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Santa Margarita girls lead the way at Div. 3 prelims
COSTA MESA – The CIF-SS preliminaries merely represent the dress rehearsal.
In the case of Santa Margarita’s girls track and field team, they were executed to perfection.
The fourth-ranked Eagles set themselves up with a chance to repeat as Division 3 champions next week by qualifying athletes in 11 events on Saturday at Estancia High.
Lauren Drysch, Nikki Merritt, and Erin Gerardo led the charge, each advancing in four events to spur the Eagles’ to a big day.
Merritt and Gerardo moved on in both hurdles races and the 1,600 relay. Gerardo also met the mark to make the divisional finals in pole vault.
Drysch was first overall in the 400 meters, also advancing in the 200. The junior captain joined Merritt on both of the team’s relays.
“We’ve worked really hard since back in September,” Drysch said. “To have it amount to something would be extremely amazing.”
The Eagles captain was referring to a repeat title. That has become a distinct possibility for a team that was much-maligned from injuries, thanks in large part to the recovery of Gerardo. The versatile junior missed nearly all of last year with a stress fracture in her foot.
“To have her back this season, it allows us to score potentially twice in each hurdle race in addition to pole vaulting,” Drysch said. “Now that everyone is getting back into it and healing their injuries, we’re all just ready to do our best in CIF.”
High expectations have been the norm for several of the county’s top individuals. Among them, JSerra’s Andrew Burkhardt sent a message by claiming the top spot in the 1,600 and 3,200.
The Cal signee was excited about the prospect of racing against San Luis Obispo’s Callum Bolger, who won his heat in both races.
“I just wanted to go out there and try to get the No. 1 seed overall for both,” Burkhardt said. “Next week, Callum is going to be in the race. He’s crazy fast. I’ve seen him run 8:51 at Arcadia. I think I’m ready to beat him next week.”
Esperanza’s throws squad has been unstoppable this year, and that trend continued Saturday. Bronson Osborn, Clint Meyer, and Jordon Ammann advanced in both the shot put and the discus.
Osborn came within inches of another 200-foot mark, unleashing a throw of 199 feet, 3 inches to win the discus competition.
Automatic CIF-SS finals bids were granted to all heat winners. Others seeking entry had to earn their at-large bid by finishing with a top-nine time or mark.
Qualifying for next week’s divisional finals was the best of hopes for Laguna Hills’ girls 400 relay, which entered the meet as the ninth seed. The Hawks exceeded their own expectations by posting the fifth overall time.
Michelle Avila, Michelle Holt, Caitlin Weber, and Nadia Najah combined to finish in 48.82.
“They broke the school record which was set in 2008, so the day started out pretty fantastically,” Hawks coach Chris Lynch said.
For Holt, it continued, as she qualified in the 200 and the 400.
In the Division 1 preliminaries:
El Toro’s Maliyah Medley flashed her speed to qualify in the 200, 400, and the 400 relay. Teammate Alaysha Green will go in as the top seed in shot put (44-91/2
Los Alamitos’ Alison Parsons finished in the top five in the long jump (17-41/4) and the triple jump (37-0).
San Clemente’s Connor Dunne, Los Alamitos’ Thomas Heib, and Huntington Beach’s Cassie Durgy all emerged victorious in their 800 heats.
Trabuco Hills’ Cameron Hurd qualified in both hurdles and the 1,600 relay.