Track and field championships: Notre Dame's JJ Harel clears 7 feet in high jump

With his curly blond hair bouncing up and down as he moved confidently toward the high jump bar, 15-year-old sophomore JJ Harel of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame took a giant step, then soared over the bar on a warm Saturday afternoon at the Southern Section track and field championships at Moorpark High. When he landed without knocking over the bar, his performance became official: 7 feet and 1/4 inch, setting a Division 3 record.

“I think the heat helped a lot,” he said. “It helped me relax my muscles. My hip, my knee felt better. I knew I could get it.”

Harel is 6-4 and still growing, which has been causing the aches and pains. Finally healthy enough to compete after missing his freshman year, Harel is displaying the skills that had him marked for excellence in the event when he was clearing an AAU Junior Olympics record 6-5 as an eighth-grader and winning medals at the Maccabiah Games. It was his first time clearing 7 feet and makes him a strong candidate to win the state championship in two weeks in Clovis. He’ll likely face Birmingham’s Deshawn Banks, who has gone 6-10.

“I think I can go 7-2 before the season is over,” Harel said.

The divisional championships featured fast times in the boys’ 1,600. Evan Noonan of Dana Hills set a Division 2 record in 4:04.02. The first four finishers were faster than the old record of 4:06.71 set in 2014. Anthony Fast Horse of Ventura was in close pursuit at 4:05.26. Noonan could end up dropping the 1,600 to focus on the 3,200 for state. He won that race in 8:57.12.

Sadie Engelhardt of Ventura won her third straight girls’ 1,600 title, taking the Division 2 race in 4:46.86. She said she will try for a record in two weeks.

Jason Parra of Long Beach Millikan broke a 31-year-old Division 1 record in the boys’ 3,200 by running 8:48.36 and Manny Perez of Cathedral set a Division 3 record at 8:52.00.

Notre Dame pulled off a rare one-two-three sweep in the 110 hurdles, led by Miles Paris’ time of 14.11 seconds. Culver City ruled in the 400, winning the boys’ and girls races in Division 2. Junior Duaine Mayrant of Culver City won his race in 47.09, the fastest time in the state. Morgan Maddox won in 53.50.

Defending state girls’ 100 champion Niya Clayton of Oaks Christian has been pretty much invisible — until now. She peaks for the postseason and won the Division 3 100 in 11.61, her season best. Coach Wes Smith said the wraps have been taken off and her workouts have her ready to keep running faster. The fastest 100 time was produced by Mikaela Warr of Canyon Country Canyon in 11.49.

In the boys’ 100, junior Devin Bragg of Los Alamitos had a breakthrough win in Division 1, finishing in a wind-aided 10.38 seconds. Bragg had been chasing former Gardena Serra star Rodrick Pleasant in big meets the last two seasons. Now he’s the fastest in Southern California, if not the state. He was pushed by freshman Benjamin Harris of Long Beach Poly. He ran 10.43. And sophomore Brian Bonner of Valencia was third in 10.56. Bragg came back to win the 200 in a wind-aided 21.15.

One of the most impressive freshmen of a strong group was Roosevelt Reuben of Cathedral. He won the Division 3 200 in 21.25 and finished second in the 400 in 48.14.

Long Beach Poly recorded the fastest time in the Southern Section this season in winning the boys’ Division 1 4×100 relay in 40.93. Notre Dame had four junior football players — Elliot Cooper, Ehimen Oyamendan, Steele Pizzella and Tre Fernandez — run 41.15 to take Division 3. Aja Johnson of Notre Dame won the Division 3 girls’ shot put (45-6.50) and discus (147-9).

The top nine times in races advance to next Saturday’s Masters Meet at Moorpark, along with the top 12 in field events.

Team titles in girls went to Long Beach Poly (Division 1), Calabasas (Division 2), JSerra (Division 3) and St. Mary’s (Division 4). For boys, team titles went to Long Beach Poly and Long Beach Wilson (Division 1 tie), Ventura (Division 2), Cathedral (Division 3), Viewpoint (Division 4).

Division 1 boys came down to the 4×400 relay, and Wilson won to tie Poly with 44 points.

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