Southern Section Masters champion Cami Chapus, right, of Harvard-Westlake… (Steve Galluzzo / For The…)
Dress rehearsals are over and now is the time for high school track and field stars to shine on the brightest stage -- the CIF State Championships on Friday and Saturday at Clovis Buchanan High.
Simi Valley sophomore Sarah Baxter enters Saturday's 3,200-meter race as the favorite after clocking 10 minutes 8.71 seconds for her second straight Masters title in windy conditions last Friday at Cerritos College. She ran a personal-best 10:08.11 -- the fastest time in the nation this year --at the Arcadia Invitational in April.
"This is the best I've felt and I feel good about next weekend," Baxter said about her performance at Masters, where she finished almost 8 1/2 seconds ahead of second-place Laura Hollander from Huntington Beach Marina.
One of the most competitive races figures to be the girls' 1,600, where defending state champion Cami Chapus of Studio City Harvard-Westlake will run against Aptos junior Nikki Hiltz in a rematch of last year's final, when Hiltz finished third. Chapus clocked a state-leading 4:43.90 to win the Masters title last week and Hiltz ran 4:44.02 at the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League finals May 5.
Chapus, who held off Alli Billmeyer of San Diego Torrey Pines to take last year's state title in a personal-best 4:40.88, was trying for a personal best at the Masters meet. "It didn't happen today, but I felt good and I still have another chance at the record."
Another Harvard-Westlake senior, Amy Weissenbach, made history last week by becoming the first girl in Southern Section history to win the 800 at the Masters three times in a row -- clocking a season-best 2:05.55 -- and she could make more history this weekend by breaking her own national record of 2:02.04, which she set at last year's state meet.
"My fitness is there and I just want to get closer to two minutes," Weissenbach said.
Perhaps the most surprising performance at the Masters meet was by the West Hills Chaminade boys' 1,600 relay team of Isaiah Bernard, Jared Dinowitz, Elijah Dunston and Terrell Newby, who clocked a state-best time of 3:15.28. They will go against a loaded field that includes Vista Murrieta (3:15.95), Oxnard Rio Mesa (3:16.37), Gardena Serra (3:17.05), Los Angeles Dorsey (3:17.21) and Bellflower St. John Bosco (3:17.75).
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame sprinter Khalfani Muhammad won the 100 in 10.51 seconds and the 200 in 21.10 at Masters and helped the Knights advance to state in the 400 relay. After finishing second in the 100 to Covina senior Remontay McClain at the 2011 state meet, Muhammad is determined to double this year.
"Not winning [state] last year makes me extra motivated," Muhammad said. "I've trained really hard, worked on my start and my acceleration. Now I just have to put it all together for the finals."
Also looking to double is Long Beach Poly sophomore Ariana Washington, who is seeded first in the girls' 100 (11.61) and 200 (23.55) after winning both at the Masters. Serra's Renetia James is favored in the girls' 400 with a state-leading 54.41 and junior Jordie Munford of Rancho Cucamonga will try to double in the girls' 100 and 300 hurdles after winning the 300 and finishing runner-up in the 100 at the Masters.
If Muhammad lives up to his own expectations, Notre Dame can win the boys' team title, but Serra, Rio Mesa and Carlsbad La Costa Canyon are also top contenders. Poly's depth may decide the girls' competition, although the Jackrabbits will feel the heat from Serra, Inglewood St. Mary's Academy and Oceanside El Camino.
Prelims start today at 3 p.m. for field events and 5 p.m. for running events. Saturday's finals begin at 4:30 for field events and 6 for running events.