The action will be fast and furious in Southern California for area community college teams and athletes expecting to finish their seasons on top.
Sprinter Diondre Batson and his American River teammates seek to repeat as champions at the state track and field meet in Norwalk. The trials are Friday and finals Saturday at Cerritos College.
Meanwhile in Bakersfield, Cosumnes River's baseball team hits the road again for the state final four with the double-elimination event starting Friday.
The Hawks won the Big 8 Conference and two regional playoff tournaments despite not having a single home game or practice because of facility upgrades. Conference rival Sierra is also in the final four. It won the state title in 2008.
Sierra's softball team also will be in Bakersfield for the state final four. Sierra reached the finals in 2009.
"The area JC's have done a great job, and we all seem to be getting better and better," Sierra softball coach Darci Brownell said.
A closer look:
Track and field Batson has the state's fastest sprint times, clocking 10.10 seconds in the 100 meters to win the NorCal title Friday. He was wind-aided by 2.4 meters per second, a fraction over the legal 2.0. Batson needs a wind-legal 10.18 to earn the Olympic "A" qualifying mark to compete in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., next month. He has a qualifying 200-meter mark with a lifetime best of 20.50, and he won the NorCal 200 in 20.71.
"I've got a lot more in me," Batson said.
Sacramento City men's 400 relay team Jacob Bautista, Lamont Beard, Delano Clarke and anchor Breonntae Snelling has the state's fastest time of 40.15 seconds and expects to compete for the title. Bautista and Beard also run the 4x400 relay with Jonathan Averette and Ronnie Floyd. They won the NorCal title in 3 minutes, 13.71 seconds. Sac City women's 4x400 relay team of Jazmine Alexander, Nadine Umeh, TreAna Johnson and Alexandria Whitmore won the NorCal final in 3:51.67.
ARC also has athletes coming off NorCal wins: Matt Airola (800, 1,500), Garrett Seawell (5,000) and Josh Gruver (3,000 steeplechase). Aaron Tombleson of Sac City won the hammer and shot put titles.
Baseball CRC (25-16) plays Rio Hondo of Whittier (38-3) Friday at 6 p.m. The Hawks will pitch either Austin Ales (10-2, 1.11 ERA) or Nick Smart (5-5, 2.44). CRC also is led by shortstop Josh Silver (.315, 26 RBIs) and Jake Schu (.301, 21 RBIs). Rio Hondo, winners of 33 games in a row, is led by pitchers A.J. Gonzalez (12-0), Bryce Rutherford (9-2) and Andrew Morales (12-0).
Sierra (25-15-1) plays nationally ranked No. 1 Orange Coast (36-5-1), which seeks its second title in four years. Sierra already has pulled off two upsets toppling higher seeds in Laney of Oakland in a NorCal regional and Feather River and Fresno City in a super regional. The Wolverines are led by ace Josh Eagle (10-2, 99 strikeouts), Ryan Millison (4-3) and Dillon Jones (5-4). Brad Gerig (.342, 36 RBIs) won two NorCal games with home runs.
NorCal teams have won four of the past seven state titles after years of SoCal dominance. Should CRC and Sierra meet in the finals, it would be a first for the Big 8, which seeks a third champion since 2008.
Softball Sierra (41-6) opens Friday against Cypress (41-4), which has won seven state titles since 1997, including the past two. Sierra is led by state co-Player of the Year Ashley Osier (20-2 as a pitcher, 22 homers) and catcher Annette Merjano, who helped power the Wolverines to two regional titles.