Canyon's Rachel Baxter clears the bar with ease at the Arcadia Invitational on April 9.

Fryer: Canyon's Baxter vaults with greatest of ease


The expectations will be high Saturday for Canyon junior pole vaulter Rachel Baxter.

She likely will soar right over them.

The CIF-Southern Section track and field championships are Saturday at Cerritos College.

Baxter is the state leader in the pole vault, at an Orange County-record 14 feet, 3 inches. She set that record last month at the Orange County Championships. The 14-3 broke the previous record of 14-2 set by … Rachel Baxter.

She almost impaled her right side with the pole when she made the 14-3 vault. Bandages were applied to the bleeding wound, but Baxter kept going. She tried to clear 14-6, but couldn’t quite do it.

A successful 14-6 might be enough to qualify her for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Maybe she can do that Saturday, or at the upcoming CIF-SS Masters Meet or CIF State Meet.

“You wonder how high she can go as a high-schooler,” said Rich Gonzalez, whose website is an outstanding resource for California track and field information for high school track and more.

Baxter, like the trapeze artist in the old song, flies with the greatest of ease, and it’s that last word – “ease” – that, to Gonzalez, makes her special.

“In the past we’ve seen kids in her situation who are very uncomfortable out there,” Gonzalez said. “They really feel the pressure. With Rachel, though, she’s having so much fun that she doesn’t feel the pressure.”

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

• The track finals on Saturday at Cerritos College begin with field events at 10:30 a.m. Running events start with the girls Division 4 400 relay at 1 p.m.

• Admission to the meet is $10 for adults and $5 for high school students with valid high school identification and for children 13 and younger. Debit and credit cards will be accepted for admission payment. Parking is $5.

• The top nine performances in many events, across all divisions, advance to next week’s CIF-SS Masters Meet that is the qualifying meet for the CIF State Meet. The top 12 performances, again regardless of division, in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and all field events advance to the Masters Meet.

• Tesoro’s Amanda Gehrich looks ready to rumble, too, in the Division 2 1,600 and 3,200. Gehrich, who signed a letter of intent with Utah, will try to duplicate what she did last month at the Orange County Championships, where she was victorious at 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

Connor Dunne of San Clemente is state leader in the 800, at 1:50.53. In the Division 1 800, Dunne will get plenty of competition from two Great Oak of Temecula athletes, Isaac Cortes and Nelson Quintana.

• Huntington Beach’s Cassie Durgy won her heat in the Division 1 800 prelims. She is the state leader at 2:09.35.

Ashley Willingham of Los Alamitos, county leader in the 400, should be in the mix in the Division 1 400. Her season-best of 55.21 is the second-fastest time in the division this season.

• Trabuco Hills’ Sean Lee is the state leader in the high jump, at 7 feet, ¾ inches. The county record of 7-21/2 might be attainable Saturday. That county-record height was set by Harriston Steed of JSerra in 2010.

Bronson Osborn of Esperanza looks set to dominate in the Division 3 shot put and discus. He is state leader in both, and the county record-holder in the shot put (71-71/4).

• With all-time running great Austin Tamagno of Brea Olinda having finished his high school running days with last week’s winning 800 run in the CIF-SS Division 3 prelims, that race might be up for grabs. So is the 1,600, in which Tamagno is the state leader. Tamagno won’t run in any more CIF meets, having decided to focus on national competitions, and who can blame the young man for choosing to challenge himself against the best.

• Plenty of non-Orange County athletes are very much worth watching, too, in the CIF-SS championships meet. Tara Davis of Agoura is state leader in the girls long jump, at 20 feet, 3.75 inches, and in the girls triple jump, at 43-2. She also qualified in the Division 2 100 hurdles.

• Vista Murrieta’s Michael Norman is state leader in the 100 (10.27), 200 (20:51) and the 400 (45.51). He qualified for the CIF-SS meet in the 200 and 400.

• Santa Margarita swimmer Grant Shoults impressed everyone enough by setting the national 200 meters record at last weekend’s CIF-SS swimming championships. Setting the national 500 record later in the day, by a full second, was outrageous. The power Shoults has coming out of his turns is Olympic-champion stuff.

• Fountain Valley assistant football coach Kyle Murphy is running Barons football practices now that Justin Schaeffer has stepped aside as coach. Schaeffer, hired in March, and the school could not agree on Schaeffer’s schedule at Fountain Valley. Murphy was an All-County lineman at Edison and coached there.

• Among the candidates who did not get the Fountain Valley job but could be available is former Estancia and Tesoro coach Brian Barnes, son of recently retired Los Alamitos coach John Barnes, who is the all-time leader in county football wins. Barnes teaches physical education at Tesoro and has been an assistant coach at Los Alamitos in recent years.

• Capistrano Valley baseball coach Bob Zamora, who got his 700th career win this season, said he plans to coach at least one more season at Capistrano Valley. Zamora is one of the more gentlemanly coaches in county athletics.

• Four Orange County players were selected to the Under Armour All-American Game that will be played July 23 at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. The county players selected: Hagen Danner, pitcher, Huntington Beach; Royce Lewis, infielder, JSerra; Garrett Mitchell, outfielder, Orange Lutheran; and Nick Pratto, pitcher/first baseman, Huntington Beach.

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