Liberty's girls track and field team didn't really need another star to emerge, but hey, on a day of celebration? The more, the merrier.
Patriots freshman Cagnei Duncan came from relative anonymity to sweep the distance races Wednesday at Liberty in the Southwest Yosemite League finals, tacking on points for a team that didn't really need them to complete a sweep of four SWYL meets.
"It's a tough league, and when we set out, our goal was to win the title," Liberty coach Ryan Renz said. "It's a tough league, so there has been a lot of hard work involved. This was kind of the culmination of all of that."
Yes, junior Morganne Hill dazzled in the hurdles yet again, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 14.22 (wind-aided) and the 300 hurdles in 42.64. And yes, the dynamic duo of Rae Blansett and Alicia Viveros combined to sweep the girls throws for the fourth consecutive league meet; Blansett threw 149-3 to take the discus, and Viveros' 37-4 beat Blansett by an inch in the shot put.
Blansett's discus throw is the third-best mark in the state this season.
But Renz singled out the unsung heroes -- the runners and jumpers who weren't always winning gold medals but were always racking up team points.
Until Wednesday, one of those was Duncan. But then, she won her first two races of the season without being challenged in either, setting a personal record with a 5:19.47 in the 1,600 and coming close to another PR with an 11:40.34 in the 3,200.
"I don't really know where it came from," she said. "I was just having a good day. I felt relaxed. I always just focus on the next person to pass."
Stockdale, led by Asia Chesley's high jump victory (5-7) and Caryna Childs' win in the triple jump (33-11.5), placed second Wednesday and finished third overall in the league. Bakersfield, which got a double victory from freshman Mikaela Romanini in the 400 (58.74) and 800 (2:19.95) finished second overall.
Independence's Kyra Saunders swept the 100 (wind-aided 12.05) and 200 (25.12) and helped the Falcons win the 400 relay in a season-best time of 49.34.
On the boys side, too, team champion Frontier needed performances both in the spotlight and out of it.
At many track meets, you don't get further away from the spotlight than the discus ring, where Titans senior Colton Foster does his work. He spun 173-5 on Wednesday, and he added a 58-8 in the shot put.
"It means a lot to know that you're contributing to the team as a thrower, going out and getting 20 points every week," Foster said. "I think it makes coach (Dave) Gaeta happy, and that's why he keeps me around."
Jokes aside, Frontier needed those points Wednesday. The Titans had swept the three mini league meets, but Liberty finished first and Stockdale second Wednesday. Frontier's third-place finish was enough to hold off the Patriots 42-40 in the final league standings.
"The kids worked so hard during the mini meets; that's when we were at our best," Gaeta said. "We knew we were in the driver's seat, so we had some guys go down to JV and try to make a run for (that league title). We knew we had a little leeway, and we finished top three, so it worked out."
Liberty won the meet and finished second overall behind a sweep in the relays and sprints. Anthony Mariscal had a hand in all four wins, highlighted by a wind-aided 10.85 in the 100 that's the third-fastest all-condition time in the section, and a scintillating anchor leg of the 1,600 relay, during which he held off Independence and hard-charging Centennial.
Mariscal was especially pleased with his 100 time.
"It feels great," he said. "I've been really working on my starts repeatedly, and that was pretty much my problem."
Stockdale senior Blake Haney, a defending double state champion, again made the impressive look routine, winning the 800 (1:57.52), the 1,600 (4:21.39) and the 3,200 (9:33.55).
Bakersfield's Scotty Newton, a returning state medalist in both horizontal jumps, did not compete because of a minor injury. He is expected to be ready for next Wednesday's area championships.
Frontier also had victories from Gabriel Gaeta in the 300 hurdles (38.72) and Chris Hazel in the pole vault (12-6).
But David Gaeta also mentioned some unsung contributors -- particularly distance runners Brandon Kan, Kyle Lemminn and Tanner Utt.
"We asked those guys to do a lot -- run an 800, a 1,600 and a 3,200 in a mini-meet," David Gaeta said. "That's a tough thing to do, and they hung in there all season."