Mack takes over at Serra with high hopes looming

NEW COACH—Christopher Mack is the sixth Serra High head track and field coach in five years. Mack will try to guide the Cavaliers to a possible CIF-State championship sweep with both boys and girls with a lot of talent and experience back. (Photo by Joe Snyder)

By Joe Snyder

For the past few decades, Serra High’s track and field program enjoyed big success but it has been faced with several obstacles includ-ing constant coaching changes.

For the sixth time in the past five seasons, the Cavaliers will have another new coach. Christopher Mack replaces Alexis Faulkner at Serra in hope of a possible sweep in the Del Rey League, CIF-Southern Section Division IV and the California state championships.

Under Faulkner last season, Serra managed to sweep the boys and girls in league and Division IV. In the state finals, the Lady Cavaliers captured their second ever state crown, while the boys, led by premiere sprinter Roderick Pleasant, finished third behind champion Fresno Central and runner-up Upland.

With a large majority of top athletes, including Pleasant, returned from the 2022 squads, hopes are very high on the state sweep; Serra’s first ever.

Mack has a lot of head track and field coaching experience, spending the past 11 seasons at Cathedral High in Los Angeles. Last year, the Phantoms captured the Southern Section Division III crown behind success in 400-meter dash and middle distances. Cathedral is in the Del Rey with Serra.

Last season, the Cavaliers’ biggest success loomed on the 100- and 200-meter dashes, along with the 4×100 but Mack is seeking to improve on the longer sprints and middle distance. In fact, more improvements with hurdles, field events and distance.

“We are seeking to improve on the 200, 400 and 800,” Mack said.

Last year, Cathedral won the state boys’ 4×400 title with a time of 3:13 and was also Nike Outdoor national champions at the event over the past four seasons, according to Mack.

In the four years before (2008- 11), Nack was head coach at Chaminade High in West Hills.

Mack is seeking to improve the program and his squad has a lot of potential all around.

“My job is to build the program where Thompson left off,” Mack said.

Thompson, as an athlete, keyed the Lady Cavaliers to the CIF-State championship in her senior year in 2012.

For the boys, Mack will be building around Pleasant, again the No. 1 ranked high school sprinter in the United States, as he seeks to break the national record in the 100 and 200.

Last year, Pleasant ran as fast as 10.14 in the 100-meter dash at the CIF-Southern Section Masters Championships on May 21 at Moorpark High. Pleasant reportedly ran 10.09 in the New Balance National Outdoor Championships last summer in Philadelphia but it was wind aided. The national prep record is 9.98 set in 2019 by Matthew Bolling of Jesuit High from Houston, Texas.

Pleasant’s top time in the 200 is 20.4 he did in the Southern Section Division IV Finals on May 14, 2022, also on Moorpark’s very fast track. The state record is 20.3 set in 2015 by 2020-21 Olympian Michael Norman from Vista Murrieta and the national record is 20.13 in 1985 by Roy Martin from Roosevelt High of Dallas, Texas. Pleasant hopes to break 10 seconds in the 100 and 20 in the 200. Just one high school sprinter, Bolling, broke 10 in the 100 and none have ever gone under 20 in the 200.

Serra’s boys team goes beyond Pleasant, who will be heading to University of Oregon on a football scholarship as a defensive back this fall but will seek to compete with the Ducks’ track and field team as a sprinter. Dakota Fields also returns in both the 100 and 200, along with on the 400 relay. The Cavaliers should also improve big in the hurdles, behind sophomore Tre Harrison, also a standout defensive back on Serra’s football squad. Devin Lewis is also a returning hurdler. “Both will be an asset in the hurdles,” Mack said.

The Lady Cavaliers won the state title last year and are top contenders to compete this season, led by the balance of their sprints in Brazil Neal and Jordan Washington. Also back is sprinter-hurdler Jayla Fletcher, 2022 Southern Section Division IV 100 hurdles champion. Serra’s girls will also be strong in the long sprints and middle distance behind Sienna Claiborne (400, 800 and 1,600 meters) and in the jumping events, behind long jumper-triple jumper Jaydin Brooks.

“If everyone stays healthy, we will contend for state titles,” Mack said.

Last Saturday, Serra competed in the California Relays at Long Beach Wilson High School. The Cavalier boys were led by the 4×100 relay squad of Lewis, Harrison, Fields and Pleasant who ran a current 2023 state best time of 41.74 seconds, which brings them high hopes for bringing it down to the 40’s or possibly even 39’s before the end of this season.

That was the only event that Pleasant competed in but Fields placed fifth in the 100 at 10.92.

Harrison finished third in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles clocking 40.07 as Carson’s Jayden Rendon won the race in 39.97.

