Notre Dame's Khalfani Muhammad, center, beats Rio Mesa's Cameron… (Steve Galluzzo / For The…)
For Khalfani Muhammad, there was no saving the best for last.
The first event of Saturday's CIF state track and field championships was the most important to the Sherman Oaks Notre Dame sprinter because he knew it would set the tone for the rest of the meet. Behind by five meters when he took the baton for the anchor leg of the 400-meter relay, Muhammad closed the distance and leaned forward at the last instant, crossing the finish line 0.003 of a second ahead of Oxnard Rio Mesa's Cameron Roach.
"I knew we had it from the get-go," Muhammad said after the Knights bested a field that included eight of the top 10 relay teams in California. "My teammates did a great job and it was up to me to finish it off like I always do. We didn't have the best [seeding] time but it was all about today. When I got the stick I knew I had to pick it up, I saw him breaking down and I got him."
Muhammad followed that effort with another come-from-behind performance in the 100-meter dash, when he got out of the blocks slowly but surged past teammate Eric McDaniel and San Leandro's Andre McBride with 20 meters to go to win in a wind-aided 10.52 seconds. Muhammad completed his trifecta an hour later when he held off Los Angeles Loyola's Morgan Simon to win the 200 in a wind-aided 21.15.
"This is what I came here to do," Muhammad said. "I came up a little short last year and I've been motivated since then to win all of my events."
Muhammad's efforts also propelled Notre Dame to first place in the team competition with 36 points. Gardena Serra was second with 32 points while Newport Harbor and Carlsbad La Costa Canyon tied for third with 25 points.
Rio Mesa rebounded to win the boys 1,600 relay in 3:16.21, with Blake Selig running the anchor leg.
Serra won a stacked girls 400 relay in 45.92 when Alexis Faulknor held off Long Beach Poly's Ariana Washington on the anchor leg. Renetia James, who ran the second leg for the Cavaliers, later won the 400 in 53.98 -- the fastest time in California this year. Faulknor also won the long jump with a leap of 20 feet 3 inches.
Washington clocked 11.47 to clip Faulknor by 0.06 of a second in the 100, then doubled to win the 200 in 23.41, with Faulknor again finishing second in 23.73.
James clinched Serra's first girls' team title with a 52.8 split on the anchor leg of the 1,600 relay in a spirited sprint against Harvard-Westlake closer Amy Weissenbach. Serra snapped Poly's streak of four consecutive titles.
"The championship was our goal because we've never won that," James said after her 400 victory. "I know the better I do, the more points I score for my team so I had to come through."
Alex Rohani of Beverly Hills battled Los Angeles Dorsey's Rashard Clark down the straightaway before pulling away with 10 meters left to win the boys 400 in a state-leading 47.34.
Weissenbach won her third consecutive 800 title, following her third straight Masters victory last week. The Stanford-bound senior ran the first lap in 59.49 on the way to winning by more than 3 1/2 seconds in 2:05.70.
In the girls 1,600 showdown between Aptos junior Nikki Hiltz and defending champion Cami Chapus of Harvard-Westlake, Hiltz ran a personal best to win in 4:42.45. Rebecca Mehra of Palos Verdes was second in 4:47.33 and Chapus finished fifth in 4:53.42.
"I tried to use the taller runners as a shield and make them battle the wind, not me," said the 5-foot-5 Hiltz, who ran side by side with Chapus halfway through the final lap before making her move on the backstretch. "Normally, that's where I take off [at 300 meters]. I was expecting her to go with me but I glanced back with 100 to go and didn't see anyone."
Chapus will try to bounce back from Saturday's race at next week's Adidas Dream Mile in New York, a race she won in 4:42.71 as a junior last spring.
"I wanted to take it out at an honest pace and I still felt pretty good with 600 [meters] to go. I just didn't have it today," said Chapus, who clocked a personal-best 4:40.88 to win the 2011 state title. "There's more on the horizon so I'm glad I got my bad race out of the way."
Luis Gutierrez of Rancho Cucamonga was runner-up to La Costa Canyon's Darren Fahy in the boys 1600, running the four laps in 4:10.94.
Simi Valley sophomore Sarah Baxter repeated as 3,200 champion, covering the eight laps in 10:12. Despite a winning margin of nearly 14 seconds over Xochitl Navarette of Ontario Colony, Baxter admitted it "wasn't as easy as it looked."
Ethan Cochran of Newport Harbor continued his remarkable winning streak in the discus, taking the state title with a throw of 196-4 to follow his first-place marks at Arcadia, Mt. SAC, the Southern Section finals and Masters meet. Later, he won the shot put in 62-4.
"I've been on a pretty good run going back to last year," Cochran said.
Serra's Adoree Jackson won the boys long jump in 25-5 and teammate Lloyd Sicard won the 110 hurdles in 14.09. Senior Jarrett Gonzales of La Verne Damien won the 300 hurdles in 37.30.
Sophomore Stamatia Scarvelis of Goleta Dos Pueblos won the girls shot put in 47-3 1/4 and Madison Jacobs of Arroyo Grande led the discus after five rounds but Lisette Mendivil of Redwood won by one inch with an effort of 155-10 on her final throw. Tim White of Newhall Hart took second in the boys triple jump.