Fri, Mar 22 2013 11:33 AM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Otay Ranch High School track and field team looks to be hurdling to success this season — both literally and figuratively.
The Mustangs are braced by a pair of standout hurdlers this season in Alyssa Chang and Mark Bjornsson. Both left their mark by sweeping their events in a high profile non-league dual meet against visiting Steele Canyon Cougars on March 14 and later helped spearhead Otay Ranch to the team title at last Saturday’s Sweetwater Coed Relays.
“To do what they did against a team like Steele Canyon is impressive considering that Steele Canyon has always been known as a strong team in those events,” Mustang coach Ian Cumming said.
The Cougars also have the largest track team in the San Diego Section this season with more than 300 student-athletes.
Chang, a returning state meet qualifier, timed 15.5 seconds to win the 100-meter low hurdles and came back later in the meet to capture the 300 hurdles in 47.7.
Chang also ran a leg on Otay Ranch’s winning 4x100 relay unit (50.5) that included teammates Kiera Williams, Dona Stephens and Brianna Davis.
Chang’s 100 hurdles time is the top mark in the San Diego Section so far this season while her time in the 300 distance is fifth best.
Bjornsson won the 110 high hurdles in 15.70 and also bettered the field in the 300 intermediate hurdles in 41.60.
The 110 time, which ranks fifth in the section, tied his career best.
“I started out in the jumps as a freshman but I love running hurdles,” Bjornsson said. “I’ve worked on getting my trailer leg a lot faster and I’ve worked on my block starts to get faster, too.”
Both Chang and Bjornsson contributed their collective talents to help push the Mustangs comfortably ahead of the Division I field at this year’s SuHi Relays, which were held on the newly refurbished ORHS oval.
Otay Ranch totaled a division-best 153 points to finish ahead of runner-up Eastlake (130 points) and third place Morse (126 points).
Bjornsson competed in the shuttle hurdles, triple jump and also ran a leg on the Mustangs’ victorious meet-ending 4x400 relay squad (3:32.83) that featured teammates Darren Paraiso, Rafa Patricio and Isaiah Thomas.
The senior hurdler, who now stands 6-3 after a growth spurt, said there are several factors that go into the mechanics of performing well in the hurdles.
“You’ve got to go as low as possible over the hurdles, as fast as you can, extend your stride between hurdles and have a forward lean over each hurdle,” Bjornsson explained.
Otay Ranch appears loaded in the jumps this season. Sean Esteban entered this week ranked No. 1 in the section in the triple jump (45-9.5) while teammate Chris Martin ranked third in the long jump (22-3) and fourth in the 100 dash (11.2).
Going the distance
The boys 6,400-meter relay (four 1,600 legs) is always a test of endurance at the SuHi Relays. Sweetwater won this year’s event in 18:43.45 behind the strong legs of Bryan Alvarado, Raphael Grajeda, Gerardo Marquillo and George Martinez.
Otay Ranch won the girls distance medley in 13:00.89. Running legs were Carina Gillespie (1,200), Williams (400), Angela De Los Santos (800) and Catie LeDesma (1,600).
Among Metro Conference teams, Division I running event winners included Otay Ranch in the shuttle hurdles (1:08.78), girls sprint medley (2:00.48) and coed 3,200 relay (9:07.19 and Eastlake in the frosh/soph coed mid-distance (6:55.18) and girls varsity sprint medley (1:52.21).
In field relay events, Otay Ranch captured top marks in the pole vault (32-7), long jump (69-9.75) and high jump (21-4) while Eastlake won the triple jump (148-5).
Top individual marks among local athletes included Sweetwater’s Sal Nasser, a returning state meet qualifier, in the boys long jump (23-0.75), Otay’s Esteban in the boys triple jump (46-3), Otay’s Davis in the girls triple jump (33-10.25), Otay’s Xander Law in the boys pole vault (13-1), Otay’s Cameron Lancour in the boys high jump (6-2), Otay’s Hannah Moss in the girls pole vault (9-0), Eastlake’s Ashley Ross in the girls discus throw (108-0.5) and girls shot put (30-6), Eastlake’s Thalia Malachi in the girls high jump (5-0), Eastlake’s Johnna Noiseaux in the girls long jump (15-8) and Sweetwater’s Jose Higuera in the boys shot put (52-6) and discus throw (134-5).
Mater Dei Catholic finished third among Division II teams at last weekend’s meet with 91 points to trail division winner La Jolla (149 points) and third place Imperial (136).
Fifteen teams competed overall.
“As always, it’s a lot of fun,” meet director Tim Latham said. “The kids form a lot of team camaraderie and get a chance to compete in something different.”
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