By Dan Arritt     5/12/2015

The first two months of the track and field season were just warm-up laps for the Mater Dei boys’ team.

Now it’s time to get serious.

The next four weekends will determine whether the Monarchs have what it takes to defend their state championship. Speed, strength and agility will certainly be deciding factors, but coaches and athletes are also keenly aware that a dropped baton, false start or lane violation can play just as big a role.

The road to the state finals June 5-6 at Buchanan High School in Clovis actually began last week with the Trinity League preliminaries and will continue Friday with the league finals at Santa Margarita High. League champions for team and individuals were already determined during the dual meet portion of the season, so now it’s all about achieving a qualifying mark that will advance the athletes to the Southern Section Division II preliminaries May 16 at Moorpark High School.

The top qualifiers from all four divisions will then converge May 23 at Cerritos College for the section finals, where order of finish in each event will regain importance, as that’s how points are earned toward team standings. Then it’s another week of qualifying at the Southern Section Masters Meet back at Cerritos College on May 29, followed by the state finals the following weekend.

“Now’s the time to go compete,” said Mater Dei coach Rick Martinez.

Winning a section or state title doesn’t require a team to have a high finisher in every event. The Monarchs won their state championship last season by scoring points in just three events, though all were first-place finishes. Curtis Godin won the 100 and 200 meters and Malik McMorris took home the discus title.

Godin has graduated, but Martinez is hoping for another successful run by McMorris, who’s the current state leader in the discus with a mark of 194 feet 8 inches, achieved while winning the prestigious Arcadia Invitational on April 11. McMorris, who signed a letter of intent to play football at California next fall, is expected to take aim at the 200-foot barrier in the coming weeks.

“We’re taking things a little slower because it’s such a long season for him, but every meet he has been right there,” Martinez said. “This is his time of year.”

McMorris, combined with decent depth in the sprints and middle distance events, should give the Monarchs the points they need to make a run at a section title, though winning the state crown may require a few extraordinary performances, especially from the sprint group of Garrett Estrada, Stephen Menzia, Noah Delgadillo and Adrian Hernandez.

“We don’t have that exceptional athlete like we did last year, but four strong sprinters, and they’re rounding into shape right now,” Martinez said.

Martinez said Estrada has been the biggest surprise this season. He had not ran track since his freshman year but was encouraged by his football teammates to give the sport another try following his senior season last fall.

He finished third on his team in 11.41 seconds and was ninth overall in his first meet of the season, but quickly improved and won his first race a month later in a dual meet against Santa Margarita, crossing the finish line in 10.97.

“He’s picked it up really well,” Martinez said.