To be competitive at the CIF Southern Section Division IV finals as team, Miller said, about 15-16 athletes need to qualify for the event. He's hoping the 30 freshmen that competed this year will return to the program next season.
Sage Hill has seven athletes competing today at Cerritos College, where a group of locals from Corona del Mar, Estancia and Newport Harbor will also be vying to move on to next week's Masters Meet.
For the Lightning, with the exception of the boys' relay team, the focus is on the individual.
Kevin Lipman, Brian Sun, Connor Rose, and Tyler Ellis will compete in the 4x400-meter relay, and Ellis is also competing in the 400. Shaun McElroy will run in the 3,200.
Cait Williamson is racing in the 1,600, and McKenzie Muhonen is competing in the long jump and pole vault.
Williamson is the only athlete who's competed at CIF finals before in an individual event, and it's McElroy's first trip to Southern Section finals. Last week at preliminaries, she ran a personal best 5 minutes, 18 seconds.
"She's got enough races under her belt to understand what it is to run in front of big crowds," Sage Hill Coach Elias Moreno said. "She's fired up. Her body felt every second of that race. She was out."
It's also the first trip to CIF finals as a head coach for Moreno. Last season, Moreno was an assistant coach focused on sprinters and relay runners. This year, he's dealing with the challenges of overseeing the whole program.
"The big problem this season was dealing with commitment, and wanting to see more commitment. But every coach wants to see that," Moreno said.
He was still trying to figure out how to run a successful track team when his students got pulled away by Sage Hill's rigorous academic standards.
It's not unusual for runners to miss practice because of Advanced Placement testing, or just having to study.
"With any school that's tough with academics, it's tough to get those top athletes," Moreno said.
The Lightning, along with the rest of the local athletes, will be trying to be among the top nine performances, regardless of division, to advance to next week's Masters Meet, also at Cerritos College. The top 12 performances in the 1,600 and 3,200 will also advance to the Masters.
SORAYA NADIA McDONALD may be reached at (714) 966-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.