The Santa Margarita girls track team celebrates winning the CIF-SS Division 3 championship Saturday.

Santa Margarita girls reach the top in Div. 3


NORWALK – Gil Garcia’s conversation with his girls track team at the start of the season was short and to the point – opportunities like this do not come around often.

Santa Margarita had the leader that every good team needs in pole vault champion Kaitlyn Merritt, but the Eagles surrounded her with talent on the track.

With only the 1,600 relay remaining, the Eagles trailed Harvard-Westlake of Studio City by five points. That depth on the track finished the job Saturday night at Cerritos College.

The 1,600 relay team of Sheridan Scifres, Lauren Drysch and sisters Kaitlyn and Nikki Merritt closed out the Division 3 meet with a win to give Santa Margarita its first girls team title since 1999.

“They were very fired up to come into this meet,” Garcia said. “We’re just really excited to see everyone step up and do their jobs.”

Kaitlyn Merritt completed a four-year sweep in the pole vault at the CIF Finals. Teammate Kate Thomas set a lifetime best of 13 feet, tying Merritt for the top mark and helping the Eagles score 18 points.

“It’s really great having Kate on the team,” Merritt said. “I’m so proud of her. She did amazing today. We knew she could jump 13 feet and she just proved that today.”

Canyon’s Rachel Baxter had the best mark of the day in the pole vault with a 13-1 clearance to take the Division 2 crown. Dana Hills’ Claire Kao took the Division 1 crown with a mark of 12-0.

Tesoro’s Amanda Gehrich scored victories in the 1,600 and 3,200. The junior said she is feeling confident going into what will likely be a showdown with Great Oaks distance star Destiny Collins at next week’s Masters Meet.

“I’m excited to race against her,” said Gehrich of Collins, who took over the state lead in the 1,600 with a 4:43.69 in the Division 1 race. “It gives me motivation to try harder going into the state meet.”

Los Alamitos’ title chances were wrecked early with a false-start disqualification in the 100 and a hamstring injury to Ashley Willingham. Katie Izzo finished second in the 3,200 and third in the 800.

Laguna Hills’ Marissa Bartello won the 3,200 (10:49.89) in Division 3. Her twin sister, Brianna Bartello, placed second in the 1,600 (4:54.03).

In Division 1, Huntington Beach’s Taylor Eddleman and Cassie Durgy each took home individual titles. Eddleman conquered the bar at 5-7 in the high jump, while Durgy ran a 2:09.57 to win the 800.

“It is so gratifying,” Durgy said of her new personal best. “Watching the divisions before me go, they were running really fast with great times. I knew getting on the line, I was prepared to give it all I had.”

Orange Lutheran’s Brianna Uipi (132-0) and Oxford Academy’s Xochitl Bryson (Oxford Academy) 120-4 posted victories in the discus.

Fullerton’s Ceili Tuttle ran a 57.13 to win the 400 in Division 2.

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