Sparks flies at Marine League Track and Field finals

Gardena High's Jaelin Sparks clears hurdle en route to a second place in the 110-meter high hurdles at last Thursday's Marine League Track and Field Championships. Sparks won the 400-meter dash and finished second in the long jump. He, along with several other Panther athletes, move on to the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Prelims today at El Camino College. (Photo by Joe Snyder)

By Joe Snyder

Senior Jaelin Sparks showed signs in helping Gardena High’s boys’ track and field team to making progress in bringing the program back to stardom of where it was under the late head coach Michael Ramos (Ramos died of a stroke in 2010.) in the late 1990s and 2000s.

Sparks won the 400-meter dash at 53.09 seconds and had a pair of second place finishes in the 110-meter-high hurdles clocking 15.53 and long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 6.75 inches in last Thursday’s Marine League Championships at Rancho Dominguez Prep in Long Beach. Sparks also anchored the Panthers’ 4×400-meter relay team to a second-place finish in 3:45.18. Narbonne won the race timing 3:37.58. Other runners on Gardena’s 1,600 relay squad included William Hill, Omari Hosea and Jesse Tucker.

“Sparks only ran the 400 recently,” Gardena head coach Dorian Cervantes said. “He’s been improving.”

Sparks finished second behind Carson’s Jayden Renden in the 110 high hurdles. Renden, ranked one of the top hurdlers in California this season, won the race in 14.61. He also won the 300 intermediate hurdles clocking 39.14.

Cervantes feels that Sparks can run in the 51’s or even 50’s at the 400, especially when he gets into the CIF-Los Angeles City Section meet with the prelims today and, if he advances, to the finals next Thursday, both at El Camino College.

Gardena’s 4×100 relay team of Ryan Taylor, Omari Hosea, T. Marshall and Jayden Reed finished third at 44.85.  The Lady Panthers 400 relay squad also placed third clocking 52.36. Carson, one of the top sprint relays in the state, won the event in 47.04, followed by runner-up San Pedro (52.07).

Gardena’s girls were also led by De’ajana Reed who took fourth in the long jump with a leap of 15-3.

Overall, the Panther boys and girls are mostly very young but showed some future promise with their frosh-soph teams, behind a win by Lionel Jackson in the boys’ shot put at 33-11 and a second-place finish by Tyree Meeks in the 100 in 13.4.

“We improved a lot from last year,” Cervantes, who is also Gardena’s head cross country and boys’ soccer coach, said. “Right now, most of our talent is in the frosh-soph team which should bring us a bright future.”

Serra High’s boys’ and girls’ track showed big promise in contending for the CIF-Southern Section Division IV championships this season.

At Saturday’s prelims at Carpinteria High in South Santa Barbara County, both 4×100 relays had the meet’s top times with the boys finishing in 42.5 and the girls timing 47.84.

In the girls’ division, Mia Flowers had the meet’s best times in the 100 (11.74) and 200 (24.16).

Just making the cut in the girls’ 100 was Raelyn Pleasant, cousin of former Serra High sprint standout who is now at University of Oregon competing in football and track and field Roderick Pleasant, who was ninth overall in 12.52.

Jaiya Fletcher had the meet’s fourth best time in the girls’ 100 hurdles clocking 15.5 and sophomore Lo’ani Atofau was fifth in the shot put with a throw of 34-0.25.

For the boys, junior Otis “Tre” Harrison finished second overall in the 300 intermediate hurdles at 40.03 and advanced in the 110 highs (sixth place, 16.38).

Freshman Wesley Ace also had a second-place overall finish in the 100 clocking 10.92. Duvay Williams also advanced to the finals with a sixth-place finish in 11.15.


GHS closes ML with one-run losses to R. Dominguez

Gardena High’s baseball team finished another miserable season at 5-21 overall and 0-10 in the Marine League after one-run losses to Rancho Dominguez Prep last week.

At Rancho Dominguez Prep in Long Beach on April 29, the Panthers failed to hold on to a slim lead in a wild 14-13 loss to the Lobos. At Gardena last Thursday, the Panthers were also able to hold a lead in falling to Rancho Dominguez 4-3.

In the see-saw game at Rancho Dominguez, Gardena took a 13-9 lead in the top of the sixth inning but a rash of errors led the Lobos to finish off the Panthers by scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning and two in the seventh for the Lobos’ first league win.

