Randy Angel

Turner, Court earn medals at prestigious Cal State track & field championships

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Mira Costa’s Xavier Court came off an injury to place 3rd in the State 3,200 meter race. Photo by Damian Court

by Randy Angel

While most states have divisions in which their high school track and field stars compete for State titles, California has one winner in each event, making it the prep track and field’s most  prestigious event.

Vying to earn a championship title are athletes from 4,495 high schools (3,523 public and 972 private schools).

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Coming close this season were Redondo girls pole vaulter Amari Turner and Mira Costa distance runner Xavier Court, who placed second and third, respectively, in their events last weekend at Buchanan High School in Clovis.

“The California State Track Meet is one of the greatest sporting events in the country,” Redondo coach Bob Leetch said. “There are no divisions at our State Meet. It is head-to-head competition with no ballots, no polls in the most populous and significant state in the nation. To qualify for this meet is remarkable — very difficult with no mercy along the way.”

Turner, a junior, closed out her up-and-down season as a pole vaulter clearing 12 feet, 6 inches, the same height as winner Laurel Wong of Santa Catalina (Central Coast) who accomplished the feat with no misses while Turner missed her first attempt.

Also from the Southern Section, third-place winner Paige Sommers of Westlake, cleared 12-6 with two misses.

After finishing 10th in the prelims on Friday with a mark of 12 feet, Mira Costa’s Brigette Grau did not qualify in the finals, after missing three attempts of 11 feet.

Redondo’s Amari Turner capped off a successful junior year placing second in the pole vault competition at the CIF State Championships in Clovis on Saturday. Photo by Damian Court

“The weekend was unforgettable,” Turner said. “I went in with a goal of placing in the pole vault, and being able to accomplish that was a cherry on top of a fantastic season. I couldn’t have asked for a better junior year and while I did struggle at times, getting through them was well worth it. I am extremely grateful to have experienced it all and end with a dream second-place finish.”

Turner plans to continue working on the little things of pole vaulting with her coaches and has her sights set on next year’s State championships.

“Ultimately I want to continue having fun competing and enjoying myself at every single meet I attend with my teammates and the amazing athletes from across California,” Turner said. “I thank God for my family who have played a huge role in my success and are the source of my strength. Their constant love and support just makes me love what I do that much more and I’m more than thankful to have them in my life. I also want to thank Coach Dave Dill, Coach Stephen Kelley, and Head Coach Bob Leetch, as well as all my teammates and close friends for all the support they’ve provided throughout the season. Without any of these people State would not have been possible.”

While Leetch feels Turner fits the mold of Redondo’s approach to gifted athletes, he considers the pole vault as unusually challenging in a variety of ways.

“She had a roller coaster ride at the end of the season so I’m very happy for her and the outcome at State” Leetch said. “Amari is very bright, a terrific student and great teammate. But pole vaulters are like surfers and have their own community. To end the season as the No. 2 vaulter in this state is quite an achievement. The entire coaching staff and myself are very proud of her accomplishments and how she represents our school in her humble manner.”

Turner was also a member of Redondo’s 4×100 relay team. It placed 18th on Friday with a time of 48.39, but failed to qualify for the finals.

Competing for the Sea Hawks were freshman Julia Ausland, junior Mahkaia Lee, senior Indica Showell and Turner.

“Making it to State with the 4×100 team was definitely exciting, but also rewarding in that we knew that if we worked hard enough we could get there by putting our minds to it,” Turner said. “Just knowing that we were good enough to earn a spot at State boosts our confidence tremendously and only makes us want to do even better next year. Although we are losing a valuable member of our team (Indica Showell) next year, I know we’ll find a way to make it work.”

Turner also won Bay League championships in the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay to go along with her CIF Division 1 pole vault championship.

In boys competition, Court set new personal records in the 3200 over the final three weeks of the season.

Although Court was nursing an Iliotibial band strain (overuse of the connective tissues on the outer part of thigh and knee) and did not run for four days leading up to the State meet, his 3rd-place time of 8:59.56 at the State meet was the 5th best in California this year.

Matt Strangio of Jesuit High School in San Jose (Central Coast section) won the event posting a time of 8:57.18, the second fastest in the state this season.

Justin Hazell, El Camino Real (LA City section) was runner-up with a time of 8:57.90, the 4th best in state.

This season, the senior Court also set personal records in the mile and 1600. He holds the State’s top time in the mile (4:12.43) and finished 4th in State in the 1600 (4:10.94).

“The State Championships was a great experience and the whole facility at Clovis is really good — although racing late into the evening for the 3200m makes it difficult mentally as you have to wait all day and manage your food and water intake carefully,” Court said. “It was naturally a taper week, but it did not put me in the best frame of mind not knowing how my IT band strain would hold up during the race.”

Although the top-seeded Court was disappointed immediately after the race, he was pleased with his season. He broke two school records and reached the podium at the State meet.

“I have to thank my coach Robert Calderon and Coach Jeff Atkinson, plus Dr. Steve for managing my injuries and physio over the past four years. A big shout out to the supporters who were able to come and watch in Clovis, and my parents for doing everything they do for me.”

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