Benefield: A day of standout showings in Sonoma County League track and field

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It was a day of standout performances at the Sonoma County League track and field championships Saturday at Piner High — so much so that it is hard to decide where to start.

The El Molino boys ran away with the team title, breaking SCL meet records in the process. The Lions pulled down 188 points to earn their second consecutive pennant. Piner finished second with 84, Petaluma third with 76.5, Analy fourth with 68, Healdsburg fifth with 52 and Sonoma Valley sixth with 24.5.

“It’s a very talented group of kids,” coach Ryan Hopkins said of his squad. “It just shows the depth that our team has.”

The Lions perhaps have no one more talented than senior Jack Fricker. For the second time in as many years, Fricker was golden in everything he touched at the SCL meet. He won the long jump, triple jump, 300- and 110-meter hurdles. Fricker finished the 300-meter hurdles in 41.21, the 110-meter hurdles in 15.59, went 43 feet, one inch in the triple jump and leaped 21 feet, five inches in the long jump.

“He’s very talented, a very gifted kid,” Hopkins said. “He can do anything he puts his mind to.”

The El Molino girls, coming in off of an undefeated dual-meet season, were forced to share the SCL title with Petaluma after the Trojans came up big Saturday and won the meet with 148 points to the Lions’ 124 to force a co-championship. Analy finished with 77, Healdsburg with 74, Sonoma Valley with 39, Piner with 21 and Elsie Allen with three.

Trojan backers knew they were a different team Saturday than when they met earlier in the season.

“We lost to them by one point” in the dual meet, Petaluma coach Doug Johnson said.

But in that meet, on April 26, the Trojans were missing two key athletes. So the win Saturday? “I expected it,” Johnson said.

“We had a strong feeling that we were going to come close,” said Petaluma sophomore Courtney Bell.

Bell finished second in the 100-meter dash in 13.26, behind Healdsburg senior Natasha Marsden’s 13.17, and took fourth in the 200-meter dash in 27.93 behind Petaluma freshman Cali Sullivan in third, Marsden in second and Analy senior Gabrielle Dahlen’s winning time of 27.48 to bring in crucial points for the Trojans.

“It was kind of expected,” El Molino senior Hailey Styskal said of losing out on the sole title. “We knew it was definitely a possibility. But I’m proud of us regardless. We won every single league meet, so I’m just focusing on the positive.”

But no girl pulled in more points, or made it look as effortless, as Healdsburg junior Gabby Peterson.

Peterson raced and won the 800 meters (2:20), the 1,600 meters (4:57) and the 3,200 (11:56). For fun, she anchored the 4-by-400 relay that finished fourth behind El Molino, Petaluma and winner Analy.

“I really wanted to push for a good 800 time and I wanted to be under five for the (1,600),” she said.

Peterson’s best of 2:18 in the 800 puts her at sixth best in the North Coast Section this season, while she is ranked second in both the 1,600 meters (4:51) and 3,200 meters (10:34), just behind Redwood High senior Gillian Wagner in both events.

The top four placers from each event advance to the Redwood Empire Championship at Santa Rosa High next Saturday, from where the top seven finishers move on to the North Coast Section Meet of Champions in Berkeley May 25 and 26. Peterson said her goal is to advance to the MOC in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

Petaluma senior Jack Dunbar put in a fine performance in his SCL finale, winning both the 800 meters (1:58) and the 1,600 meters (4:23). Dunbar’s 800 finish should move his ranking in the NCS from 26th to 22nd and his 1,600-meter best ranks him 17th in the section. Healdsburg’s Dante Godinez finished second in 2:01, Analy sophomore Alec Dierke in 2:05.51 and Piner junior Austin Luong in 2:05.91.

The 1,600 was interesting because the runners paced each other until the final lap, when it turned into every man for himself, Dunbar said. The goal was to work together to keep the pace fast and grab better seeds at the Redwood meet next Saturday.

“We know the Marin County teams are very competitive. They are hitting, generally speaking, very good times at their league meets,” he said. “We thought the only way to get into the more competitive heats of the further meets like North Coast Section Meet of Champions was if we placed good enough times to get into those heats.

“Because we could just cruise an easy mile and just get first, second and third, but it’s not going to cut it for the other meets,” he said.

With that strategy, Piner’s Jonny Vargas took second in 4:26 and teammate Nathan Hayes was third in 4:28. Healdsburg’s Godinez will move on to this weekend with a finish of 4:29.

Vargas and Hayes finished 1 and 2 for Piner in the 3,200 meters with times of 10:05 and 10:07, respectively. El Molino junior Jake Villaboy-Chauvin put in a gutsy performance and PR’d by a mile with a 10:14, ahead of Piner’s Emmanuel Delgado at 10:33.

