Heading into the final track & field event of the season, the St. Mary’s Panthers are in better shape than ever before. But even with nearly every hopeful on the team qualified for the CIF State Championships this weekend at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, the Panthers will need to achieve perfection to win a team title.
“This is the first time we’re heading to the state meet feeling like we can really compete for a team championship,” St. Mary’s head coach Jay Lawson said. “But for that to happen, everything would have to go perfect for us.”
With several athletes owning impressive marks in various events, Lawson’s team does indeed have the potential to take home the state title on the boys’ side. The Panthers only qualified athletes in five of the 16 events, but are expected to at least qualify for Saturday’s finals in all five.
The burden will fall most heavily on the shoulders of senior Halihl Guy, who will be involved in four of the five events. Guy won both hurdles races at the North Coast Section championship meet last weekend, and is expected to challenge for a top-three finish in the 300-meter low hurdles. He is also a key component of St. Mary’s two relay teams.
Success in the relays for the Panthers will depend on the health of Chris Dunbar. The junior was scratched from the NCS meet due to an injury, and is still questionable for this weekend. If Dunbar is able to go, the 4x100 team should challenge for first place, as the Panthers own the third-best time in the state this season. If Dunbar is unable to perform at his peak level, the team’s title hopes could go down the drain.
Triple jumpers Solomon Welch and Asokah Muhammed will try to gather points in their event, an Muhammed will also run in the relays.
For the St. Mary’s girls, it will be a full day on Friday, as they have entrants in 10 of the 16 events. But other than thrower Kamaiya Warren and distance runner Bridget Duffy, the Panthers’ girls may struggle just to qualify for Saturday’s finals.
Warren was expected to be a dual entrant, but scratched on all three attempts in the discus in the BSAL league championship meet. Although Warren felt she had a better shot at a state title in that event, she should finish high in the shot put on Friday, as she owns the fourth-best throw in the state this year. But Warren has a big mountain to climb; Karen Freberg of San Luis Obispo has thrown more than six feet farther than Warren, nearly breaking the national prep record in the event.
“You know, anything is possible. I won’t ever say that I can’t do something,” Warren said of her title hopes. “We’ll just have to see how things work out this weekend.”