The Lady Cavaliers were led by Neal who won the 100 timing 11.99. In the 400, Claiborne placed third in 57.63, followed by her teammate Sadia Green clocking 57.83. Also for Serra’s girls, Brooks took fourth in the triple jump at 35 feet, 7.25 inches, and Zoe Trambe was sixth in the long jump (16-3.5). Carson’s Lauryn Williams won the girls’ shot put with a toss of 38-3. Serra plans to compete in the Pasadena Relays at South Pasadena High on Friday and Saturday before taking the challenge of traveling to the University of Texas in Austin for the prestigious Texas Relays on March 31 and April 1. The Cavaliers also have a Del Rey League dual meet at Bishop Amat High in La Puente next Tuesday beginning at 2 p.m.

North Torrance High’s track and field teams participated at the Mira Costa Mustang Relays last Friday and Saturday in Manhattan Beach.

Highlighting the Saxon boys was senior pole vaulter Spencer Ciecorelli who took second at 14 feet, finishing behind Redondo’s premiere senior Dylan Curtis (15 feet), one of the top pole vaulters in California this year.

North also had a strong showing by the boys’ 4×400 relays who both finished second. The Saxon boys, including Nathan Chie, Evan Kishaba, Sten Carpio and Aiden Flores, were runner-ups at 3:34.36.

Donovan Watson placed second in the 400 clocking 52.32.

For the girls, North finished third in the 4×100 and 4×200 relays. The Lady Saxons 400 relay, consisting of Hailey Collins, Lindsay Kishaba, Elle Jones and Kaiann Katero were timed in 49.98, placing behind first place Mira Costa (48.48) and second place Redondo (49.43). In the 800 relay, it was Collins, Kaiana Kotero, Green and Kishaba who completed the race timing 1:45.2.

Also, for the Saxons, Kotero placed third in the 400 in 59.24.


GHS baseball struggles with recent losses

Things did not go well for Gardena High’s baseball team in non- league losses to King-Drew Medical Magnet and Harbor Teacher Prep last week.

At Gardena last Thursday, the Panthers lost to the Golden Eagles 7-4 and on top of that, lost one of their top players in senior Eric Romo to a broken bone on his right thumb. At Los Angeles Harbor College last Saturday, Gardena was swamped by the Monarchs 16-0 in a five-inning mercy rule game.

Romo was the starting pitcher going five innings, giving up six runs, all unearned. He also had two hits and drove in one run.

Relief pitcher Anthony Garcia pitched the seventh inning striking out two batters. He also had two hits and one run batted in. Adrian Altamaro had an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Panthers had the bases loaded with the winning run at the plate but could not come through.

Gardena managed only two hits in the lopsided loss to Harbor Teacher. Both were by Garcia. The Panthers, though, loaded the bases in the top of the seventh but could not score.

The Panthers were to have two Marine League games against Rancho Dominguez Prep this week but they will, most likely, be delayed by, at least, another week due to a strong possibility of a three-day Los Angeles Unified School District strike involving bus drivers, custodians, teaching assistants and other workers along with the forecast of rain from last Monday through Wednesday. L.A. teachers, who are in the UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles) plan to honor the picket line. If things end soon enough, Gardena is expected to host the Lobos next Tuesday and visit Rancho Dominguez in Long Beach next Thursday. Both league games begin at 3 p.m. The Panthers are also expected to visit Huntington Park in a non-league game Saturday at 1 p.m.

At Paraclete High in Lancaster last Saturday, Serra won its first Del Rey League game at 8-2 over the Spirits. On Friday, the Cavaliers fell to Paraclete 2-1.

The Cavaliers, who are 3-9 overall and 1-3 in Del Rey action, visit Banning in Wilmington for a non-league game on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Serra resumes league against La Salle at Arcadia Regional Park next Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.

Last week, North Torrance split two games against Banning on the road. On March 13, the Saxons fell to the Pilots 2-1 and last Thursday, North topped Banning 6-3. On Friday, the Saxons traveled to Tesoro High in Rancho Santa Margarita but fell on the short end of a 2-1 score.

North resumed the Pioneer League at Wiseburn-Da Vinci in El Segundo on Wednesday but weather permitting. The Saxons and the Wolves hope the weather improves for Friday’s league game at North starting at 3:15 p.m. North hosts cross town rival South Torrance next Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. North is 3-10 overall and 1-1 in Pioneer play.


Lady Toros win Western Reg., move to Elite 8

The Cal State University Dominguez Hills women’s basketball team captured the Western Regional Tournament by pulling away for a 73-51 win over California Collegiate Athletic Association foe Cal State San Marcos from North San Diego County on March 13 at the CSUDH Toro Dome.

The first half saw the two teams in a close battle with the Lady Toros leading 27-26. The second half saw CSDH break the game open by out-scoring San Marcos 46-25.

The Toros entered the regionals as the top seed as they recorded wins over another CCAA opponent, Cal Poly Pomona (87-61) and Mon- tana State University at Billings (77-66) before their win over San Marcos.

Next for the Toros was Catawoba last Monday in the first round of the Elite Eight in St. Joseph, Missouri. If CSDH, which is seeded third in the classic, wins, it played either University of Minnesota at Duluth or second seeded Assumption from Kentucky on Wednesday.

If the Toros win both, they will play for the championship at University of Texas at Dallas on Saturday.