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FOSTER SNELL, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Brea Olinda's Austin Tamango, left, and Dana Hills' Jake Ogden staged several memorable battles in 2014, and they should produce several more this track and field season. They are both among the top high school distance runners in the state.

O.C. track and field athletes off to strong start

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The high school track and field season has just started, and already a couple of Orange County athletes are in top form.

Austin Tamagno, the Register’s reigning boys cross country athlete of the year, posted the leading U.S. time in the 800 meters (1:53.85), which was also a school record, in the Cougar Classic on March 7. He now holds the Wildcats’ record in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200.

Mater Dei throws standout Malik McMorris uncorked a U.S.-best distance in the discus with a throw of 189 feet in the Eagle Invitational in the season’s opening weekend.

McMorris’ Trinity League rival, Matt Katnik of St. John Bosco, bested McMorris in the shot put the following week, posting a 68-0.5 in the Oldfield Throwers Invite. Esperanza’s Bronson Osborn delivered a throw of 60-8.5 to finish second in the event.

McMorris and Katnik will compete today in the South County Classic at Mission Viejo High. It’s a matchup that Mater Dei coach Rick Martinez never gets tired of watching.

“It is remarkable,” Martinez said of the heavyweight battle. “You’re watching two of the best throwers, not just in the Trinity League or CIF, but in the state.”

On the girls’ side, Stanford-bound Kaitlyn Merritt has tightened her grip on being the county’s best girls pole vaulter. The senior cleared 13 feet, 6 inches last week, which tied for the national lead this season.

WILL THE REIGNS CONTINUE?

Can the reigning Orange County champions extend their streaks of dominance?

Mission Viejo boys coach Mike Hoffman, whose has won the last two Orange County Championships, says the Diablos are up to the challenge.

“I think this season is going to be really exciting,” he said. “We can put together a pretty good (relays team).”

The Diablos will have three seniors on their relay teams. Hurdles specialists Cole Paton and Kyle Corder lead off the quartet, and Abrae Booker-Currin takes the final leg of the 1600-meter relay.

Mission Viejo will be tested in the South Coast League, which has four teams in the county top 10.

The Mater Dei girls will be chasing their fifth straight county title when the meet arrives April 25. But Martinez doesn’t want his team to look ahead, not with an important dual meet against Santa Margarita looming in two weeks.

“They’re going to be our first big test of the year,” Martinez said of the Eagles. “Their athletes are tremendous. They are very well coached.”


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