Track 2023
Lighthall wins 200, 400 and 800; Meyer and relay team also finish first to lead Hughson boys

From this point forward, Joe Lighthall is an 800-meter runner only. But for two days last week, he reminded everyone why he might be one of the top track and field athletes in the entire Sac-Joaquin Section, winning three individual races to lead the Hughson boys to a team title at the Division V Meet in Stockton.

Lighthall finished first in the 200, 400 and 800 – and was part of a 4x400 relay team that won but later was disqualified on a technicality. Larkin Meyer won the 110-meter high hurdles, the Huskies’ 4x800 relay team was first and Ivan Flores was second in the discus as Hughson racked up 83 points to easily beat Ripon 56.5. It is the third time the Huskies have won the boys Division V team title.

Lighthall, a senior ranked in the top 10 in California in the 800, reminded everyone of his all-around ability by adding titles in the 200 and 400 as well. His 800 time of 1 minute, 56.06 seconds was well off his best of the season, but that’s only because he was running two other individual races, plus a relay. He won the 200 in 22.9 seconds and the 400 in 51.98, and would have been on a winning relay had a judge not ruled Lighthall started outside of the passing zone during a handoff.

Sophomore pole vaulter Liliana Silva was the eighth Hughson athlete to qualify for this week’s Masters Meet in Davis – the last step before the State Meet next week in Fresno.

From this point forward, Lighthall will compete only in the 800 because that’s the best chance he has to win a state title.

“We did toy with the idea of him running the 400 and 800 at Masters,” said assistant coach Joel Bernard. “He’s sitting at No. 10 in the 800, but he hasn’t been pushed to his limits yet.”

Lighthall’s fastest time in the 800 this year is 1:51.95, almost four seconds faster than anyone else in the entire Section. It also broke a Stanislaus County record by Downey’s Ron Whitney (1:52.0) that had existed since 1960.

“Joe was tested in the 200 and he ran the 400 just hard enough to win it,” said Bernard. “Fortunately, Division V was a little weak this year in the 800 so he got to sandbag that one. In the 800, 1:56 is a good time. It won the Division I meet. … What was impressive to me is that the races are pretty close together and he didn’t get a lot of rest.”

Meyer, a junior, won the high hurdles in 15.21. Bernard said he has a chance – if things go his way – to make the State Meet. Larkin also was second in the low hurdles (42.94) and tied for third in the long jump (20-2).

The 4x800m relay team of Dominick Haupt, Nathan Horton, Hudson Conners and Owen Bullock won in 8:34.57, five seconds ahead of second-place Ripon.

Flores, a junior, finished second in the discus at 133 feet, 4 inches. That is especially impressive considering he suffered a burst appendix in late March and underwent surgery. He only returned a few weeks ago. His best throw this year is 147 feet.

“He’s got more upside than almost any athlete I’ve coached,” Bernard said. “He tore his ACL in freshman football so this was his first year to compete in track. He has so much room to improve his technique. Most kids never touch 147 and he threw it in his second high school meet.”

Silva cleared 8 feet, 11 inches in the pole vault and continues to show potential. “She’s still early in her progression,” Bernard said.

The biggest disappointment for the Hughson team last week came in the girls 100-meter hurdles, where senior Logan Meyer was ahead until she clipped a hurdle and fell. “She was leading by a large margin,” Bernard said.

The Masters Meet brings together all the top athletes from the Sac-Joaquin Section, regardless of school size. The top three in each event from Masters qualify for the State Meet, plus anyone meeting a predetermined qualifying mark.