Gardena lost that contest despite several outstanding performances that included junior Anthony Garcia going 3-for-5 with five runs batted in, two runs scored and had two triples. Senior Daniel Serna went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs. Senior Nathan Guzman was 3-for-5 with a double and a run. Sophomore Francisco Pavon went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run.

Losing pitcher and closer Bradley Esquivel pitched one inning allowing two unearned runs on just one hit. Starting pitcher Guzman went six innings allowing 12 runs (six earned) on 10 hits with five strikeouts.

Last Thursday, Gardena led 3-1 through five innings only to see Rancho Dominguez score two runs to tie the game in the top of the sixth and one in the top of the seventh while holding the Panthers scoreless.

Freshman Anthony Macias had a two-run double to give Gardena the lead in the fifth. Sophomore Chris Alvarez went 2-for-2 with one RBI and one run. He had a run-scoring triple.

The Panthers are not expected to make the CIF-Los Angeles City Section playoffs but had a postseason game at home against West L.A. University High in the San Fernando Tiger Classic on Wednesday.

Carson captured its third consecutive Marine League title with a 6-4 road win over San Pedro last Thursday.

Winning pitcher Sergio Padilla pitched a complete game, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits. He struck out four batters.

The Colts, who were CIF-L.A. City Section Division I finalists last season, are strong candidates for the Open Division playoffs, which will be announced on Saturday. Currently, Carson is ranked third, behind No. 1 Granada Hills Charter and No. 2 Lake Balboa Birmingham, in the City Section by Maxpreps. San Pedro tied for second place with Narbonne and is 10th in the City.

The Gauchos edged Wilmington Banning 3-2 last Thursday at Narbonne.

A.J. Herrera had two hits and drove in a run.

In the CIF-Southern Section first round playoffs last Friday, West Torrance began with a 6-3 home win over Yucaipa in the Division II playoffs sending the Warriors (20-7) into the second round at home against top-seed Westlake last Tuesday. The Warriors routed Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 10-1 in the first round on Friday at Westlake. West tied Torrance and El Segundo for the Pioneer League crown at 9-3.

Unfortunately, Torrance got its taste of playing in the prestigious Division I and was crushed at home against a premiere Notre Dame High from Sherman Oaks 16-1 in the first round last Friday.


Big inning lifts Rosary over North in softball 

North Torrance High’s softball team started out well but a six-run third inning doomed the Lady Saxons as they were eliminated in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs by host Rosary Academy 9-4 last Thursday at Villa Park High.

North started well in grabbing a 3-0 lead in the top of the third inning but the big bottom of the third gave Rosary, the playoffs’ No. 3 seed, the lead for good. The Saxons added a run in the top of the fourth but Rosary finished them off with two runs in the bottom of the fourth and one in the fifth.

Highlighting the Saxons were seniors Nichole Orozco who went 2-for-4 with one run batted in and Julieta Roa who was 1-for-3 with two runs.

Losing pitcher, freshman Kloie Iboy, went four innings allowing eight runs (five earned) on nine hits. She struck out five batters and walked just one.

West Torrance, the top seed in the CIF-Southern Section Division III playoffs, began with a 2-0 home win over Claremont in the first round last Thursday.

Winning pitcher Audrey Lopetegui pitched a complete game shutout allowing four hits.

Offensively, the Warriors were led by Jessica Hsu with two hits including a run-scoring double in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kamaile Ho scored two runs.

Torrance saw its season come to an end with a 7-2 loss to host Great Oak High in Temecula in the first round of the Division I playoffs last Thursday. The Lady Tartars had a solo home run by Gabriella Merced.

In the CIF-Southern Section Division V playoffs, top-seeded and host Palos Verdes proved too much for Torrance Bishop Montgomery 12-2 last Thursday.

In the CIF-Los Angeles City Section playoffs, despite a 1-11 overall record, Gardena will play in the Division I playoffs as the l6th seed as it visits top-seed Garfield High in East L.A. in the first round today at 3 p.m.

Carson drew the No. 3 seed in the Open Division as it began at home against Cesar Chavez High from Pacoima on Wednesday. If it wins, it plays in the semifinals next Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Narbonne is second seed in Division III as it begins today at 3 p.m. at home against last Tuesday’s first round winner between Middle College and Central City Value at Narbonne.