Notre Dame's Khalfani Muhammad leads Bishop Amat's Darren… (Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The…)
Two of the nation's best high school sprinters will try to make history at the 95th annual state track and field championships beginning Friday at Buchanan High in Clovis.
All eyes will be on Khalfani Muhammad of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Ariana Washington of Long Beach Poly, defending champions in the 100 and 200 meters. Qualifying is Friday and the finals begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Expectations are high for Muhammad after he clocked personal-best times in both events at the Southern Section Masters Meet last week. Muhammad ran the 100 in a wind-aided 10.22 seconds, eight-hundredths of a second faster than the state meet record. His wind-legal time of 20.73 in the 200 was three-tenths off the state finals record.
At the state meet last year, Muhammad became the first male in 22 years to win both the 100 and 200. He also anchored Notre Dame's 400 relay to lead the Knights to their first state team title.
"I like being the favorite because there's more pressure, and pressure always brings out the best in me," Muhammad said. "I'm definitely going for the records, but everything from here on out is about winning."
Four of Muhammad's five top challengers in the 100 also hail from the California Interscholastic Federation's Southern Section: Upland's Myles Valentine (10.33), Morgan Simon of Los Angeles Loyola (10.33), Cyntrell Smith from Palmdale Highland (10.58) and Luis Matos of Santa Clarita Golden Valley (10.66).
In the girls' competition, Washington hopes to defend her 100 and 200 titles and lead Long Beach Poly to its fifth team title in six years. Poly's girls have won 12 state team titles but were third last year.
Washington owns the nation's two fastest 100 times this season: 11.20 at the Southern Section Division 1 finals and 11.27 at Masters Meet, where she also ran a personal-best 23.18 in the 200, the second-fastest time in the nation this year. Claremont's Brittany Brown is second in the state in the 100 (11.49) and 200 (23.85).
Fatigue could prove to be a factor for Washington, who also intends to run on Poly's 400 and 1,600 relays. Poly won the 400 at the Masters Meet in a national-leading 44.94 — not far off the national high school record of 44.50, which Poly set in 2004. Also within reach is the state meet record of 44.70 held by Playa del Rey St. Bernard.
"I like our chances in the 4-by-100, and my goal is 22 seconds for the 200," said Washington, a junior who has her sights set on breaking the 11.14 state finals 100 mark set by Marion Jones of Thousand Oaks in 1992. "I have trained really hard and I'm expecting even bigger performances."
After winning her third straight 3,200 at the Masters Meet, Simi Valley junior Sarah Baxter can make it three state championships in a row and will try to become only the fifth girl in California history to break 10 minutes. She ran 10:06.74 at the Ventura County Championships on April 26 and won state in 10:12 last spring.