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FOSTER SNELL , CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Mission Viejo's Kennedy Gillian competes in the 200 meters at the CIF-SS Track and Field Finals. Gillian finished fifth with a time of 24.67 seconds.

Mission Viejo girls grab first title

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

NORWALK – There was never a doubt about what Mission Viejo’s girls track and field program was aiming for this season.

After back-to-back finishes in the top four at the CIF-SS Finals, Diablos coach Chase Frazier spoke boldly, and often, about the team’s aspirations to finish atop Division 2.

Mission accomplished.

The Diablos dominated with a strong all-around performance to earn their first team title Saturday at the CIF-SS Finals at Cerritos College. The Diablos finished well ahead of runner-up Westlake, 74-43.

“The strength of our team has always been our depth,” Frazier said. “Our depth showed up today. The direction of this program is right where I want it.

“These seniors showed it, and led the way for everyone else. This is going to be something that we can continue year in and year out.”

Mission Viejo already had the championship in the bag when it finished the meet with a bang. The Diablos’ 1,600-meter relay team of Sahla Cook, Taylor Arco, Whitney Hessler and Kennedy Gillian set an Orange County record with a time of 3:47.50.

“That was our goal coming out here today,” Arco said. “No matter how the meet scored overall, we wanted to end on a good note. We were going for that meet record. We were going for that school record.

“We achieved both of those today. To finish strong like that is amazing.”

Emma DeSilva gave the Diablos an individual title in the discus with a winning mark of 146 feet, 1 inch. Mission Viejo also received top-three finishes from Ciera Williams in the shot put, Kelli Hines in the 3,200, Hessler in the 800 and their 400 relay.

Santa Margarita repeated as Division 3 champion, edging out Calabasas, 783/4-71.

The Eagles had plenty of motivation. They wanted to honor their longtime high jump coach, Joe Phillips, who died in a car accident two weeks ago. The team attended a celebration of life ceremony to honor him on Friday.

Leading the way for the Eagles were their outstanding relay teams, which each placed second to earn a combined 16 points. In the pole vault, Kate Thomas and Erin Gerardo took first and second, respectively.

“Being a part of the team that gets to win CIF this year is really exciting,” Gerardo said. “We definitely needed our whole team to do what we did today. We feed off of each other.”

Lauren Drysch won the 400 (56.80) for the Eagles. Nikki Merritt finished third in the 100 hurdles (14.77), and she added a second-place showing in the 300 hurdles (44.49).

Gerardo was not ready to call the Eagles a dynasty, but she noted that the team’s big underclassmen presence suggests it might happen.

Defending state 1,600 champion Amanda Gehrich looked as dominant as ever. She won her third straight 1,600 crown and the 3,200 for the second time at the divisional finals.

The Tesoro senior expressed surprise at how fast her high school career has flown by.

“It’s an honor to come here,” Gehrich said. “I can’t believe that it’s my last CIF Finals at Cerritos. It was good to come out, to qualify, and to win the Division 2 title.”

Orange Lutheran’s Brianna Uipi and Oxford Academy’s Xochitl Bryson joined DeSilva as discus champions. El Toro’s Alaysha Green added a throwing title in the shot put (43-13/4).

In Division 2, Newport Harbor’s Emma Kratzberg won the 300 hurdles (43.15). Oxford Academy’s Emily Huynh took the Division 4 high jump at 17 feet, 103/4 inches.


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