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By Zach Cavanagh
Little by little, the competitive field gets whittled down over the course of the California track and field season.
First, there are the league meets, where the top nine advance from the preliminaries to the finals and only the event winners and second- and third-place finishers that hit qualifying standards advance further. Then, there are the section preliminaries, where heat winners and a total of nine competitors per event advance to the section finals.
Out of the section finals, only the nine best performances in an event across all of the section’s divisions move on to the Masters meet, where only the top six finishers move on to the biggest stage of the CIF State Championships.
Dana Hills’ track and field program qualified 12 entries out of the South Coast League to the CIF-SS preliminaries, only nine to the CIF-SS Division 1 Finals and just five to the CIF-SS Masters Meet.
Now, only two Dolphins remain: senior Jai Dawson and junior Allura Markow.
Dawson finished second in a photo-finish boys 800-meter run, and Markow claimed the final qualifying spot in the girls 1,600-meter run at CIF-SS Masters on Saturday, May 21, at Moorpark High School. The two Dana Hills distance runners will compete in the CIF State Championships with the preliminaries on Friday, May 27, and finals on Saturday, May 28, at Buchanan High School in Clovis.
This is the first CIF State Championship held since 2019.
Dawson has been the top track star for the Dolphins all season, and while he easily qualified in the 800, the title of Masters champion came down to the finish. Dawson trailed the top spot coming around the final turn, and the New Zealand native turned it on for the home stretch. Dawson charged forward, but he was just edged out by Ellis Delvecchio of Thacher by 0.02 seconds for the Masters title.
Masters was just the third time all season that Dawson lost a heat of the 800. Dawson finished second at the Arcadia Invitational to a runner from Utah, and he finished second in the preliminaries of the South Coast League Finals. Dawson won at the Orange County Championships, South Coast League Finals, CIF-SS preliminaries and CIF-SS Division 2 Finals.
Dawson is slated to be the top seed in his heat, and the No. 2 seed overall in the state preliminaries. Dawson is in the second of three heats, and the event will begin around 7:50 p.m. on Friday. The top three runners per heat and the next three best times overall will qualify for the state finals on Saturday.
Despite being the CIF-SS Division 2 champion in the 1,600-meter run, Dawson did not compete in the event at Masters. This is not the first time Dawson has chosen not to run in a postseason event for which he qualified. Dawson was the South Coast League champion in the 800 last year, but he did not run it at CIF. Dawson also qualified for the 3,200-meter CIF-SS Finals last season, but did not run in the final. He finished second in the 1,600 at CIF-SS last season.
On the girls side, Markow qualified in two events for the Masters Meet—the 1,600 and 3,200—but like Dawson, she chose to focus on one event instead of two. Ultimately, it worked out for Markow in the 1,600, as well, if just barely.
Despite posting a personal-record time by nearly three seconds, Markow just slid in to the sixth and final state-qualifying spot in the girls 1,600. Markow took the spot by 0.61 seconds with a time of 4:51.97.
Markow is the fifth seed in the second of two heats in the 1,600 at the state preliminaries. The top four finishers in each heat plus the next four best times qualify for the finals. The prelims will be contested at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
Markow won the South Coast League title in the 1,600 and finished second at the Orange County Championships. Markow also finished fifth at the CIF-SS Division 5 Finals.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.