Some strong individual performances highlighted the Vine Valley Athletic League track and field opener between Napa High and visiting American Canyon on Wednesday.
The American Canyon boys rode their strong sprinters to a 71-60 victory, while the Napa girls dominated the distance and field events on the way to a 95-36 win.
Napa head coach Kamron Jones said his team is still taking shape as the season gets started.
“We’re looking to get back into some consistency; we had a really rough start to the season with a number of athletes not available for various reasons,” Jones said. “We’re still trying to discover what we have in some events. Of course, our expectation is to win, but it’s hard to do with all the holes we have. We’ll have a better chance to win as the season goes along.”
Jones said he is particularly excited about his girls.
“They have a good balance and they’re really hungry to win meets, so I have high expectations,” he said. “On the boys side, we still have a lot of holes to fill with kids who are not available to be in the events where we need them. We’re playing catch-up and we’re going to need some boys to step up.
American Canyon head coach Qwen Stewart was realistic given the season is still young and many of her athletes are new to track.
“I was looking for some good times today, but at the same time, we have a lot of new athletes we have to teach from scratch,” she said. “Based on what I’m seeing in practice, I’m excited because we’re getting there. We’re pretty strong in the sprints, but we’re seeing a lot of PRs from our distance runners today and that’s very exciting.”
Looking at the team results, Jones was honest in her evaluation of where American Canyon stands at the moment.
“Our boys team is a lot stronger than our girls team,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do with the girls, particularly in the sprints.”
No one was as dominant Wednesday as American Canyon freshman Croix Stewart and Napa High senior Jane McLoughlin.
Stewart won the boys 100 meters (11.21 seconds), 200 meters (23.00) and 400 meters (54.47) and anchored the victorious 4x400 relay team (3:43.21), which also featured Jaime Santos, Jazjuan Kenion and Kristian Valencia.
“Croix had a very strong meet today,” Coach Stewart said of her son.
McLoughlin not only won her specialties, the girls 400 (1:05.66) and 800 (2:44.56), but also the 200 (27.07).
“The 200 is new for me,” the senior said. “I’m used to running more distance events. I really don’t have a favorite race. I’m just trying to get faster as the season goes along.”
McLoughlin also anchored the winning 4x400 relay team (4:34.45), following Stephanie Gudino, Molly McGrath and Aliyah Aguiar.
“Jane is one of the athletes who’s really carrying the load for us,” said Jones.
Other outstanding performers included Napa’s Kyle Jerzycki, who won the 110 high hurdles (personal record 15.37), high jump (5 feet, 10 inches) and triple jump (39-1) and placed second in the long jump (19-4), and Kalani Posey, who won the long jump (19-5) and placed third in the 100 (PR 11.80) and high jump (5-6). Daniel Rios won the 800 meters (2:14.32)
For American Canyon, Justin Chang won the 1,600 (4:52.51) and dominated the field in the 3,200 (PR 9:56.56). Daneiel Yalew won the 300 hurdles (44.62) and Calvin Alejandrino took the pole vault (12-0).
Other multiple-event winners for the Napa girls included junior Mia Oggenfuss, who won the triple jump (PR 31-10), high jump (4-10) and 100 hurdles (PR 17.51), and junior Caitlyn Berryhill, who won the long jump (14-10), pole vault (8-6) and 300 hurdles (52.72). McGrath won the 1,600 meters (6:11.73), Jada Dunn took the 3,200 (13:44), and Sofia Tinnon claimed the shot put (PR 31-10).
For American Canyon, junior Yani Kenion won the discus (PR 100-5) and placed second in the shot put (29-9), while junior Qudaish Kelly won the 100 (13.24) and anchored the winning 4x100 relay team (53.31), teaming with Kyla Martin, Jamiah Martin and Cameron Genteroy.
Jones thinks his team will do well in the new VVAL after moving from the Monticello Empire League.
“Our girls have their sights set on winning this league and they’re really going after it,” he said. “We have some holes to fill on the boys side.
“With the VVAL, the teams are very balanced – more balanced than the MEL, which is how we like to structure our teams, so this new league is right up our alley. Casa Grande has a very strong varsity boys team. I think it will be between them, Vintage and American Canyon. On the girls side, I think it’s wide open. It’s going to be a very competitive.”
Added Coach Stewart, whose program came over from the Solano County Athletic Conference, “Every league is different. This new league is strong in the distance and field events, while the SCAC was strong in sprints. I’m hoping our strength in the sprints will help us.”
On Saturday, the Grizzlies will compete in the Lancer Invitational at Cordova High in Rancho Cordova, while American Canyon heads to Pittsburg High for the sixth annual Eddie Hart Invitational.
In frosh/soph competition, American Canyon’s boys won 72-59 and its girls prevailed 64-44.