Before the Southland's top track and field athletes could secure hotel reservations for the state championships next weekend in Sacramento, they had to endure one final meet in front of the hometown crowd.
The usual names made their presence felt at Cerritos College on Friday night in the Southern Section's Masters meet, which serves as its state qualifier.
Bryshon Nellum of Long Beach Poly, the defending state champion in the 200 and 400 meters, won both events and finished with a 45-second anchor leg in a come-from-behind win in the meet-ending 1,600 relay.
Terry Prentice of Pomona Diamond Ranch, the defending state champion in the boys' 110 hurdles and long jump, also won both his specialties, though neither winning mark surpassed his season's bests.
That wasn't the case for Emily Dunn of Anaheim Esperanza, who lowered her nation-leading time in the girls' 800 by more than a second, winning in 2 minutes 6.48 seconds.
Two sophomores, Reggie Wyatt of Riverside North and Charles Saseun of Rancho Cucamonga, continued to make names for themselves. Wyatt lowered his sophomore state record in the 300 hurdles by winning in 36.52, and Saseun set a sophomore state record by winning the 100 in a wind-legal 10.39.
The Long Beach Wilson girls' 1,600 relay team, one of the best in the nation, won't be advancing to the state finals after its final runner, freshman Christina Smith, fell down while leading the race with about 20 meters left.
By the time she recovered and reached the finish line, the Bruins, who owned the second-fastest time in the state and fourth fastest in the nation, finished seventh and failed to qualify by slightly more than a second.
A few others found themselves in peak form.
Kiani Profit of Pasadena Muir set a personal-best in winning the 100 hurdles in 14.04, despite entering the event as the eighth-fastest qualifier. She came back to win her specialty, the 300 hurdles, in a season-best 42.17.
Profit says she's aware of the drop-off in talent in the 300 hurdles at the state level because two-time defending champion Ebony Collins, who transferred from Long Beach Wilson to Los Angles Locke this year, failed to qualify in the event out of the City Section preliminaries, and state leader Turquoise Thompson of Long Beach Poly injured her hamstring at the Southern Section Division I finals last Saturday and won't compete.
Profit said their absences won't provide motivation or a feeling of apathy. "To me, it's not about taking a win, it's about running as fast as I can."
The loss of Thompson also affected the Jackrabbits in the 400 relay. Moreno Valley Rancho Verde won in 45.74 to Poly's 46.60. With Thompson in the lineup last week, Poly edged Rancho Verde.
In the highly competitive girls' 1,600, Anna Sperry of Simi Valley held the lead for 3 3/4 laps, but Shelby Buckley of Corona del Mar moved from fifth to first on the final lap to win in 4:46.80. Kauren Tarver of Phelan Serrano passed defending state champion Christine Babcock of Irvine Woodbridge just before the finish line to finish second in 4:48.38. Babcock was third in 4:48.67 and Sperry held on for fourth in 4:49.01.
All 12 runners, including three from Corona del Mar, finished under 4:58.87 to advance to the state meet, June 1-2 at Sacramento City College.