Strength in numbers as Canyon Crest, Cathedral Catholic boys capture CIF track & Field titles


Using essentially the same formula, a pair of North Coast schools swept the boys’ titles in Saturday’s CIF Track & Field Championships at Mt. Carmel High School. In Division I, Canyon Crest won its first-ever championship in the sport, scoring 73 points to narrowly top Avocado West League rival La Costa Canyon which was second with 63 points. Torrey Pines (49 pts.) was fourth. Cathedral Catholic posted 67 points to capture the Division II crown for the second year in a row, out-pointing North Coast adversaries Oceanside (59 pts.) and Sage Creek (52 pts.).

Depth was the name of the game for both victorious teams. While winning three events, Coach Andy Corman’s Canyon Crest squad scored in 12 of the 17 contested. The Ravens won the 4x100 relay and the senior duo of Kamon Stewart (300 hurdles/38.87) and Matt Amankonah (shot put/53-3.75) prevailed in individual events. Amankonah and another senior, sprinter Bradley Keel, and junior Joel Gomez each scored in two different events. Corman regarded this team championship as a milestone for the school.

“We’ve got kids in a lot of different areas that have great big hearts and are very dedicated,” said Corman, whose boys won their first-ever Avocado West crown earlier this year. “That depth did it.

“When you consider that we have the largest team on campus, that this was a Division I championship and we don’t have a football team—I think this was the biggest CIF title in CCA’s history.”

In the D-II chase, Cathedral Catholic didn’t win a single event but put points on the board in both relays and nine events total, had multiple scorers in five of those and in what’s becoming a bit of a trend, saw two athletes—senior Dakota Muth and junior Ethan Hughes—score in three individual events each.

“In my mind, I thought we could be in the mix with about five teams and felt if we did what I was hoping for, we’d have a chance to win it,” said Dons’ Head Coach Dan Geiger. “We didn’t have any superstars but we had a lot of depth.

“There were a lot of guys getting fourths and fifths—in the end, that adds up.”

In the girls’ competition, Scripps Ranch was first in Division I with 68 points, followed by Rancho Bernardo (65). La Costa Canyon, collecting 34 of its 36 points in the distance races, was eighth. In D-II, University City’s 80 points was just good enough to nip Christian (76 pts.) with Sage Creek (46 pts.) third. Cathedral Catholic piled up 42.5 points to claim sixth.

A review of highlights and comments from local teams:

Canyon Crest – Corman felt that the three event wins on the boys’ side were all different in context and impact. “The 4x100 relay (Keel, Stewart, Kyle Lu and Johnny Ren) was the first running event and set a great tone for the day,” said Corman. “After working together as a team all year, to see them come together today was fantastic—their 42.85 was a huge p.r., a school record and let them reach their goal which was the State Meet.

“Matt (Amankonah) started with a nine-foot p.r. in the discus (151-8) which got him fifth but coming back with a 53-7 to win the shot put on his last throw was amazing. He’s one of those kids who has all this raw talent and worked really hard on his technique to bring it out.

“Kamon hasn’t lost a race, hasn’t lost a heat all year. His goal all season was to run a sub-39 in this race. Today, after watching the first heat and realizing he could win this, he got focused and attacked it.”

Stewart, one of 12 Ravens who will be going to the State Meet this weekend in Clovis, had come close to breaking 39 seconds twice in earlier meets. He said the race unfolded as he planned. “I haven’t been coming out hard enough early and today I just wanted to come out harder. I did that and then I just needed to carry it over the rest of the race. I was able to keep my speed and that was that.”

Amankonah’s exploits were part of a dominant effort in the field events, where CCA garnered 30 points. Senior Andrew Lugo (6-4) and Rajit Agarwal (6-2) were second and third in the high jump.

The Canyon Crest girls were 10th. Junior Carlie Dorostkar led most of the way before settling for second behind LCC’s sublime Kristin Fahy in the 3,200 (10:34.83). Along with Dorostkar, the quartet of Sofia Rodgers, Lauren Despres, Lexanna Schultz and Sofia Pogliano will be heading to Clovis for the State Meet after finishing second in the 4x100 relay, while posting a school record time of 47.80. Rodgers, a senior was also third in the long jump (17-9).

Cathedral Catholic – Like Canyon Crest, Cathedral got a nice early boost from its 4x100 relay foursome of Bryce Brock, Mitchell Seipt, Hughes and Ethan Simley. HC Geiger felt their second place showing was symbolic of what his roster did Saturday. “We’re not a sprint factory and we don’t have a single kid who can run under 11 but we ran a 42.79, were second overall and we’re going to state. That got us off to a really good start and a couple of those kids went right over from there and scored well in the long jump because they were riding such a high from the relay.”

