With the normal nine-month prep sports year crammed to only four due to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying all events through the fall and most of the winter, things were difficult to get full seasons, including in track and field.
Serra High sophomore sprinting sensation Roderick Pleasant had very little time to work out for the tightened season due to playing six games with the Cavalier football team, which finished its season at 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the Mission League, good for the league co-championship with Mission Hills Alemany.
There were no CIF sanctioned California State Championships, but the Arcadia High coaching staff put together the state championship meet last Friday and Saturday at Arcadia.
After top showings in the CIF-Southern Section Division IV Championships on June 12 at Carpinteria High, Serra head coach Russell Biggs entered Pleasant and five girls into the state meet as all performed well.
At the Southern Section Division IV finals, Pleasant set a California state sophomore record of 10.46 in the 100-meter dash that would give him the opportunity of the national sophomore records, not only in the 100 but 200, where he broke the Division IV record at 21.02 that was previously set by Serra High’s Warren Rogers (21.13) in 2010.
Pleasant took advantage of both of those in the finals on Saturday. His first time was 10.32 as he finished a close second place behind junior Deshani Jackson of Santa Ana Mater Dei in the 100. Jackson won the race in 10.25, tying him with Hawthorne High’s Henry Thomas in 1985 for a state record. Pleasant’s time broke the previous record of 10.39 that was previously set in 2017 by Matthew Bling from Strake Jesuit College Prep High in Houston. Bling holds the national record of 10.13 he set as a senior in 2019, although Trentavis Friday from Cherryville High in North Carolina ran a 10.0 100 at the United States Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon about a month after his high school graduation in 2014.
About an hour later, Pleasant blazed to an easy win in the 200 at 20.59, breaking the old 10th grade record of 20.86 set in 2014 by Vista Murrieta’s Michael Norman, who is already headed for the Tokyo Olympics in the 400, which begins on July 23.
The overall national record for the 200 is 20.13 set by Roy Martin of Franklin Roosevelt High from Dallas in 1985.
Serra head coach Russell Biggs feels that Pleasant has a shot at even breaking 10 seconds in the 100 and 20 in the 200 before his graduation from Serra in 2023, barring injuries or mishaps.
“He’s just getting started,” Biggs said about Pleasant. “He was unable to run his freshman year because of COVID. He has a lot of natural abilities. I knew how good he was going to be. He’s capable of national records and even breaking 10 in the 100 and 20 in the 200.”
Serra has a long history of both football and track and field standouts, including current Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods (2010) and New York Giants defensive back Adoree Jackson (2013). Both keyed Cavalier football teams to CIF-State championships.
Jackson helped Serra’s boys’ track and field squad win the state championship eight years ago after leading the Cavaliers’ football squad to the state Division II crown in December 2012. Jackson had a personal best time of 46.04 in the 400, winning state in that event. Woods ran a 44.5 400 in Serra’s 4×400 relay that won state in 3:08.42 which, at that time (2010), was the third best time ever in the nation.
His best official 400 time, though, was 46.73. Hawthorne, led by 1992 Olympics two-time gold medalist Michael Marsh and Thomas, still holds the United States record of 3:07.4 it set in 1985. Serra’s boys, as a team, finished second behind Jesuit of Sacramento in 2010.
Serra’s girls also enjoyed one of their best performances in the meet; especially from their relay teams. The Lady Cavaliers’ 4×100-meter relay team finished second behind South Bay rival Carson, clocking a season best 46.91.
The squad included Brazil Neal, Breanna Howard, Jordan Washington and Jaiya Fletcher. The Colts, including Reign Redmond, Kyea Blockett, Samira Stevenson and Jaihlah Collins, won in 46.53.
Redmond finished second in the 100, timing 11.83. Serra’s 4×400 team of Sienna Claiborne, Fletcher, Juanita Parr and Washington placed fifth, also with their season best time of 3:57.85. Clovis North won the race in 3:48.08.
Neal took sixth in the girls’ 200, finishing in 25.01.