By Derry Eads Monday, April 6, 2009

Except for its coach, there have been few missteps by the Oxnard High girls’ track program.

Fielding one of its best all-around lineups in years, Oxnard has positioned itself to escape a string of third-place finishes and move up one slot in the Pacific View League standings.

Oxnard has lost once in league — to favorite Rio Mesa — and once in practice when coach Humphrey Kariuki broke bones in his ankle while demonstrating high-jump technique last week, said athletic director Rick Garcia. Circled on the team’s calendar is a matchup against Camarillo on April 23.

There is more to the Oxnard program than an upper-tier Pacific View League team.

It has two contenders for titles at the Ventura County Championships and possible CIF finalists.

Oxnard has the county’s No. 1 shot putter and No. 2 hurdler, plus a good supporting cast.

Alex Cervantes owns the county-leading shot put mark at 40 feet, 512 inches. It is a school record and tied for 11th in Ventura County history. She reaffirmed that performance with a throw of 40-412 last Thursday against Pacifica. Leigh Salanoa (34-412) is moving up the county season list.

Nycole Cole ranks No. 2 among county 300-meter hurdlers with a best of 47.01 seconds.

Amanda Powell and Tara Johnson are among the county’s top sprinters.

“With all the girls coming back from our 4 x 100 relay that made it to the CIF Prelims last year, we knew that it was pretty promising for us,” said assistant coach Johnny Speed. “They had made names for themselves in youth track.

“The girls’ sprinters are running times at or better than they did at the end of last year. We’re trying to get under 50 seconds for the 4 x 100.”

Oxnard came close last Thursday with a time of 50.48. Powell and Johnson have traded opportunities to anchor the team.

“We’re disappointed that the relay team didn’t get into the Arcadia Invitational (this weekend),” said Speed.

Arcadia, here we come: Area athletes will be well represented in the blue-chip fields at the Arcadia Invitational on Friday and Saturday.

Returning state finalists Maxwell Dyce of Moorpark and Valexsia Droughn of Rio Mesa are entered in the invitational boys’ and girls’ 100-meter dashes, respectively.

Tentatively scheduled to compete in invitational fields are: Kevin Graf, Agoura, boys’ shot put; Ryan Rosales, Ventura, boys’ discus; Travis Edwards, Royal, boys’ mile; Melissa Skiba, Oak Park, and Liberty Miller, Simi Valley, girls’ 3,200; Jules Sharpe, Oaks Christian, boys’ high jump; Tara Blanchard, La Reina, girls’ 800; Heyden Wooff, Camarillo, boys’ 3,200; Simi Valley, boys’ 4 x 800 relay; Thousand Oaks, boys’ 4 x 1 mile relay; Royal, boys’ distance medley; Alex Morgan, Ventura, girls’ discus.

Other area entries include: Alex Cervantes, Oxnard, girls’ shot put; Sean Grumney, Newbury Park, Rising Stars mile run; Catherine Hasbrouck, Nordhoff, girls’ 3,200; co-state leader Lydia French, Thousand Oaks, girls’ high jump.

Ventura is bringing 32 athletes to the two-day meet.

“Except for the state meet, this will be the first time that we’re staying over one night,” said Ventura coach Kory Anderson.

The Cougars have entered 12 relay teams.

On your marks: In a prelude to the Tri-Valley League championships, two of the county’s best girls’ distance runners squared off in a double-dual meet last week. Oak Park’s Skiba held off La Reina’s Sarah Pearson in the 1,600 (5:03.48-5:10.52) and the 3,200 (10:59.27-11:03.00). ... In one of the county’s best girls’ triple jump competitions of the season, Simi Valley’s Jaimie McCormack won a Marmonte League duel against four Thousand Oaks rivals with a mark of 36-012. Meredith Bell (35-734) and Sam Rivera (35-7) were second and third. ... Ryan Rosales of Ventura ranks No. 4 in the state in the boys’ discus with a mark of 174-4. Ventura set eight school relay records in the Spartan Relays on Saturday. ... Tyler Regan of Royal had a personal season-best boys’ discus performance of 161-0 last week.