutes led by King’s Andrea Guadian who finished first in 11:48.7. Tibbels came in second in 11:49.4. King’s Evenie Fuentes (11:49.7) and Audrey Brunken (11:50.7) rounded out that top 4.  North’s Brianna Olukoju was the 400 winner with teammate Breija Strredic winning the 200.

Gisselle Macias from Hillcrest was a double winner in the shot put and discus as was King’s Alyssa Hope in the triple jump and long jump. Sophmore Kayden Croy of Poly improved 6 inches in the high jump winning the event at 5 feet. In the girls pole  vault, it was a wild battle between Juliet McKee of King. Paige Pansen of Hillcrest and Regan Behney of Poly as all three girls cleared 10 feet. When the dust cleared, Mckee had cleared 10-6 beating Hansen (also at 10-6) on misses. North won the 4 × 400 relay. Also winning City titles forKing was Kyla Smith in the 100; Sarah Ajayi in both hurdles and the girls 4 × 100 of Smith,  Ajayi, Coryssa Hope and Jade Roberts. 

For the boys Owen Pennington from Poly won the high jump in the morning session at 6-3 and then returned to win the 200 in the afternoon. Add to that his anchoring of Poly’s win in the 4 X 100 and it was quite a day for the 11th grader. Xavier Rideout of Arlington showed his versatility in winning the 100; coming in second in the 200 and was also second in the shot put. William O’Rourke of North won the pole vault at 13-6 while Hillcrest’s Emmanuel Robert won the long jump and Poly’s Ethan Tijerina was the victor in the triple jump. Isaac Umana of Poly was the winner in the mile and finished a close second in the 800 to Hillcrest’s Conner Britain. Ramona’s Juan Espino won the 3200 by some 30 seconds.

The Wolves had a string of City titles with Isaiah Donnhauser winning the 400, Kyrien Strickland winning both hurdle races; Jacob Cook winning the shot put while throws teammate Anthony Foye won the discus at 130-3. The King 4 X 400 team also won with Mekhi Gilmore, Strickland, Donnhauser and Jacob Bright making the rounds.

Though they may not have won a title, a number of other Wolves registered fine performances said Corona with a smile.  “Our kids were spot on today, a number of great efforts and results. It seemed like every time I turned around, I was being told,  ‘Coach-I got a PR!’ That’s an awful good feeling.”

In the end, a meet happened that a few months ago wasn’t supposed to happen. “A good part of the Raincross Tradition is the history of track and field in this town. History will record that in 2021, we were able to keep that history.” said Corona.

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May 7-8 2021

ARCADIA:  The Arcadia Invitational has evolved over the decades into one of the premier high school track and field invitationals in the land. It annually draws athletes from a dozen-plus states and sees national leader marks set every year in most events.

The 2021 version almost didn’t happen and COVID protocols diminished much of the star-power the meet usually holds.  This year, athletes were limited to California only. Spectators were banned; the empty stadium a contrast from the packed and noisy crowds of yesteryear.  Nike’s conspicuous corporate sponsorship was muted.

But, despite all that, it was still Arcadia! and the seven athletes King athletes who earned a right to compete (the entry standards remained high, despite the quarantine) made the most of it.

Francisco Zavaleta has been on a tear all season and used the platform of an elite field of distance runners to put together the best and fastest 3200 meter race of his career.  Clipping off 69-70 seconds per lap for the first of seven laps, he positioned himself well in tenth place of the 25 man field, then dropped a 62 final circuit to finish fifth in 9:14.  The mark is the 3rd fastest in school history and was a 13 second improvement from his previous best set 2 weeks ago. “I felt so good out there!” he said after the race, beaming over the big moment.

Brandon Benson and Jared Beasely were in the triple jump and pole vault respectively. Both were off their best marks, but had solid performances nonetheless with a triple jump in excess of 43’ for Benson and Beasley clearing 14’3.  For both it was their first experience at Arcadia.

