The 88th edition of the West Coast Relays track and field meet Saturday at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium will feature some of the strongest Central Section representation in the history of the meet.
That 956-athlete field includes six from the section who rank among national leaders in Clovis’ Connor Morello, Immanuel’s Kasey Knevelbaard and Kingsburg’s Joey Souza in the boys, and Buchanan’s Hannah Waller, Clovis North’s Mikaela Smith and Liberty-Bakersfield’s Morganne Hill in the girls.
The meet will begin at 10 a.m. with field events. Track events will be launched with 400 relays at 10:30 a.m. The majority of events will be divided in Open, Seeded and Invitational divisions.
The elite athletes will compete in the Invitational Division, and that’s where the section will stock up, often against each other.
And that will be headlined by the girls 400, where Smith will attempt to run down Waller in the most anticipated duel of the day.
Waller ranks first in the state and second nationally at 53.57 seconds in the event after placing third and fourth in the CIF State finals the past two seasons. She also leads the section this season in the 100 and 200. And she’ll also oppose Smith in Saturday’s 200.
USC-bound Smith has gone 56.19 in the 400, but she’s not entered in the 800, where she’s top-ranked in the state and No. 2 nationally at 2:08.44 after winning the past two state golds in the event.
Hill, who will join Morello at Washington next year, is entered in the 100 high and 300 intermediate hurdles. She’s No. 5 in the state in the straights (section-record 13.99) and No. 1 in the state and fourth nationally on the curve (42.23).
Morello, second place by one-hundredth of a second in last year’s CIF State 800 here at the same site, will try a daunting triple by running in the 400 meters, 800 and 1600. He ranks first in the state and sixth nationally in the 800 at 1 minute and 51.86 seconds.
Knevelbaard will turn a distance double in the 1,600 and 3,200. He ranks third in both the state and nationally in the 1,600 (4:09.06). And it will be there that he’ll find the who’s who of section distance running with Madera South’s Miguel Villar, Eduardo Herrera and Michael Ochoa, Clovis North’s Psalm Ocampo and El Diamante’s Jacob Bilvado.
Kingsburg’s Joey Souza returns in the long jump, where’s he’s No. 2 in the state and No. 5 nationally at 24-5. Headed to North Carolina of the Atlantic Coast Conference, he placed second in the state as a junior.