By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Looking to amp up the level of competition heading into the final stretch of the collegiate track & field season, College of the Canyons took a small contingent of athletes to compete at last weekend's UCLA Rafer Johnson /Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational at Drake Stadium.
COC freshman Jacore Johnson had perhaps the best performance of the day for Canyons. The former Valencia High School standout placed sixth in the 200m at a time of 22.25 while running mostly against athletes from NCAA Division I programs.
Johnson's sixth-place time came behind a trio of runners from the University of Oklahoma and two more from UCLA. His time bested the pace of runners from programs including UCLA, Fresno State and CSU Fullerton.
Johnson's fifth-place time of 48.0 in the 400m was a season-best for the freshman and represents the No. 7 time posted by a CCCAA athlete thus far this season. It's also the Southern California region's No. 4 ranked time.
Freshman Timothy Sterkel turned some heads by winning the second heat of the 1500m at a time of 4:05.22 to place 10th overall. Sterkel, who ran for West Ranch High School a year ago, was one of only two non-NCAA athletes that finished in the event's top 10.
"We set some individual goals for Jacore and Tim at the UCLA meet and they both went out and competed," said COC track & field head coach Lindie Kane. "It was a great opportunity for them to be able to run in Drake Stadium and they both performed great."
COC sophomore Delon Buncio had a good showing in the 400h with a fifth-place time of 56.59, which was just a half-second behind the fourth place runner from CSU Fullerton. Buncio continues to be a stalwart for the Cougars this season having scored points in seven different events.
"Delon is the pulse of our team," said Kane, about the sophomore that has competed in the 100m, 400h, long jump, triple jump, javelin, 4x100m and 4x400m this season. "His performance will be key for us over the next few weeks."
Buncio is state ranked in the 400h, long jump and javelin. According to Kane "he has a chance to win a conference title in all three events."
Jordan Palmer's march toward the CCCAA state championships continued on Saturday with a season-best toss of 14.99m (49' 2.25") to finish 13th in the shot put event. That throw currently ranks No. 3 in the state and No. 1 in the region among community college athletes.
Palmer, who ranks No. 5 in the program's all-time history, is expected to be among the serious contenders vying for the Western State Conference (WSC) shot put title when the conference prelims get underway Friday at Santa Barbara City College.
In 2018, the WSC shot put title went to Chimechi Oparanozi of Santa Monica College after his throw of 14.62m (47' 11.75"). Oparanozi then finished runner-up (15.56m / 51' 0.75") at the state meet.
"Jordan came to us as a top-ranked high school thrower," said Kane about the two-sport athlete from Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks. "He has trained hard, adjusted well to the competition at this level and continues to excel for us."
Palmer was also an offensive lineman on COC's conference champion football team in the fall.
COC last won an individual conference title in the shot put in 2014 when freshman Marvin Magg threw for a mark of 13.00m.
The shot put is one of a handful events that will crown a conference champion prior to the WSC Finals. The men's and women's discus, long jump and 10,000m events will also be decided at the WSC Prelims. All other conference champions, as well as both a men's and women's team champion, will be determined at the WSC Finals on Friday, April 26 at Moorpark College.
"The goal this week is to get as many points as possible out of those finals events and see how many athletes we can qualify for the conference finals," Kane said. "With 14 teams in the field it should make for a very competitive meet."
COC's men's team finished runner-up at both conference meets this season. Canyons trailed meet winner Cuesta College 131-130 at the WSC North meet back in February. The Cougars then finished behind Glendale College 149-138 at the WSC Inland meet on March 29.
The men's track & field team has won two conference titles in program history. The first came in 1970 during the program's first year of existence in the Desert Conference. Canyons also won in 2014 when sophomore Tim White helped lead the Cougars to victory by winning the long jump, triple jump and high jump events.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
—Photo by Jacob Velarde/COC Sports Information