FURIOUS FINISHES: Top, DeAnthony Thomas (Crenshaw) leans for the finish line just behind Long Beach Poly’s Kaelin Clay and Rio Mesa’s Blake Selig for third place in the state 4 x 100 meter relay final. Bottom, Chimere Ezumah (Serra) won the 400 meters in 52.97 seconds, a new state freshman record. (Photos by Robert Helfman)
Serra wins 4 x 400 relay, but finishes second in boys team title
By Evan Barnes
Sentinel Sports Editor
CLOVIS – It was a tale of two days for Gardena Serra at the CIF state track and field meet at Buchanan High School. Best of times on Day 1 and Disappointment on Day 2.
The 4 x 400 meter quartet of Francisco Olloqui, Pete Lauderdale, Devin Spann and Robert Woods ran the fastest time ever recorded on California soil in the state prelims (3:08.42). They and the crowd anticipated even faster at the finals – maybe a chance to break Hawthorne’s hallowed national mark of 3:07.40.
When Woods crossed the finish line to help Serra win the relay, the time surprised everyone – 3:08.72.
The surprise led to disappointment as the foursome stood dejected. Adding to it was that they finished second in the overall team title by a mere two points to Carmichael Jesuit (36 to 34)
“Guess we were so used to winning state titles,” Woods said.
You couldn’t blame the group for feeling let down. Serra had ended the football and basketball seasons with state championships and they felt they had another one in their grasp.
It was some consolation that the group ran two of the fastest relay times in the nation, including a state meet record in the prelims.
The relay came at the end of a busy day for Woods, who finished second in the 400 (46.21) and third in the 200 (21.11). He was admittedly fatigued but still ran the same 45.8-second anchor split that he had in the prelims.
The same disappointment – albeit on a different scale – came with teammate George Farmer as the junior finished second in the 100 meters by .001 of a second to Covina junior Remontay McClain.
Farmer was going for his third state championship of the school year to go with his football and basketball hardware. Despite his hot start, it was McClain’s finish that saw him fall short by the slimmest of margins.
“I had a better start than him but he made up his ground. I’m proud of my performance and raced a great individual,”
Perspective was hard to find right away, but head coach David Washington found it. He mentioned the several what if’s – Farmer leaning at the finish, the nation-leading 4 x 100 relay not being disqualified in league prelims – but also praised what actually happened.
“There’s a lot of if’s but when all’s said and done…we’re a small school of Gardena with 300 boys and 300 girls and we’re here at the state meet in second place,” Washington said.
It was the end of a magical run for the Serra athletic program this year. Five teams on the boys’ and girls’ side won CIF divisional hardware to go along with the football and boys’ basketball team winning state.
“For all of this to happen, it’s still a big ending,” Spann said.
The “Zoom Zoom” Era Is Here
For Chimere Ezumah, the state championship might have been a coronation for the next three years. Call it the start of the “Zoom Zoom” Era.
The Serra freshman put a final stamp on her season by setting a state freshman record in her 400 meters win (52.97).Her time, the second-fastest in the nation this season, broke Monique Henderson’s previous record of 52.98.
It was also the fastest winning time at the state meet since 2004.
“I wanted to end the season with a bang. We knew we had to leave something behind so I tried my hardest,” Ezumah said.
Henderson, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, won four consecutive state titles in the 400 and that’ll be something to watch and see if Ezumah can match it. Also in sight down the road is Henderson’s national record of 50.74
“I’ll be looking forward to going for it,” she said.
St. Mary’s Academy Ties for Third
It was fitting that senior Charnell Price left the track in the arms of her teammates after her incredible effort in the finals.
Price, who’s attending Cal next fall, helped Inglewood St. Mary’s Academy achieve their best finish in the state meet tying for third place in the team standings with Union City James Logan. She helped both relays – the 4×100 and 4×400 – finish in third while she finished fifth and seventh in the 100 and 200 meters, respectively.
“It means a lot from where we started,” Price said.
Two years ago, the Belles won the 4 x 100 relay at state. It’s been the key of a slow build into one of the top small schools in the Southern California track scene.
They’ll have some promise next year as they return Gianna Woodruff, who’ll be one of the favorites in the 300 hurdles only a year after running it.
City Section Recap
The stage was set for Dorsey and Crenshaw to continue their rivalry in the final heat of the 4 x 100 relay prelims but fate had other plans.
Dorsey was disqualified for a false start, robbing the meet of the team with the 3rd fastest time in the nation. Crenshaw went on to win their heat and ended up finishing third in the finals.
However, the Cougars were snake bit as well. City Section champion DeAnthony Thomas failed to qualify for the 100 and finished last in the 200 finals after suffering an injury.
His teammate Jonathan Downard finished sixth in the 100 meter dash while Dorsey senior Rob Herron finished last. Gregory Ducre came in sixth in the 400.
It was a reminder that anything can happen at state, and with 94 degree heat on two consecutive days, it was a matter of succumbing to fatigue after three grueling weeks of competition.