Lighthall, Meyer sister and brother standouts lead Hughson into TVL track meet on Thursday

Joe Lighthall and the Meyer siblings – Logan and Larkin – will be front and center Thursday when Hughson High hosts the Trans-Valley League track and field championships. Field events start at 3 p.m.; running events at 6 p.m. at Husky Stadium.

Up for grabs will be the team championships for this season as well as individual berths in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Meet next week, the next qualifying step toward the State Meet on May 26-27 in Fresno.

Lighthall, a senior, is one of the country’s top runners in the 800 meters and finished seventh in California last year. His best time of the season – 1 minute, 51.95 seconds on March 22 at the Sacramento Meet of Champions – is almost four seconds faster than anyone else this year in the Sac-Joaquin Section, which goes from Merced to Sacramento, and ranks him 10th in the state and 23rd in the nation.  It also is the fastest ever by a Stanislaus County athlete, breaking the previous record of 1:52.00, which had been set in 1960 by Ron Whitney of Downey High in Modesto (Whitney later won the 400-meter hurdles as the 1967 Pan American Games and finished sixth in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968).

Lighthall also has posted the fastest 400-meter time (47.85) in the Section this year, which is fifth-best in California, but assistant track coach Joel Bernard said like last year, Lighthall is likely to drop the 400 and focus on the 800 after this week.

“The state leader (in the 800), Xai Ricks of Long Beach Poly, is about 2.5 seconds faster than Joe currently, but I'm pretty confident that when they race head-to-head, it will be very, very close,” Bernard said. “The reason we aren't targeting the 400 moving forward is that the state leader in that event (Dijon Stanley of Granada Hills) is also about two seconds faster than Joe (over half the distance).  Making up that gap will be much more difficult than making up the gap in the 800.

“Eight of the nine guys ahead of Joe in the 800 are less than one second faster and all of them put up their times in very competitive Southern California invitationals, whereas Joe has been running his races more or less unchallenged, so we feel that he has a ton of room left to improve.”

The sister-and-brother Meyers are two other standouts on this year’s Hughson track team.

Logan, a senior, improved her time in the 100-meter hurdles to 15.27 at the Sacramento Meet of Champions despite hitting and stumbling over the eighth hurdle. She is ranked eighth in the Section and, according to Bernard, could break 15 seconds if she runs a clean race.

“That’s a very impressive benchmark that only a tiny fraction of high school athletes achieve,” Bernard said.

Larkin, a junior, has posted the eighth-fastest time (15.16) this season among all Section athletes in the 110-meter high hurdles. Last year, he made it to the Masters Meet, one event before the State Meet.

Bernard expects Hughson to battle Ripon and Hilmar the TVL team title Thursday. Team point totals are determined by how the boys and girls finish in all the events. Ten points are awarded for first place, eight for second, six for third, four for fourth, two for fifth and one for sixth.

“We feel like it will take at least 135 total points to win the meet. Hughson, Ripon and Hilmar all have the firepower to score over 130 points at the meet, so it should be very tight,” Bernard predicted.

The top three finishers in each event at TVL finals will qualify for the Division V Meet next week at Weston Ranch in Stockton. Athletes who finish out of the top three but meet predetermined qualifying marks also can move on.