Rene Gives an Inch to Take the Mile: Pali High Girls Dominate Distance Events to Earn Third Place; Boys Place Fifth at City Track & Field Championships

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

As she neared the finish line in the waning moments of last Thursday’s varsity girls 1600-meter race, Elizabeth Rene could feel her legs giving out and could hear her closest competitors’ footsteps right behind. Instinct kicked in and she dove across the stripe, giving every last ounce of effort before stumbling head first in Lane 1. She had to be helped to her feet and didn’t know she had won until several minutes later when the electronic board posted the times, showing the Palisades High sophomore had edged El Camino Real’s Jicel Fernandez Ramirez by a mere one hundredth of a second.   

Rene covered the four laps in 5:12.89, a full five and a half seconds faster than she had run at prelims, but all that mattered in the end was the medal around her neck.

“I was running out of gas and I had two choices… either fall or get second,” Rene said candidly.  “I didn’t want to not win. Basically, I came out too fast too early and you saw what happened. Sadly, I don’t do the long jump!”

Elizabeth Rene was No. 1 in the 1,600 by one hundredth of a second in last Thursday’s City finals at El Camino College.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Rene’s race was the most exciting of the City Section finals meet and the first of many impressive performances by the Dolphins’ distance runners.

When girls scores were totaled, Palisades had 30 points, good enough for third place behind Carson (177) and Granada Hills (35).

Brittany Darrow gave a game effort in the 800, finishing second to San Pedro’s Maya Richardson in 2:21.79, well ahead of her 2:24.43 qualifying pace.

“I raced Maya at South Bay so I knew she was going to go out fast,” Darrow said. I tried to hit 70 [seconds] the first lap, then 71. I gave it my all. That last 80 meters was crazy. I’m hoping that with the crazy amazing competition at state I can go 2:18 because if I do Coach Bob [Macias]  said he’ll die his moustache blue. And for Lizzy [Rene] it’s 5:05 for the mile. That’s been our incentive. It definitely put a fire under us!”

While Rene won by the blink of an eye, freshman Sarah Bentley drained all the drama out of the 3200 by the fifth lap of the  eight-lapper, widening the margin with every confident stride to win in 11:29.61 and conjure up memories of former Dolphins phenom Marissa Williams (now a sophomore cross country/track standout at Cal), who won the City two-mile race four times.

Freshman Sarah Bentley pulled away on the fifth lap to win the varsity 3200 in 11:29.61
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

“Yes, I was definitely thinking strategy, stick with the pack until I feel the right time to go,” said Bentley, who ran her personal-best 11:23 on the same track earlier in the year at South Bay. “I don’t have the best 400 [meter] kick, so I didn’t want to make my move too early. I’m in disbelief, really. I’m so proud and happy.”

It was a busy day at the office for junior Bailey Jones, who finished second in the varsity boys long jump by a quarter of an inch, leaping 21 feet, 7.75 inches, then taking second in the triple jump with a distance of 44-06. He qualified in both events for next week’s state finals at Buchanan High in Clovis. Jones  also competed in the 110 hurdles, placing seventh in 15.64 seconds.

Bailey Jones strides 44 feet, six inches to take second place in the varsity triple jump.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

“He got a good jump in early  and I was having board trouble, either behind the board or a foul,” Bailey said of long jump champion Joseph Anderson from Hamilton. “My best jump was the last one. I was flying, but I was over by a couple of inches so it didn’t count.”

Ben Hansen was sixth in the 1600 in 4:27.11 and Jakob Pollack was sixth in the 3200 in 9:48. The Dolphins finished fifth in the boys team standings with 29 points, trailing Dorsey (92), Hamilton (63), El Camino Real (45) and Birmingham (42).

Ben Hansen with his medal after finishing sixth in the 1600 in 4:27.11 at City finals.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Palisades’ girls 4×800 relay of ers Ashley Wang, Alicia Sigworth, Ariel Pollack and Nicole Figueroa won in 10:26.07 and the boys team of Joseph Reed, Jake Greanias, Jack Hockley and Ben Hamer was fourth in 8:36.18.

Distance runner Elisa Kim and sprinter Lilyan Garside shined the brightest for the Dolphins’ frosh/soph girls squad.

Elisa Kim is elated upon crossing the finish line in first place in the frosh/soph 800 meters.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

Kim, a freshman, won the 1600 by over five seconds in 5:23.21 and doubled back to take first place in the 800 in 2:24. Skylar Smith was third in the 1600 and second in the 800. Kim was second to San Pedro’s Grace Cameron in the 3200 final at prelims the week before.

“I felt so nervous I couldn’t make it up the stairs earlier, but once it started I was in race mode,” Kim said after the 1600. “Last time,  I lost by a tenth of a second. I was aiming for the third lap to turn it on this time.”

Garside was third in the 100 and 200 and anchored Palisades’ 4×400 relay, which clocked 4:11.55 to set a new City record.

“I had no idea about the record, I just tried to run my legs off,” she said. “Ideally, I like to have someone to slingshot off of and chase down, but today I was in the lead when I got the baton.”

Palisades’ 4×800 girls relay also took first place in 10:26.07.