CATCH THEM IF YOU CAN: St Mary's Academy Junior, Gianna Woodruff (left) won the Division IV title in the 300 hurdles in 43.30 seconds, barely passing Serra Sophomore Urina Harrell. The Cavaliers, however, got revenge by winning the Division IV title for the second consecutive year.Â (Nick Koza for Sentinel)
Both teams expect to place in multiple events at Masters meet, Friday
By Evan BarnesSentinel Sports Editor
Gardena Serra and Inglewood St. Mary's Academy have had quite the rivalry the last three years and it took center stage right away at the CIF Southern Section Division IV Finals at Cerritos College.
Serra won the 4 x 100m relay by .01 of a second (46.19-46.20) after a furious anchor leg by sophomore Maya Brown. Brown jumped out quick but had to hold off a furious charge from St. Mary's senior Aijah Urssery that had the crowd roaring on their feet.
"I just had to keep pushing forward," Brown said, "My coaches remind me to just use my arms when I feel tired."
Urssery tried to lean in at the finish but when it was announced Serra finished first, all she could do was shake her head.
"We did what we were supposed to. I knew it was going to be extremely close," Urssery said.
It was sweet revenge for Serra, who lost last year's 4x100 to St. Mary's on the final leg. Their time is the second fastest in the state behind Rancho Verde entering Friday's Southern Section Masters' Meet.
St. Mary's got their revenge later in the day as senior Charnell Price won the 100 and 200 meters with a personal record in both (11.87/23.76) to qualify for Friday's Masters Meet.
"I've been running 100's all season so I was surprised that I got a PR [personal record] in the 200," Price said.
They scored another notch in their belt when Gianna Woodruff upset Serra sophomore Urina Harrell - who won the 100 hurdles - in the 300 hurdles to win by .19 second (43.30).
Serra, however, would win the war as the girls won their second consecutive team title. They made a statement in the 4 x 400 relay with their winning time of 3:44.29, the fastest of the day and nearly two seconds ahead of Long Beach Poly's Division I-winning time (3:46.21)
"We wanted to set the record [at the Master's Meet], but we'll take it now," senior Breyonna Hunter said.
Hunter, the team captain credited the run to the addition of junior Deena Pierce on the first leg and sophomore Kayah Agudo on the third leg. But Chimere Ezumah had the arena buzzing after her anchor split of 52.8 seconds - nearly 0.3 faster than last year's anchor Turquoise Thompson's best time.
It capped an impressive day for the freshman, who also won the 400 (54.21) and finished second in the 200 (24.28).
Awaiting them Friday is a showdown with Rancho Verde and Long Beach Poly in the relays but the girls vowed to be ready for anything.
RENEWED MOTIVATION FOR SERRA BOYS
If the Serra boys went into the Division IV finals looking to make a statement, there was no better sign than the 200 meters final when they finished in the top spots led by winner Robert Woods.
Or maybe it was Woods winning the 400 by lowering his Division IV record by nearly half a second. Perhaps the team smashing their CIF overall points record of last year, winning the Division IV title with 135 points - 9.5 more than last year.
Either way, they'll be the hungriest team entering Friday's meet. It's expected after their state-leading 4 x 100 relay squad was disqualified at the Division IV prelims two weeks ago.
"We were defending state champions in the 4 x 100 last year so now we want to win the whole thing. We don't want just one race," Devin Spann said.
Woods (21.18), Spann (21.27), George Farmer (21.45) qualified for the Masters Meet while Marcus Johnson (21.84) rounded out the foursome - all but Woods recorded their personal best.
"I guess hard work and practice helped us out," Farmer said. But Woods chimed in, "We're supposed to get 1-4, Serra has the talent so nobody should beat us."
Farmer and Spann finished 1-2 in the 100 meters, making up for their bad handoff that led the disqualification in the 4 x 100.
It was that kind of day for Serra that not even a slower-than-expected time in the 4 x 400 relay could've derailed their momentum. Their 4 x 400 relay squad (Francisco Olloqui, Pete Lauderdale, Spann and Woods) finished the day with a time of 3:14.69, two minutes slower than their record time.
As they wrapped up their final interviews, Spann jokingly called out Long Beach Poly's 4 x 400 relay squad as they walked over.
"Expect something big next race," he said.
It was the perfect set-up for what's sure to be a busy day for both squads and a finale where they'll settle it on the track.
LIST OF CIF CHAMPIONS
Division IV Girls 4 x 100 relay: Serra (46.19), St. Mary's Academy (46.20)
Division I Boys 4 x 100 relay: Long Beach Poly (41.41)
Division IV Girls 100 Hurdles: Urina Harrell (10, Serra) - 14.49*
Division I Girls 100 Hurdles: Melia Cox (11, Long Beach Poly) - 13.82*
Division IV Boys 110 Hurdles: Van Alexander (12, Serra) - 14.79*
Division IV Girls 400 Dash: Chimere Ezumah (9, Serra) - 54.21,
Division IV Boys 400 Dash: Robert Woods (12, Serra) - 46.99
Division IV Girls 100: Charnell Price (12, St. Mary's Academy) - 11.87
Division IV Boys 100: George Farmer (11, Serra) - 10.65
Division IV Girls 300 Hurdles: Gianna Woodruff (11, St. Mary's Academy) - 43.30
Division IV Girls 200: Charnell Price (12, St. Mary's Academy) - 23.76
Division IV Boys 200: Robert Woods Â (12, Serra) - 21.18*
Division IV Girls 4 x 400 relay: Serra - 3:44.29
Division I Girls 4 x 400 relay: Long Beach Poly - 3:46.21
Division IV Boys 4 x 400 relay: Serra - 3:14.69
Division I Boys 4 x 400 relay: Long Beach Poly - 3:13.86
Division IV Girls Long Jump: Aijah Urssery (17 feet, 9.25 inches)
* Wind-aided time