Analy’s Benett Simpson doubled in the sprints, winning the 100 meters in 11.21, ahead of Healdsburg junior Jack Kooba in 11.49, Analy senior Jacob Ponzo in 11.51 and El Molino sophomore Finn Ransome in 11.60. Simpson took the 200 meters in 23:39 ahead of Kooba (23.96), Ransome (24.30) and Ponzo (24.62).

Among the girls, Petaluma junior Sydney Dennis won the 300-meter hurdles in 48.90 ahead of Analy sophomore Margaux Jame in 49.03, El Molino’s Hailey Styskal in 51.89 and Analy sophomore Anya Habeeb in 54.67.

The girls’ 100-meter hurdles was won by Analy’s Margaux in 16.28, followed by Dennis in 16.49, Healdsburg junior Suzie Gutierrez in 17.69 and Petaluma senior Annika Schmid in 18.87.

In the 400, Analy sophomore Madeline Windsor won in 1:00.04, ahead of Petaluma’s Sullivan in 1:01, El Molino senior Jacque Ramirez at 1:02 and El Molino’s Ava Peterson at 1:04.

On the boys’ side, Analy’s Dierke took first in 52.02, ahead of Petaluma’s Nathan Hale in 53.19, Healdsburg’s Jeremy Felix in 53.51 and El Molino’s Clay Serrano in 53.83.

El Molino’s Hopkins said a key to the Lions’ success on Saturday was a strong showing in the field events.

In addition to Fricker’s haul, the Lions were especially strong in the throws.

El Molino took first through sixth in the discus, led by Avery Ransome’s toss of 133 feet, seven inches. On the girls’ side, El Molino went 1 to 4, behind a tight competition between seniors Lily Krauss — who finished at 114 feet — and Sara Flores, who was just behind at 113 feet, six inches. Finishing third was sophomore Kassidy Sani at 98 feet, 10 inches and senior Lily Dimond at 98 feet, one inch.

El Molino went 1,2 and 3 in the boys’ shot put behind junior Kelsey Austin’s put of 46 feet, 10 inches. Ransome finshed second at 42 feet, five inches, El Molino senior Carmelo Salas was third with a put of 39 feet and Sonoma Valley sophomore Mason Matulaitis was fourth at 37 feet, 10 inches.

El Molino’s Sani won the girls’ shot put at 33 feet, eight inches, followed by Petaluma junior Hannah Dillingham at 32 feet, 10 inches, Krauss at 31 feet, six inches and Flores at 29 feet, seven inches.

Behind Fricker in the triple jump were Piner junior Reanne Ball at 40 feet, nine inches; Truman Costello — a sophomore from Healdsburg — with a jump of 40 feet, five inches and Petaluma sophomore Anthony Moeckel at 38 feet, 11 inches.

Petaluma’s Dennis won the girls’ triple jump with a leap of 36 feet. 3.5 inches, ahead of Sonoma Valley sophomore Kaylie Barrera at 34 feet, four inches, El Molino senior Alicia Montano at 32 feet, eight inches and Petaluma senior Kylie McCorkel at 36 feet, two inches.

Petaluma senior Kael Seaver won the pole vault in 12 feet, six inches, followed by Analy senior Ethan DelMonte, El Molino juniors Andrew Liput and Chase Nicholls.

Petaluma swept the girls’ pole vault with junior Erika Gilmore topping all comers, followed by Sallie Hollingshead and Savannah Engler.

In the girls’ high jump, Sonoma Valley’s Barrera was the winner at four feet, 10 inches, ahead of two teammates: Emma Maggioncalda and Kasia Jacobson, who went four feet, nine inches and four feet, eight inches respectively.

El Molino senior Kailey Espinoza took fourth with a jump of four feet, six inches.

On the boys’ side, Sonoma Valley’s Luke Sendaydiego won with a jump of five feet, 11 inches, ahead of Jack Belli of El Molino’s five feet, nine inches, Gianna Johnson of Petaluma’s 5 feet, four inches and Piner’s Vu Ngo at five feet, four inches.

While heavy winds marred the North Bay League championship meet Friday night and slowed final times significantly, the SCL meet did not turn incredibly blustery until the final two events — the 3,200 meters and the 4-by-400 relay. It was hot throughout the day, with frequent admonitions from the race announcer for athletes to keep hydrated.

“It’s a little windy today. It wasn’t too bad at the beginning of the meet but it’s picking up a bit now,” Healdsburg’s Peterson noted at one point.

And for those who move on, the season is picking up a bit now, too.

Staff columnist Kerry Benefield is at 707-526-8671 or

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