To Faith Bender and Reese Renz, there is plenty of room at the top to share the glory.
The two Liberty sophomores were the marquee two-event standouts in track and field in Kern County and ended the season with each earning two medals in May at the CIF State Track and Field Championships.
Renz finished third in the girls 300 hurdles and sixth in the 100 hurdles at state while Bender finished second in the discus and fifth in the shot put.
Renz and Bender are the 2019 BVarsity All-Area Girls Track and Field Athletes of the Year.
“I think this is awesome and is better because we are teammates,” Renz said. “It shows how strong our program is and how strong we are.”
Added Bender: “It’s cool because track really is an individual sport. But we are all a team.”
The trajectory of the season for these two were not as similar as the successful outcome.
Bender came into the season with a lot of notoriety after finishing fifth at state in the discus as a freshman and was widely considered the second-best in the discus nationally, behind Fowler senior Jocelynn Budwig.
Renz on the other hand, was a state qualifier as a freshman but did not reach the finals last June.
Then she quickly put the rest of the hurdlers in California on notice with a 14.44 100 hurdles at the EB Relays on March 1 but was waiting to cut time in the 300 hurdles.
Then on April 6, Renz shot up the state leaderboard with a 42.40 at the Arcadia Invitational out of lane 8 without another competitor in lane 7 in her heat.
“At Arcadia. Running that 42, I was not expecting that because I hadn’t broken 43 all season,” Renz said. “So when I ran the 42, I realized all of my training is paying off and maybe I can move up and be at the top in state.”
Then Renz set personal-best times in both events in the state finals with a wind-aided 14.15 in the 100 hurdles and 42.24 in the 300 hurdles which she passed up three other hurdlers in the final 100 meters.
“At the end of the race, it’s about what you have left and what your training did for you,” Renz said. “If I keep training and doing well, then I could beat those other girls.”
While Renz quickly made a name for herself in the hurdles, Bender continue to perform at the level expected of her all season.
As the top sophomore thrower in the United States, Bender set a personal-best at Arcadia in the discus at 163-10 in her final attempt in the preliminary round where she finished second overall at the prestigious meet in Southern California.
Bender, who earned two all-american honors earlier this month at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships in North Carolina, then set another personal-best in the discus in the state finals at 168-6.
Known nationally as an elite discus thrower, Bender vastly improved in the shot put this season. After an eighth-place finish in the state finals in 2018, Bender won the Central Section title with a PR of 47-4.75 then set another PR at New Balance at 47-7.25.
Going into her junior campaign, Bender is ranked No. 2 nationally in both events and the best in her class in the country.
While both know the attention will be on them over the next two seasons, the excitement level will be calmed while they train for the upcoming season to create even more buzz as both are eager to possibly take home state championships.
“We really have to not take the excitement too seriously,” Bender said. “Instead, we need to take it into our preparation and make the results show.”