Ramona High School’s track and field team opened its 2009 season March 5 at home with a non-scoring dual meet against Fallbrook.
“Today was a great meet,” said Coach Bob Verhoest. “I thought everything went very well.”
Ramona brought 184 student-athletes to the meet while Fallbrook added 132 competitors.
Ramona’s athletes had to run in T-shirts because Verhoest didn’t have enough uniforms.
“We’ve got a big group this year,” Verhoest said. “It’s just a massive group.”
At the 2008 CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) San Diego Section finals, Fallbrook’s boys had tied for second among Division I teams while Ramona’s boys won the Division II title. The 2008 CIF finals saw Ramona’s Ryan Morgan and Fallbrook’s Marquis Sumpter qualify for the state meet, which takes the top three section finishers at each event in the finals, in the 400-meter run.
The San Diego Section’s other 400-meter qualifier, Nico Reeves, was a Lincoln High School senior in 2008, so this year’s section 400-meter championship will likely be between Morgan and Sumpter.
At the 2008 section finals, Morgan and Sumpter both set personal records in the 400-meter run. Morgan, then a sophomore, had a time of 48.16 seconds while Sumpter’s time of 48.30 seconds qualified him for the state meet as a junior. Morgan won the race last week with a time of 50.17 seconds while Sumpter had a time of 50.42 seconds.
“It was close,” Verhoest said.
“Neither of them were in top form yet,” said Fallbrook Coach Troy Hamlin. “The times were outstanding. To run 50-point this early in the season is very good. Both of them showed that if they will get to work now that they have the ability to get back to where they were last year and perhaps even further.”
Sumpter had a lead of between three and four meters about 150 meters from the starting line.
“He took it out hard,” Hamlin said. “Morgan responded and moved up on him.”
Morgan caught up to Sumpter about 250 meters into the race.
“They were pretty much shoulder to shoulder the whole way around,” Verhoest said.
“They were side to side all the way down the homestretch until about two or three meters where he (Morgan) basically leaned on him (Sumpter),” Hamlin said.
At the CIF meet, positions are given for the top finishes by division, although state qualifiers combine Division I and Division II. Morgan was also on Ramona’s 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams which took Division II titles at last year’s CIF meet, and Ramona’s Tyler Creswell won the Division II championship in the 110-meter hurdles.
Ramona’s 4x400 relay team finished fourth among all schools, missing the state meet by one position, while Creswell was sixth overall and six Division I teams had faster times than the Bulldogs’ 4x100 relay team. Fallbrook finished eighth in the 4x400 relay and was disqualified in the 4x100 for dropping the baton.
Creswell won the 110-meter and the 300-meter hurdles races in the dual meet. Ramona beat Fallbrook in the 4x400 while once again Fallbrook was disqualified in the 4x100.
Sumpter also qualified for the 2008 state meet in the 200-meter dash. Fallbrook’s other two state qualifiers were both seniors last year. One of those did so in the boys 800-meter run, but at the dual meet Ramona freshman Dylan Blankenbaker captured that race with a time of 2:15.
“Just cruising,” Verhoest said of Blankenbaker. “He had a little bit left.”
Ramona brought 184 members to the dual meet while the Fallbrook team consisted of 132 members.
“It’s quite a big team,” Hamlin said.
Both head coaches used the non-scoring meet to evaluate freshmen and other track and field newcomers.
“On the boys side we’re going to be real competitive,” Verhoest said. “I think everything will come together.”
The meet was also used to assess times, although figures after only nine days of practice aren’t indicative of later-season potential.
“The kids who are supposed to be there are close,” Verhoest said.
Other Ramona marks against Fallbrook included Chelsey Cortez completing the girls two-mile run in 11:41 and Lyndon Scott clearing 6’5” in the boys high jump.
Verhoest and his athletes are joined by five assistant coaches. Damon Baldwin is working with the Bulldog sprinters, Steve Emery is handling the pole vaulters, Jennifer Lawrence coaches the hurdlers, Ed Mumyer guides the throwers, and Erin O’Connor takes over as the assistant coach for the jumpers. Verhoest also coaches the distance runners.