Macayla Wells remembers competing against Rebecca Vanderpoel in the hurdles during fifth grade.

During their days in youth track and field competitions around Kern County, Wells, a freshman at Taft now, and Vanderpoel, now a freshman at Liberty, were part of a strong group of athletes with promise of high-level high school competition.

Those two, plus fellow Liberty freshmen Faith Bender and Reese Renz, lead the way of the next big wave of county athletes heading into this weekend’s CIF State Track and Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis on Friday and Saturday.

Bender is ranked No. 3 for all grades in the girls discus and is a favorite to also medal in the girls shot put.

Her personal bests of 160 feet, 7 inches in the discus and 44-8 ½ are also the top marks for a girls freshman in the United States.

Renz, who will compete in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, long jump and the girls 1,600 relay in the preliminary heats on Friday, is ranked No. 7 in the U.S. for freshmen in the 300 hurdles (43.86 seconds) and is No. 19 in the state this season in the event. 

Wells is the eighth-best girls freshman triple jumper (39-0 ¼) and Vanderpoel is top 10 for freshmen in the state in the 200 (24.95) and the 400 (56.71).

“I really like spending time with them,” Wells said. “They are really good people and I like to watch them do great things.”

Wilson seeking rarified company

Gail Devers and Janeen Vickers.

Those names are synonymous with track and field greatness in the U.S.

Devers won Olympic gold medals in the 100 in 1992 in Barcelona and in 1996 in Atlanta.

Vickers won the bronze medal in the 400 in 1992.

Before their professional prowess, each won 100 and 100 hurdles California state championships, with Devers winning two titles in 1984 for San Diego-Sweetwater High and Vickers winning in 1987 as a senior at Pomona.

Stockdale senior Aaliyah Wilson has a chance to join those two as the only girls sprinters to win both events.

Even more impressive in what Wilson is accomplishing this season before she heads off to Washington on scholarship is the fact that, according to, her combined times of 11.49 in the 100 (tops in the state) and 13.70 wind-legal PR in the 100 hurdles (No. 2 in California) are the fastest combination for an athlete in the same season ever done in the state.

Wilson has incredible competition in both events.

The reigning state champion in the 100 — Ariyonna Augustine from Long Beach Poly — is back and her best time this season is just .07 of a second behind Wilson at 11.56.

Upland senior Jada Hicks has the top mark in the state at 13.54 seconds. Hicks has not lost a race this season, including at the Arcadia Invitational where Wilson finished fourth.

Krauss overcame long odds

Four years ago this week, Seth Krauss was burned in an accident at home near a fire pit. He suffered second-to-third degree burns on 20 percent of his legs and feet, and was hospitalized for two weeks.

Krauss, now a senior at Liberty, and his family were presented with the fact he may not have normal mobility and be able to walk normally, let alone compete athletically again.

Today, however, Krauss is headed back to the state meet for a second consecutive season and is ranked No. 3 in the high jump with a PR of 6-11, after winning the Central Section Masters title with a leap of 6-8 two weeks ago.

“It had a big impact on me,” Krauss said. “It motivated me. Because when someone tells me I can’t do something or that I won’t, I try to go out and do it.”

Last season Krauss finished ninth in the state finals after just three months of competing in the event.

Trevor Horn can be reached at (661) 395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @trevhorn.

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