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Santa Margarita's Merritt soars to federation record and title
WALNUT – Continuing to show the poise and confidence of a veteran, Santa Margarita freshman pole vaulter Kaitlyn Merritt used her biggest stage of the season to vault higher than any freshman in national high school federation history.
Merritt cleared a freshman national record of 13 feet, 3 inches to win the Division 3 pole vault title at the CIF-SS Divisional Finals on Saturday at Mt. San Antonio College.
"It hasn't quite soaked in yet, but it was fun," Merritt said. "I got on a bigger pole and got my grip higher this week in practice and I felt confident coming into the meet. It was exciting when I landed and the bar was still up."
Merritt, who set the state freshman record in her first competition this season, cleared the national mark on her second attempt. In the process, she broke the previous national freshman record of 13 feet, 2 inches set in 2008 by former New Iberia Catholic High of Louisiana standout Morgann LeLeux.
Merritt's record clearance is currently the third best mark in the country this season and is second all-time in county history, trailing only former Newport Harbor star Allison Stokke's mark of 13 feet, 7 inches.
"I know what I am capable of and have tried each meet to come out and just do my best all season," Merritt said.
Two other county vaulters also claimed titles. Foothill senior Victoria Rische won her third consecutive Division 2 title with a clearance of 12 feet, while Huntington Beach senior Amy Loschiavo took home the Division 1 title with the same height.
Marina senior Laura Hollander continued her season-long dominance of the 3,200 in the Division 1 final.
Breaking away early in the race, Hollander came through the first mile in sub-5:06 and coasted to the individual title in a time of 10:27.51, the fastest of all runners in all four divisions.
"I didn't have a certain strategy toward any other runner," Hollander said. "I just wanted to go out, take the pace out hard, and run my race."
Earlier, Hollander and Vista Murrieta senior Erika Reddish battled down to the final 100 meters of the 1,600 before Reddish (4:48.86) edged Hollander (4:50.12) for the title.
Woodbridge senior Molly Babcock had a lifetime best 4:53.75 in the Division 3 final to place fourth.
Irvine junior Sheba Terry was a two-time individual champion in Division 3. Terry produced lifetime best efforts in the 400 (55.71) and the 300 hurdles (43.62). Both times are amongst the top 15 in the state.
Her twin sister Shema Terry finished fourth in the the 400 (56.84), with Santa Margarita junior Alex Gilbert (56.94) and Mater Dei sophomore Tara Radan (57.40) rounding out the top six.
Laguna Hills junior Alana Jones continued her strong campaign, winning the Division 3 3,200 title in a personal best of 10:41.98.
In the Division 3 800 finals, San Juan Hills senior Chelsea Kruthers battled defending state champion and national federation record holder Amy Weissenbach of Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood for much of the race before finishing second in 2:10.70.
Mater Dei sophomore Ashlyn Rambo (2:13.51) and Santa Margarita senior Sarah Porter (2:14.93) finished third and fourth in the race respectively.
Orange Lutheran sophomore Taylor Saline and South Pasadena sophomore Claire Kieffer-Wright each cleared 5-7 in the Division 3 high jump, with Saline winning the title on less total jumps.
Dana Hills junior Brenna Barker leaped to a lifetime-best 38-81/2 to claim the Division 1 triple jump crown, with Mater Dei senior Kara Caskey taking home the Division3 discus title with a mark of 132-5.
In the Division 3 1600 relay, the Mater Dei quartet of Tara Radan, Lupe Medina, Emma Radan, and Rambo ran to a school-record best 3:49.88 to finish second to Harvard-Westlake (3:46.53). The Monarchs’ time is the seventh best in the state this season and the eighth fastest in county history.
Mater Dei scored 60 team points, finishing second to South Pasadena (62 points) in Division 3.