It's been a team effort for Hercules High to burst onto the state boys track and field scene.
Entering this week, the Titans' 1,600-meter relay squad had the second-fastest time in the state and ninth in the nation this season at 3 minutes, 16.33 seconds, according to DyeStat.com. But its introduction to its state competitors may have actually occurred at last year's Arcadia Invitational, where it produced a time of 3:18.38 to place third in the invitational race.
Hercules' 1,600 relay team will again be competing in the invitational boys race at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational this Saturday.
A watershed for the Hercules boys program was last year's state championships, where the 1,600 relay team placed fifth in 3:15.07. It was the first time any Hercules boys track and field athlete had placed in the state meet, Titans coach Kyle Whitmore said.
"It was important for the entire Hercules team because it set an expectation from the first day of training (this year)," Whitmore said. "It was all business from the first day of practice."
Two members of that relay team, Jalen Doss and Antwuin Prowes, compete on this year's squad. The all-senior relay team this season also includes Kai Seale and Jerrick Bernstine.
Hercules set its best time this season at the Pasadena Games at Pasadena City College on March 29, where it out-dueled Dorsey-Los Angeles (3:16.57).
"We ended up getting in a stride-for-stride race with Dorsey. All strategy went out the window after the first leg," Whitmore said.
After Seale opened with a sub-51.5 second lap, Bernstine, Doss and Prowes all ran under 48.5 seconds. The Dorsey anchor runner was one step behind Prowes the entire lap, Whitmore said.
"That's what Antwuin likes. Antwuin likes a battle," Whitmore said.
Foothill reeled off eight consecutive victories in East Bay Athletic League dual matches before falling 187-186 in a high-power showdown against De La Salle on Tuesday at the Spartans' Diablo Country Club.
The Falcons and Spartans appear poised for big runs in the postseason. Foothill is led by the senior duo of Cal-bound Tanner Hughes and TCU-bound Ryan Maund, along with highly regarded junior Ryan Knop.
De La Salle, which won the 2013 NorCal title, is paced by Josh McCarthy and Justin Nuval, who finished fourth at the state tourney. The Spartans won the De La Salle Invitational team title this season.
Foothill coach Bill Hayes, whose team has won four straight North Coast Section championships and six of the past eight, said he's getting feelers from several schools about Knop, a semifinalist in the San Francisco City Championships this spring. Interestingly, Knop had to beat his teammate, Hughes, in the San Francisco City quarterfinals.
"Knop has been playing very well overall," Hayes said.
The young Falcons also feature freshmen Raj Chekuri and Alex Chin, along with sophomore John Fracisco. Foothill has some exceptional team scores, including a 189-194 win over De La Salle on March 13 at Castlewood Country Club's Hill Course. The Falcons beat host California 187-215 at the Bridges Golf Course, led by Hughes' outstanding 4-under 33. They had a front-nine team course record with a 169 (1 under) at Crow Canyon Country Club against San Ramon Valley, which was also a Foothill nine-hole mark.
But the EBAL competition remains fierce overall.
Amador Valley lost just 186-184 to the Falcons at Castlewood on March 5. Monte Vista is also looking very sharp, with recent wins over solid San Ramon Valley and California.
-- Matt Schwab