FAST TIMES AT BUCHANAN HIGH: Robert Woods (Serra, left), DeAntony Thomas (Crenshaw), Robert Herron (Dorsey) and their respective teams will be looking to leave a mark at the CIF state track and field championships this weekend in Clovis. (Photos by Nick Koza for Sentinel)
Caption: (3-5): SIGHTS SET HIGH: At the state track meet St. Maryâ€™s Academy junior Gianna Woodruff, left, will be a sleeper in the 300 hurdles. Crenshaw senior Bryan Lowery reached state in the 110 hurdles while Dorseyâ€™s Bejon Bryant qualified in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. A sleeper in the 800 meters will be City Section champion Alex Amankwah of Los Angeles HS. (Photos by Nick Koza for Sentinel)
Crenshaw, Dorsey, Serra and LB Poly poised for strong showings this weekend
By Evan BarnesSentinel Sports Editor
The final stop of the high school season has reached Buchanan High School in Clovis, site of the CIF State Track and Field championships this weekend.
With the CIF Southern Section baseball championships also this weekend, it's a reminder that another high school season will everyone literally going all out - pitchers throwing their hardest and sprinters running their fastest and smartest.
All eyes will be on both events but most will probably look towards Clovis where the top athletes will gather after two months of competition.
There are the athletes with high expectations such as Crenshaw junior DeAnthony Thomas and Gardena Serra freshman Chimere Ezumah. They enter the state meet with a chance to build on the promise they've carried so far.
After finishing second in the 200 meters last year, Thomas will be the favorite after running the nation's fastest time at the City Section championships (a wind-aided 20.61 seconds). He'll also be among the contenders in the 100 after winning City with a time of 10.57.
The last City Section athlete to win an individual sprint championship at state were Dorsey's David Gettis (400 meters) and Taft's Jamere Holland (100 and 200 meters), who won those events in 2005.
Ezumah added one more notch in her impressive rookie season with a 400 meters win at the Masters Meet. Her winning time of 53.30 was the third fastest in the nation this year.
"I expect [my competition] to come out and compete so I have to improve my time," Ezumah said. The fastest time in the nation, by the way, is 52.92 by Westside (TX) senior Diamond Dixon.
The Long Beach Poly girls squad will also be in Clovis with high expectations as the dominant favorite to win their third consecutive state championship and 11th overall.
They're expected to place in an unbelievable nine events, led by former state champions Tara Richmond (high jump and triple jump) and Akawkaw Ndipagbor (400 meters and also a contender in the 200) along with Melia Cox (110 hurdles) and Dynasty Gammage (800 meters).
Both relays will have to fend off stiff competition from Serra but even if they lose both, they can still become the second team to win three consecutive titles, joining Berkley (1981-83).
There's also history in the air as Serra's 4 x 400 relay has a 25-year-old national record in their sights. 3:07.40 - the time that the Hawthorne quartet of Michael Marsh, Michael Graham, Sean Kelly and Henry Thomas ran at the 1985 Texas Relays.
With the legendary foursome in attendance at the Masters Meet, the Serra quartet of Francisco Olloqui, Pete Lauderdale, Devin Spann and Robert Woods ran a blistering time of 3:10.41.
A better aim might be the CIF state meet record of 3:08.66 set by Pasadena Muir in 1996. But as head coach David Washington said, Hawthorne's record was the goal from the start.
"If I put together their best splits, we can at least match it," Washington said, "The question is can we put it together in one day at the same time."
Spann added, "For me to get 46 seconds, it puts us closer to that goal. I know [Lauderdale and Olloqui] can drop their times and run a 47. Plus we have enough faith in Robert running that 45 [second split]."
This weekend is also about redemption for this group, who had to watch last year's meet on the sidelines after they were disqualified during the Del Rey League finals.
"We knew we could've won it last year," Olloqui said.
Woods will also be a co-favorite in the 400 meters along with Chino Don Lugo's Josh Mance. Both clocked in 46.17 at the Master's Meet - fastest in the nation - but Mance won by a mere .006 of a second.
"Just got to try to get him at state," Woods said, "I know how close I was so I know I can do it."
There's also the surprise stories at state - the athletes whose hard work and dedication paid off at the right time. Like Inglewood St. Mary's Academy junior Gianna Woodruff, who finished second in the 300 meter hurdles (42.88)
Woodruff, whose older sister Yasmin won a state title in the 4 x 100 relay in 2008, only started running the hurdles this year and at the league finals three weeks ago, she ran 45 seconds her first time on a rubber track.
"I didn't think I'd make it this far so I'm really proud of myself for pushing myself to the limit," Woodruff said.
The same could be said for Crenshaw senior Bryan Lowery, who never hurdled before this year and now finds himself at the state meet as a City champion (14.87 to win the 110 hurdles).
Alex Amankwah of Los Angeles High School surprised the City Section with his 800 meters performance at the City preliminaries and went on the win the City with a time of 1:54.20. Despite never having run the event before the year, he's confident he has one more surprise up his sleeve this weekend.
"I want people to see me and say 'Oh my God, I can't believe he just did this,'" Amankwah said.
The City Section could be well represented at Clovis. Dorsey (41.01) and Crenshaw (41.13) posted two of the fastest times in the 4 x 100 boys relay and both could also factor in the 4 x 400 relay.
"We're just glad to be improving at the right time so we hope we can run with them," Dorsey head coach Ralph Tilley said.
Crenshaw could be a dark horse candidate in the boys team title between the relays, Thomas in the 100 and 200, Gregory Ducre in the 400 and Jonathan Downard in the 200 (20.86 - the third fastest time in the nation this year).
"Everybody's going to up their game," Crenshaw head coach David Frierson said.
Serra will also be in the mix as their run also includes three-sport star George Farmer in the 100 (10.55 - fourth best heading into state) and 200 (21.41)
There's a lot to watch this weekend and plenty of storylines with their final chapter yet to be written. As any track and field athlete can tell you, few see the beginning but everyone can't wait for the ending.