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Votaw, Rivera, Carmona win boys track and field league championships

High school track and field team league championships are determined based on the results of dual meets. Individual league championships are given to the winner of each event at the league meet, which for the Valley League this year took place May 3 at Valley Center High School. The boys league champions included three Fallbrook High School seniors.

Damien Votaw cleared 14’0” to win the boys pole vault, and Fallbrook senior Aiden Bernier had the second-place height of 13’6”. A time of 4:34.15 gave Jose Rivera the 1,600-meter race victory, and Rivera also finished second in the 800-meter run and third in the 3,200-meter event. Sammy Carmona had the winning high jump at 6’4” while obtaining the second-place triple jump distance.

Fallbrook’s boys had a 2-3 record during league dual meets. An athlete is limited to four events at a meet. Each of the 14 individual events provides first-place, second-place, and third-place position points while first-place points are only given for the two relay races.

The Warriors did not have enough athletes to fill all allowed lanes or field event flights. “That put us at a disadvantage,” said Fallbrook head coach Marco Arias.

Fallbrook was competitive in many of the events where the Warriors had a full contingent. “They had a lot of success all the way around,” Arias said.

Last year Votaw cleared 11’6” at the league meet to match his personal record and place second behind Bernier, who reached 13’6”. Votaw cleared 13’0” for the first time March 7 for first place in the non-league dual meet against Rancho Buena Vista and improved his personal record to 13’1” in the April 24 league dual meet at Ramona.

“It was all about him getting on the bigger pole,” said Fallbrook pole vault coach Jim Curran.

The boys pole vaulters started on smaller poles for the initial league meet height of 9’6”. Thirteen boys cleared that height, and 11 of those cleared 10’0”. All 11 of those boys were successful at 10’6”.

Three of the boys vaulted no higher than 10’6” including Fallbrook senior Devin Huntington, who was given ninth place on the tiebreaker of fewer misses. Fallbrook senior Fisher Phillips set a personal record of 11’0” before settling for eighth place. Huntington and Phillips had both competed in distance races during previous track and field seasons, but neither were pole vaulters until this year.

Huntington cleared 11’1” at the April 24 meet in Ramona. Curran has been coaching pole vaulters since 1989, when he was with the Rancho Buena Vista team, and had never previously had two first-year pole vaulters clear 11’0” or higher.

All seven boys who cleared 11’6” at the league meet also cleared 12’0”. Five of those were successful at 12’6”. Votaw, Bernier, Ramona junior Parker Doomey, and Ramona sophomore Logan Barrera went over the bar at 13’0”.

The two Ramona boys were eliminated after failing to clear 13’6”. Votaw set a personal record at that height which lasted until his next attempt. Bernier also cleared 13’6”.

Bernier was unsuccessful in winning the boys pole vault league championship for the third consecutive season despite having cleared at least 14 feet in seven other meets this year. He cleared 14’6” at last year’s CIF meet and improved his personal record to 14’7” at the March 9 Don Jones Bronco Invitational meet at Rancho Bernardo High School.

Fallbrook’s final non-league dual meet of 2024 took place March 14 at home when the Warriors hosted Vista, and a height of 15’0” set a new personal record. Bernier also cleared 15’0” during the March 21 league dual meet at home against Mission Vista, at the April 11 league dual meet at home against Escondido, and during the April 17 league dual meet at Valley Center.

Votaw was able to reach 14’0” for the league championship. “He came out of nowhere,” Arias said. “It’s a huge PR for him.”

The 14’0” height also matched the league record which had been set in 2003 by Escondido High School’s Ryan McClain.

“It was fun watching him,” Curran said.

Gavin Weber, who was a Fallbrook senior at the time, won the league boys pole vault championship in 2021 when Bernier had the sixth-place height of 9’9”. Bernier cleared 12’3” to win the 2022 league championship while Votaw’s first year as a pole vaulter concluded with a 9’9” performance worth fifth place.

Fallbrook thus had the top two pole vault heights for the second consecutive year. “It was a special day in the boys pole vault,” Arias said.

Last year Rivera ran only the 800-meter race, which he won in 2:06.36, and the 4x400 relay. “He elected to go after the mile this year,” Arias said.

(One mile is actually 1,609 meters, but the 1,600-meter race is often referred to as the metric mile.)

This year Rivera competed in the 1,600-meter, 800-meter, and 3,200-meter events at the league meet. “He wanted to race all three,” Arias said.

Arias and Rivera developed a plan for Rivera to win this year’s 1,600-meter league championship. “He executed it to perfection,” Arias said.

Rivera won the 1,600-meter race in 4:34.15. Valley Center sophomore Malakas Schlater-Julian was second at 4:36.09 and Ramona sophomore George Mesa had the third-place time of 4:36.63.

“He made a push. They let him go a little bit,” Arias said of Rivera’s race. “He just got stronger and stronger.”

The 1,600-meter event is the first of the three distance races. “It took a lot out of him,” Arias said.

Rivera still finished second in the 800-meter run. Schlater-Julian won that race in 2:04.73; Rivera had a time of 2:05.57, and Mission Vista freshman Cade Willhoit had a 2:05.69 performance for third. Mesa won the 3,200-meter race with a time of 10:12.03; Mission Vista freshman Alex Kelsey became the second finisher 10:33.41 after the race began, and Rivera completed the race in 10:47.25 for third place.

“Finishing with a first, a second, and a third is pretty impressive,” Arias said.

Carmona joined Fallbrook’s track and field team in 2022 but did not compete in the high jump as a sophomore. Last year, the tiebreaker of previous missed attempts cost Carmona the boys high jump league championship; Carmona and 2023 Mission Hills senior Cayden How both cleared 6’4” with How being given first and Carmona taking second. Ramona’s Jamil Kassab was third last year with a jump of 5’8”. Kassab, who is now a senior, was second this year with a height of 6’0”.

“It’s an accomplishment,” Arias said of Carmona’s 6’4” winning height. “I’m happy that he actually got that league championship.”

Kassab won the triple jump with a distance of 41’5”. Carmona was second at 40’6”. Jacques Rogers, who attended Sullivan Middle School and is now a Mission Vista High School junior, was third with a jump of 39’6”.

Fallbrook took third in both sprints with senior Chris Bausch finishing the 100-meter dash in 11.39 seconds and sophomore Dylan Glatt completing the 200-meter dash in 23.58 seconds. Glatt was ninth in the 100-meter dash with an 11.78-second performance while junior A.J. Betancourt finished the 200-meter dash in 24.16 seconds for sixth place.

Bausch, Glatt, senior Javier Valdez, and senior Paul Reyes were fourth in the 4x100 relay with a time of 46.01 seconds. A time of 55.48 seconds gave junior Ken Pacheco fifth place in the 400-meter run while sophomore Xavier Charland finished eighth at 56.78 seconds.

The fourth-place long jump distance of 19’3” was shared by three athletes including Charland and Fallbrook sophomore Jayden Wallace. A throw of 44’2” gave junior Wyatt Casillas sixth in the shot put, and Casillas threw the discus 121’8” for eighth place.

The high school league meet debut of freshman Tristan Valtierra included the 10th-place time of 12:43.10 in the 3,200-meter race.

“A lot of kids who are not the league champions are seeing the rewards,” Arias said.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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