One of those was Hughes, who was fifth in the long jump, sixth in the triple jump and cleared 13-3 to place sixth in the pole vault. Teammate Muth skimmed over the 110 hurdles in 15.28, putting him second, then added to that with third in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the pole vault.

Like their male counterparts, the Don girls tallied in both relays and senior Kaylee Stiffler spun the discuss 119-1 to grab the silver medal.

La Costa Canyon – The runner-up Maverick boys secured a staggering 24 points in the 1,600, the most any team accumulated in any single event. Senior Garrett Stanford put together a gutty kick over in the final 200 yards to win in a personal best 4:12.92, holding off D-II champ Nader Ali of Crawford as well as teammates Jacob Stanford (his twin brother), who led most of the way, and Caleb Niednagel.

“I was aware that it was going to be a depth-heavy race, just not that depth-heavy,” said (Garrett) Stanford afterward. “My plan was to go out fast the first 800. I executed that but people were still right there. Normally, we slack off that third lap but not today.

“I saw Nadir with 200 to go and I know he has a good kick. I have a lot of faith in my kick so it was like ‘it’s going to be tough but I think I can do it.’ It was all the way to the end and I barely edged him out. All those guys made it a challenging race, my legs are spent. I need to go sleep right now, I’m not kidding.” Niednagel came back to run second in the 3,200 behind Mission Hills’ Jonathan Velasco (9:13.01).

The Maverick girls’ distance ace, senior Kristin Fahy, won the 3,200, running a calculated, stalking race to earn her third consecutive section crown, pulling away from pacesetter Dorostkar on the final lap in 10:29.35. “I wanted to run a controlled race, get the win the smart way,” said Fahy, keeping something in reserve for the State Meet. “We have such good competition in San Diego, I knew that I had good girls to pace off.

“I have such mixed emotions today. I’m excited about my future but I grew up in the San Diego racing environment and I’m going to miss racing with these amazing girls. I’m glad I was able to come away with a CIF title in my last race here but it’s kind of bittersweet.”

Senior Jessica Riedman, last year’s runner-up at 1,600 and defending champ in the 800, was third in both events this time. After running a 67-second opening lap and still leading by nearly 50 yards with 200 remaining, Riedman tied up and was unable to respond when challenged, surrendering her advantage in the stretch. “I went out way too fast and was going to try to maintain it,” she said. “In retrospect, I probably should have eased off a bit—I went for it and I fell off the cliff.”

After spending a half hour in the medical tent, she decided she was ready to give the 800 a shot. A similar scenario played out. Riedman went to the front, ran more sensible fractions but after the 1,600, simply didn’t have enough left to produce a kick in the final stages.

LCC’s sophomore Aiden Lippert still has plenty of opportunities to excel at the section meet but set his personal bar pretty high Saturday, seizing seconds in both the 400 (48.38) and 200 (21.70) and contributing a leg on the Mavs’ fourth place 4x100 relay squad. “I’m pretty happy with all my events and was most pleased with the 200 because I was able to p.r.,” he said. “I was shooting for 47 in the 400 but got 48—I’ll still have state to try to improve, so I’m happy about that.”

Sophomore Garrett Brown soared over 15-3 to snag third place in a stellar pole vault field.

San Dieguito – Lanky sophomore Kyle Brownell cleared a personal best 6-8 on his final attempt to get gold in the D-II high jump. “On that last try, I knew I had to keep my speed going into it and keep my hips up over the bar,” said Brownell. “Coming into the season, my p.r. was 6-2 so I’m pretty happy about where I am.

“I’ve focused a lot on getting my run-ups consistent at the start of the season because once you can get that consistent, you can concentrate on your form over the bar. I’m hoping to do the same as today, if not better at the State Meet.”

The Mustangs tied for ninth team-wise, Brownell’s victory augmented by senior Cameron Zamora and sophomore Carter Sirota scoring in the pole vault. Zamora navigated 14-3 to place second.

Torrey Pines – The Falcons’ fourth place finish in the boys’ division was spearheaded by an 18-pt. splurge in the 800 where Sebastian Barclay (1:57.38), AJ Castellanos and Cormac O’Brien ran second, third and fifth respectively. O’Brien only got into the field due to a late scratch. Improving Torrey senior Gabe West lofted a p.r. of 51-4 to raise himself to second in the shot put, acquiring his team’s only State Meet berth in the process.

Freshman Annika Salz stepped up with a p.r. of 5:00.51 netting fifth place in a very talented 1,600 field. Head Coach Charlenne Falcis-Stevens called Salz, “an incredibly dedicated, smart racer—she knew what she needed to do in the prelims to allow for her best performance in the finals. She’s still got a lot of room to improve over the next few years.”

And Falcon senior David Cynkin closed out an excellent career with a third place finish in the triple jump, landing at 45-6.5.

For more event photos, see the same story at (sports category).