By refraining from eating cookies, Liberty junior Morganne Hill has made the early part of the track season a piece of cake.
For the second consecutive Southwest Yosemite League meet, Hill won three individual events and anchored the Patriots' victorious 1,600-meter relay Wednesday, leading Liberty to another team victory and serving notice that she'll again be a force at the CIF State Championships in June.
Afterward, she shared her secret.
"I've been taking it more seriously this year," said Hill, whose less-serious approach still yielded state medals in both hurdles events last year. "I'm working 10 times harder, just with my diet and getting enough sleep. I'm not eating Oreos anymore, which has been the hardest part. That's my weakness."
When a friend interjected, Hill amended.
"OK, I eat one every now and then, as a reward," Hill said.
Perhaps a Oreo is in order after four victories on a cold, blustery day. Hill's times of 14.60 seconds in the 100 hurdles, 42.99 in the 300 hurdles and 25.53 in the 200 weren't season-bests, but they were close on a day when conditions weren't ideal.
"I can just feel a huge difference from last year to this year," she said. "I'm getting stronger, and every race just seems easier."
Liberty's 1,600 relay time was a season-best 4:07.43 and was keyed by a 53-second split from freshman Anuoluwa Ayeni, who was discovered earlier this month in the physical education class of Liberty coach Ryan Renz's wife, Yvette. Alexa Hill, Morganne's younger sister, then ran the third leg before handing off to Morganne.
The Patriots girls also claimed victories in the long jump (Ty Wallace, 16-0), high jump (Nikki Leonard, 4-10) and discus (Rae Blansett, 137-9).
"We have such an awesome team, and I'm having so much fun," Morganne Hill said. "We're all improving, and it makes me want to keep going, too."
On the boys side, Bakersfield High won the team title behind Derrick Vickers' win in a wild 110 hurdles race. His 14.87 was the Central Section's best time this season -- and was followed in close succession by Frontier's Gabe Gaeta (14.88), Stockdale's Alec Benavides (14.91) and Independence's Isaac Clark (14.95).
"I've never had a race like that, where it was four of us that close," said Gaeta, who went on to win the 300 hurdles in 39.63. "I think we just pushed each other so much, and that's why we all went sub 15 (seconds)."
The Drillers also had a double victory from Scotty Newton, who marked a season-best 23-11.5 in the long jump and 45-1 in the triple jump.
Stockdale senior Blake Haney won three events: His signature 1,600 (4:26.15) and 3,200 (9:27.76), events in which he's the defending state champion, plus the 800 (1:58.04), which he's been running to improve his top-end speed.
"My main goal is to defend my state titles and break four (minutes) in the mile," Haney said. "The 800 helps me do both."
Other double winners were: Frontier's Colton Foster in the boys shot put (57-0.5) and discus (171-10), Bakersfield's Maggie Baker in the girls 1,600 (5:22.54) and 3,200 (11:47.34) and Bakersfield's Mikaela Romanini in the girls 400 (59.21) and 800 (2:23.40).