Gray Mavhera, Bohdin Rush, Jack Slavin and Edgar Ortega all competed on Friday night in the 4×1600 meter relay.  Like Benson and Beasley, they were not far from their personal bests and punctuated their individual legs with a competitive spirit and drive that was impressive.  They finished 16th in 18:32.

Ortega would return Saturday morning to compete in the seeded section of the mile.  In a field that featured a number of racers with PR’s significantly faster than his 4:20, Edgar allowed the train to take him for a ride.  He was in 5th until the final stretch – he’d place 6th – but afterward he was beaming with joy at the 4:19.01 (4:17.51 if converted to 1600 meters) which put’s him #4 all time over 1600 meters.

The meet may have been lacking in some of its normal highlights, but the efforts put forth by the King athletes surely made up for it.

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May 5, 2021

NORCO:  A 23 point margin of victory in most sports – track included – isn’t normally viewed as a “close win” but in the Big 8 League meet track and field contested at Norco it was almost a “close loss.”

The final score for the boys was 77-54, but it only shows what was happening near the end of the meet.  In the early going, King was on the ropes as a much improved Norco program was giving the Wolves all they could handle, and more.

“This one is on me” Coach John Corona of King said to his athletes at the end of the meet, tapping his chest with his left hand as he did. “I overcoached and it almost cost us a win.”

That overcoaching was the deliberate holding out of key scorers, many of them prepping for the prestigious Arcadia Invitational or the Raincross Tradition Invitational this weekend; or, looking for a little rest before the showdown next week with Santiago.

Norco was happy to take advantage and make King sweat it out, and it would take some late scoring for King to secure the victory.

Midway through the contest may have been a turning point. After getting swept in the 100 meters, Isaiah Donnhauser (Sr) threw down a terrific 400 meter race, moving to the lead with only 50 meters to go.  As he sprawled out on the infield trying to recover from the event effort, the victory was becoming the momentum shift that King needed.  All of the normal King scorers in the distance events were not racing, leading to a Norco runner winning both the 1600 and 800, but in the 3200 at the end, King would sweep all nine points with Malachi Cabanilla, Jack Slavin and Jonathan Weaver doing the work.

In the 200, Ryan Hernandez blunted the 9 point advantage the Cougars had earned by sweeping that 100 race.  In the deuce, Hernandez stormed over the half-lap to a season-best 23.81 to win … Norco would take the next three places!  Kyrien Strickland contributed as well, late in the meet, winning the 300 meter hurdles.  Austin Goetsch took second, a big 8 points earned with three events to go.

In the field events, King was holding it’s own.  With Jared Beasley not competing in the vault – he’ll be at the Arcadia meet on Saturday – freshman Jaden McKee won at 13’0", just an inch below his own freshman school record set two weeks ago. Gregory Pedaline (Sr) and Luke Martincheck (Jr) helped sweep the event, an important 9 points for the cause. Norco was strong in the throws, but King was able to counter that winning the triple jump; Brandon Benson placing first, Dryden LaCour third.

On the girls’ side it was still a good meet of competition, but King would prevail 85-50.  Juliet McKee, Jaden’s older sister, won the vault at 10’0".   She was followed for the sweep by Alexandria Herrera and Samantha Rodriguez.   Kyla Smith was the winner in the 100 and second in the 200. Coryssa Hope and Kianna Barr were 1-2 in the 400.  Andreya Goodson (So) ran a well paced 800 to run a PR and finish second there.  Sarah Ajayi and Avalon Provance went 1-3 in the 100 hurdles, with Sarah returning later in the 300’s to notch another win.  Brittany Jordan threw the shot to a PR to place third.

A good meet was had.  Norco is a growing program whose future is bright. King had to work to win it.  At the end of the day, both really good things.

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QUALIFYING STANDARDS FOR CIF

Posted by King Track & Field at May 4, 2021 8:11AM PDT

We will have CIF Prelims and Finals this year. To qualify you must finish in the top 3 places at League Finals.

League Finals winners automatically advance. 2nd and 3rd place must meet a qualifying mark at League Finals. See this chart to see what the 2nd/3rd place standards are to get into CIF. King is Div.1