Panther girls dominate NCS Redwood Empire track championships


Santa Rosa's Morgan Bertsch cleared 5-6 in the high jump during the Redwood Empire Area Track Meet on Saturday. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

Santa Rosa’s Morgan Bertsch cleared 5-6 in the high jump during the Redwood Empire Area Track Meet on Saturday. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

It was home cooking, Panthers style, for the Santa Rosa girls track and field team on Saturday.

In a cluster of more than two dozen teams competing on a sunny, 80-plus-degree day, it was the Panthers girls who won the team competition at the North Coast Section Redwood Empire Area Track and Field Championships in their home facility at Santa Rosa High.

The Panthers girls won with 61 points, while Tamalpais finished second with 50 points and McKinleyville third with 48.

“I am a little surprised. I knew we had a good team at the beginning of the year and the girls have been continually improving throughout the season,” Santa Rosa coach Doug Courtemarche said. “After winning the North Bay League championships last week, I thought we had a good chance today. I am really happy for the girls.”

On the boys’ side, Maria Carrillo finished first with 74 points, Novato second with 57 points and Sir Francis Drake third with 45. The Pumas’ day was capped by a win in the 4×400-meter boys relay with a 3:25.66 mark.

“We wanted to go out hard at the start and make sure we had a lead,” said second-leg runner Jake Viter. “After that we just took it home.”

In other relay races, the Montgomery girls won the 4×400 relay (4:03.74) while Healdsburg finished second (4:05.83). The Windsor girls represented the NBL well by finishing second in the 4×100-meter relay with a 50.25 mark for a school record. In addition to winning the 4×400, the Pumas boys finished second in the 4×100 at 42.85.

The Redwood Empire championships are a feeder into the NCS Meet of Champions (MOC), which will be held Friday and Saturday at UC Berkeley’s Edwards Stadium.

The top seven finishers in each respective event at the Redwood Empire championships automatically qualify for the MOC. In addition, any athlete who did not finish in the top seven at the Redwood Empire meet but met or exceeded the performance standards for that event receives an automatic qualification to the MOC.

The top performers at Berkeley will move on to the CIF state championships in Clovis to compete with the top finishers from the other nine state CIF sections. That meet runs from May 31 to June 1.

The Redwood Empire championships featured 26 schools (12 from Sonoma County) representing coastal areas from just north of the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. There were 20 track events and 12 field events.

In one of the highlights of the field events, Cardinal Newman’s Nolan Nagle won both the boys’ shot put (53.05.5) and discus (163.5) competitions.

“I was happy with my discus throws but not with the shot put,” Nolan said. “I was a little more consistent with the discus.”

“Nolan hasn’t been beaten all year in either event,” Cardinals coach Pat LaFortune said. “He is in the mix to get to the state championship for both events.”

Rancho Cotate’s Justin Zinnerman won the boys high jump (6-04) but pulled out of subsequent events and went home due to illness.

“We didn’t have Zinnerman for the relays, which affected us, but you can’t control illness,” Cougars coach John Anderson said. “We have visions of Justin qualifying for state (in the high jump).”

In other boys events, Brycen Poarch of Casa Grande won the long jump (22-06) and triple jump (44-04.75), and Dante Hay of Maria Carrillo won the 800 meters (1:54.31).

In other girls events, Maria Carrillo’s Kathleen Durand won the discus (140-10), Alison Scranton of Petaluma won the shot put (39.10.5), Morgan Bertsch of Santa Rosa won the high jump (5-06), and Healdsburg’s Helen-Ann Haun won the pole vault (11-05).

Overall, in individual girls track events, Sonoma County athletes won one of three sprints (100, 200 and 400 meters) and one of three long distance races (800, 1600 and 3200 meters), though neither of the hurdles races (100 and 300 meters).

Montgomery’s Jackie Chalmers (56.73) won the 400-meter race relatively easily and finished second (25.55) in the 200-meter sprint.

“(The 400) went really well. It was a hard race with the heat,” Chalmers said. “I wanted to run a fast first 200 meters and I did. It was a personal record, which is what I wanted. I am absolutely ready for (the MOC).”

In the girls’ 800 meters there was a battle between Santa Rosa’s Sadia Ibrahim and Healdsburg’s Maria Barragan, who drafted behind Ibrahim the entire race. Ibrahim (2:12.53) won the race by a few steps over Barragan (2:14.17).

“I knew she (Barragan) was going to be right in there with me. In the first 200 meters I thought she was going to take the lead and she didn’t, so I just went for it,” Ibrahim said. “I’m ready (for the MOC) and feeling good.”

“I think the race went well — my shins are hurting,” Barragan said immediately after the finish. “To keep up with Sadia was my goal, and I did that until the last 200 meters.”

Similar to the girls, Sonoma County boys won one of three sprints, one of three long distance races and neither of the hurdles events.

The boys’ 400-meter race was won by Maria Carrillo’s Herbie Polk (47.79).

“Now that I hit (close to) 47 seconds I have as good a chance as anyone else,” Polk said. “I’m feeling strong and I’m peaking right when I want to.”


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