Top Athletes to Compete in Inland Empire Championships

Paul Harrison takes the baton from Jacob Lister in a relay race early this season, when Vista Murrieta dominated the Wildcat Relays at Palom...

Paul Harrison takes the baton from Jacob Lister in a relay race early this season, when Vista Murrieta dominated the Wildcat Relays at Paloma Valley High School. Vista hosts the Inland Empire County Championships on Saturday.

Nearly 70 high school track and field teams featuring some of the top athletes in the state will gather at Vista Murrieta High School on Saturday for the 12th annual Inland Empire County Championships.

Host Vista Murrieta once again has one of the strongest programs in the CIF ranks for both boys and girls track. Two weeks ago at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational, sprinter Michael Norman won the invitational 400 meters with a mark of 45.91, best in the nation so far this year. He also ran a leg for the Broncos' winning 4x100 relay (40.68) and 4x200 relay (1:24.58) teams. Both times are county records and the 4x200 time is second best in California history, according to Vista track coach Coley Candaele.

The Vista Murrieta boys won CIF Division I team championships from 2010-13. The Broncos girls team is also one of the top-ranked teams in the division and was CIF runner-up in 2014.

Candaele said not all of his team's top athletes will compete in their specialties on Saturday as they pace themselves in preparation for postseason meets. Yet even the Broncos' "B" athletes and relay teams should be among the top competitors in this meet.

"We're not running everybody to death this week," explained Candaele, who said Norman may be rested on Saturday. "Getting ready for the CIF meets, you hope to start saving some of those performances for CIF and state. We have a solid group, but you have to be smart. You only have so many great races in you, and we don't want to put anyone in a position where they suffer an injury."

The Broncos' depth will allow Candaele to send out many top athletes anyway. Junior Antonio Mitchell has a best time of 10.52 in the 100 meters this year and is the top-ranked short sprinter in Division 1. Sophomore teammate Cole Dubots is ranked third in CIF with a best of 10.68. In the 200, Mitchell has a best of 21.56 and Dubots has clocked 21.64.

In the field events, 2014 CIF champion CJ Alumbres will complete in the triple jump. Alumbres, bound for UCLA next year, consistently leaps in the 49-foot range and is the state leader this season.

Among the opposition, Roosevelt High of Eastvale is ranked in the top three in CIF in both boys and girls divisions. The Mustangs girls teams placed runner-up in CIF from 2011-13.

In the boys 3200 meters, Branden Randall and Raymond Ornelas of Roosevelt lead a talented field. Randall recorded a time of 9:13 at the UCLA Invitational recently. In the girls 400, Roosevelt senior Taylor Smith comes in as the favorite after establishing a personal best of 55.83 recently. And in the boys 400, Roosevelt junior Christopher Wilcox has a personal best of 48.29.

Murrieta and Menifee will be well represented, as all the public schools will send teams to this meet: Vista Murrieta, Murrieta Valley, Murrieta Mesa, Paloma Valley and Heritage.

Events begin at 8 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m.

"The Inland Empire Championships has been a very good meet for years," said Candaele. "Now it's even bigger and more kids are involved. I'm looking forward to seeing some great performances."

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