Most of the area sports teams endured their first set of struggles transitioning to the Channel League this season. Some missed the playoffs, others endured next-to-last place finishes.

But it all changed once Lompoc, Cabrillo and Santa Ynez all hit the track.

The performances of all three programs I think signified two things.

One: The Northern part of Santa Barbara County definitely has the athletes to compete with the much larger schools down south.

Two: It doesn’t matter the league they’re in — the trio of CHS, LHS and SYHS will always have a track athlete claiming first or moving on to the CIF Southern Section prelims.

It’s a significant statement for all three local schools —considering the early hardships that other teams on each campus endured this season; from basketball teams going from the state playoffs to missing the postseason the next season, to teams that wound up battling for fifth in a six-team league.

But track and field ends the first go-round in the Channel League on a more positive note.

Individually, all three schools produced a first-place finisher on April 24. Team-wise, the boys and girls sides each produced the league champion from outside of Santa Barbara and Goleta.

But there’s more.

At the April 24 meet, and facing schools with twice or three times the size of the Northern Santa Barbara County three, 13 of the 16 events on the boys side saw the following: A Cabrillo or Lompoc athlete claiming first, or a top three sweep comprising of Santa Ynez, LHS or CHS athletes.

One was a familiar name in CHS lore: Ty Hernandez, as the future Westmont College student-athlete snatched first in the 300 meter hurdles.

But the Conquistadores also end Channel League play with a sophomore who has put the future of the league on notice: Josiah Meyers, who earned first with a time of 16.07 in the 110 meter hurdles.

He’s not the only rising sophomore in the Lompoc Valley.

Cailin Daniels gave the Braves optimism for track and field’s future by earning first place marks in the long jump and high jump to close out the league season.

But like Hernandez, other names who dominated the Los Padres League carried that same prowess into the C.L.

Cabrillo’s deep pole vaulting unit continued to dominate the top marks in the event — with returner Isaac Williams ending the C.L season in first.

Lompoc’s throwing trio of Jovany Lucatero, Juan DeLuna and Jacob Nunez ended each meet in the top three or winning the whole shot put and discus field.

Santa Ynez senior and football star Jasper Kadlec also emerged as a threat to win first while using his long strides in the 100 meter and 200 meter.

Staying with the Pirates, there’s a freshman who is already looking like she will be next in line for a program that’s seen Pac-10 and NCAA Division II athletes.

Her name is Neta Ofiaeli, who ended her first C.L finals appearance as a triple winner in the 100, 200 and triple jump.

And on the girls side, 13 of the 16 track and field events wound up with a winner from the aforementioned northern trio of schools — with Santa Ynez adding a league championship banner in the end.

Here’s what’s also going to be challenging for future girls track programs lining up against LHS, CHS, and SYHS — most of the high place finishers will be back next season; names like Ayziah Simmons, Avenlea McGraw, Maiya McIntyre, Quincy Valle, Amelia Villa, Leslie Ramirez, etc.

The Channel League season ended on a more positive, dominant note through track and field. Don’t be stunned if it carries over into next season.

Lorenzo J. Reyna covers sports and news for Lee Central Coast Newspapers, particularly in the Lompoc Valley. He can be reached at lreyna@leecentralcoastnews.com

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