Men’s track and field wins state

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By Fred McCarthy / Staff Writer

Distance (Diego Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

By Fred McCarthy / Staff Writer

Riverside City men’s and women’s track and field teams were impressive at state championships in Norwalk on May 19-20. The men’s team won its eighth California Community Colleges Athletic Association state championship and its fourth in the last five years. The women’s team put up a strong performance and finished tied for second place overall.

The men’s team scored points in 16 of the 18 events they competed in out of the possible 21 events at the meet. It likely would have been 17 events with points for the Tigers; however, the 1,600-meter relay team was disqualified for a lane violation.

Riverside was the only school to record over 100 points at the event, finishing with 122 total points to beat out second place Mt. San Antonio with 91.20. Only the 400 relay team won the state title, as the Tigers finished with a time of 39.83 barely beating out Sacramento City by .06 seconds.

The team was able to manage six second-place finishes. Austin Woods finished in a tie for first place in the pole vaulting event, but was awarded second place based on a tiebreaker.

Jerrell Moore finished second in the high jump with his jump of 6 feet, 8 inches.

Jonte Turner finished second in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.46, just .05 seconds behind first place.

“I felt I had my best races all year. I was supposed to get fifth place in the hurdles but I got second,” Turner said.

Turner also crossed the line in second place of the 400 hurdles with a time of 51.49, for a personal record.

Kenny Jackson came up just short in the 100 with a time of 10.46, just getting edged out by American River’s Diondre Batson who finished at 10.36.

Yusef Merriweather, who just received a scholarship to UCLA, finished third in the 100 behind Jackson and Batson, and Merriweather also finished second in the 200 meter race behind Batson once again.

The women’s team finished tied for second place at 50 points with Cerritos. Laney College won the state title with 78 points overall.

“We came in second-place. This is the best finish since 1994 for the RCC women’s team,” said Damien Smith, RCC women’s track and field coach.

The women’s 1,600 relay team barely edged Mt. San Antonio to take the state title. Riverside finished with a time of 3:48.84 to Mt. San Antonio’s 3:48.94.

Jessika Byrd won the hammer throwing event with a throw of 179 feet, 7 inches to become the first athlete to win that event in Riverside City College history.

The women also produced two strong second place finishes. Amy Hop took second place in the pole vault, and Jessica Giacoletti came in second in the high jump.

“We were looking to get seventh. I figured with some hard work maybe get on the podium in third or fourth place, and (the coaching staff) just talked to the girls and motivated them and they really stepped up and ended up getting second place,” Smith said.

Smith talks about what the state tournament results for the women’s team means going into next season and the future of the program.

“It is really a kick start to next season; we will have a lot of returners. We did lose a couple of key girls but we will have a lot of key (athletes) coming here last year,” Smith said. “With this being my second year, we are just really trying to build a team and I think it is happening.”

Before the state tournament, the men’s track and field team had 18 athletes qualify for all 21 events at the Southern California regionals for the first time in school history.

The team managed to win four individual events, and both of the relays to finish with a total of 200.33 points, the school’s best point total ever at the regionals. Mt. San Antonio finished a distant second with 116 points.

Merriweather and Orange Empire Conference track athlete of the year Kenny Jackson finished first and second in the 100 and in the 200 events. Merriweather won the 100 with a time of 10.29, while Jackson got his revenge winning the 200 with a time of 20.75.

Hurdler Chris Navarro won the 110 hurdles in a time of 14.60, and pole vaulter Austin Woods won with a leap of 15 feet, 9 inches.

“I feel like I could have done a little better. I’m trying to hit a personal mark here that I’m not yet reaching,” said sophomore Robert Thomas, after the regionals meet.

Thomas qualified for the 400 hurdles and as a member of the 1,600 relay at the state championships.

He believes that through the hard work and dedication the team can reach any goal that they set for themselves.

The women’s team did not fare as well at the regional championships, but came in fourth place with 50 points, while Cerritos finished in first with 75 points.

The Tigers had two individual event winners at the regionals. Amy Hop won the pole vaulting event with a jump of 12 feet and 4 ½ inches. Jessika Byrd won the hammer throwing event with a toss of 174 feet 9 inches.

Both Riverside men’s and women’s head coaches, Jim McCarron and Damien Smith, won Orange Empire Conference coaches of the year awards.

“When I get that award it makes me proud of my staff, and how hard they’ve worked and how well they represent this team because I can never do this on my own,” McCarron said. 

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