Leap of Faith

Bailey Jones Wins Triple Jump as Pali High Boys Take Third at City Track & Field Finals; Girls Finish Second

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

One hop, skip and jump down the runway was all Bailey Jones needed to win his favorite event in  last Thursday’s City Section Track and Field Championships at El Camino College.

The Palisades High senior won the triple jump in 46-00.75, took third place in the 110-meter high hurdles in 15.16 seconds, took fourth in the long jump with a leap of 21-07.50 and ran on the third-place 4×100 relay to lead the Dolphins to third overall in the boys team standings. The girls took second place behind defending champion Carson.

“The triple [jump] is definitely the one I wanted most and I would’ve won with the first jump but I did even better on the fifth,” Bailey said. “Usually the triple jump is at the end but today I had to bounce back and forth between events. We qualified [for state] in the 4×100, so I’m happy. I had tendinitis in my knee two weeks ago but did some therapy and sort of pushed through it. In the long jump, the wind was swirling and I never hit the board today.”  

Already a star on the Pali High girls basketball team, sophomore Jane Nwaba utilized the agility and coordination that serve her so well on the court to win both the frosh/soph high jump (with a personal-best mark of 4-10.00) and the triple jump (32-09.00). For good measure she took second in the long jump (14-010.75) as an alternate when one of the nine qualifiers scratched.

“I just started [jumping] about four weeks ago in the league meet at Uni,” said Nwaba, whose five siblings include brother David (who starred at University High and is now in the NBA) and sister Barbara (an Olympic heptathlete). “One of our coaches said to try it. Form is everything in the high jump and I wanted to go as high as I could. This is my PR but I wanted to get five feet. Barb and Precious (Jane’s other sister) were teasing me that they both got 5-06. It’s both scary and exciting.”   

in the high jump, Nwaba first cleared 4-04, then 4-06, then 4-08 and finally 4-10, which she cleared on her first try. Keona Paniagua of Birmingham also cleared 4-10, but it took her more attempts and when neither successfully cleared  five feet, Nwaba was victorious.

Freshman Gabby Ligon finished right behind Nwaba in the triple jump at 32-03.75, Caylyn White was third in the frosh/soph shot put with a throw of 30-5.25 and Chandler Smith was sixth in the varsity long jump with a leap of 16-09.00.

Before stepping onto the track for the 800 meters, junior Brittany Darrow wrote “2:19” on her wrist, the time she wanted to run. She did just that (2:19.90) and it was good enough for first place, ahead of runner-up Karina Arevalo from  Kennedy (2:21.01) and defending champion Maya Richardson of San Pedro (2:23.17).

“I looked down at it every stride and that was my motivation,” said Darrow, who ran 2:20 twice last year, her previous best. “Last year I went out in 73 [seconds] and I was too far behind to catch up. This year, I had to stay up with the lead runners and that’s what I did. Right around the first turn on the second lap I made my move. I felt like I would fall at the end if I had to go any further. I wasn’t expecting this because in the middle of the season I was sick and not running at all.

Elizabeth Rene stumbled at the finish but won the 1600 by one hundredth of a second last year. This time she was third in 5:11.74.

“I’m really happy I get to go to state,” said Rene, who had the fastest qualifying time (5:11.21). “I was afraid of the wind… it played a factor today. I didn’t want to burn out and I was a little too cautious, but I learned a lot from this race.”

    Sarah Bentley didn’t fall prey to the “sophomore slump,” in fact she rose to new heights to win the 3200 for the second straight year in a personal-best 11:08.70.

“This year I was very unconfident—I didn’t think I’d win even when I crossed the finish line,” said Bentley, who shaved nearly 27 seconds off her prelims time a week before when she ran fourth. “Given all the health issues and injuries I’ve had I was hoping for maybe top three.”

Content to let Granada Hills’ Lauren Delgado establish the early pace, Bentley found herself amongst a tightly-packed group that included teammate and leading  qualifier Miranda Schriver, a freshman who captured the City cross country title in November. Bentley gradually picked up the tempo and took command on the seventh of eight laps and pulled away on the final straightaway.   

“Miranda and I always run together in practice,” added Bentley, who shattered her previous PR of 11:19 at last year’s state meet. “I was trying to stay close to her and the other top girls until my kick with about 600 meters left. I knew if I think too much it would get in my head and I’d start to feel bad. This has been emotional year with so many ups and downs. I cried more than I ever have. Winning this was so much harder than last year, but it’s the ultimate reward.”    

Schriver took fifth in 11:23.53 and junior Jessica Biershenk was 11th in 12:05.93.

Having placed sixth in the frosh/soph 3200 finals a week before, Cassandra Hernandez capped her season by taking third place in the frosh/soph 800 in 2:31.28 and ninth in the 1600 in 5:39.60.

Palisades’ 4×100 girls relay of Molly Brown, Lilyan Garside, Smith and Mia Brown was sixth in 49.74 and the 4×400 girls relay (4:05.77) was second behind only Carson (3:57.98).

The pole vault competition was held at Birmingham High last Wednesday and Pali High sophomore Erica Bagby cleared 11 feet on her third attempt to finish second. Taft senior Ashley Peykar  cleared the same height on her second try to take first place.

Junior Nickolas Mendez (50.84) and senior Rayne Camden  (51.03) were fourth and fifth in the varsity boys 400 and senior Finn Cawley was sixth in the varsity 1600 in 4:30.19.

Junior Brent Smith was fourth in the 3200 with a time of 9:44.74. El Camino Real senior Justin Hazell, who became the first City runner to win a state cross country title in the fall, defended his title in 9:22.02.

The Dolphins’ 4×400 boys varsity relayers Sacristia, Mendez, Emmett Kallmeyer and Camden clocked 3:27.34 to finish second behind Granada Hills (3:25.04).

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