CARLSBAD — A trio of speedsters is leading Sage Creek High School’s powerhouse track and field team into the CIF San Diego Section Division 2 Prelims on May 14 at University City High School in La Jolla.
Bobcats’ seniors Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hatton and Bryce Gilmore have shot up the ranks over the course of their high school careers, earning one more chance to earn a CIF title before dashing off to college.
Over her prep career at Sage Creek, Hatton has grown from a slender freshman into a powerful sprinter for the Bobcats, overcoming injuries and other challenges to earn a partial athletic scholarship at Oregon State.
On the boys’ side, Gilmore, who committed to Wake Forest, has become the top middle- and long-distance runner in the San Diego region, according to his coach, Danny Kung. Gilmore is No. 1 in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter races.
Despite battling through an injury, Gilmore qualified for the CIF preliminaries at the Coastal League Finals on May 6 at El Camino High School in Oceanside.
Sage Creek junior Brian Maweu-Smalls is also turning heads. During the May 6 competition in Oceanside, Maweu-Smalls eclipsed a big hurdle in the 800 meters by breaking the 2-minute mark. The upperclassman also runs the 400 and the 4×400 relay and colleges are starting to take notice.
Hatton bounces back, breaks school record
After running as a youth with the San Diego Waves, Hatton entered the Bobcats’ track and field program already a “star,” Kung said, and quickly became a force as a freshman. Hatton recorded a personal best 24.74 seconds in the 200 meters in her first season at Sage Creek.
Overall, Hatton had a solid first season in Carlsbad and was poised for even more success, especially in the 100 meters, but the pandemic wiped out the 2020 season. While there were a lot of unknowns and missed training opportunities with her teammates during that time, Hatton said she wasn’t worried about her collegiate opportunities.
When she finally returned to the track for her junior season, she felt “stagnant.” The pandemic had taken both mental and physical toll on Hatton, who was also dealing with injuries, Kung said.
“She was a hot commodity as a freshman and she’s been a leader since Day 1,” Kung said. “She’s very methodical with things like rest and responsibility.”
Over the summer, Hatton put “faith in training” and it’s been paying off. Hatton ran 11.97 seconds in the 100, a school record, along with records in the long jump (18 feet, one-quarter inch).
As she progressed, colleges came calling. But due to her past injuries, Kung said one Division I coach called his star sprinter a “liability.”
The long-time coach was not pleased, saying her growth as an athlete — physical and mental — has led her to become one of the best runners in the region.
Hatton eventually found her way to a D1 program in Corvallis, which she said is a perfect fit.
Hatton said the Beavers’ coaching staff and teammates made her feel at home. She said the Pac-12 school puts a priority on the athlete, especially with injuries, rather than tossing individuals aside.
“Oregon State really stood out with their coaching,” Hatton said. “In college, you kind of just become an athlete and I really like that he seemed to really care about injuries and athletes as people. I met the team and that solidified it for me.”
Gilmore going the distance
Gilmore has become the standard in the distance races for the Bobcats. However, he had to choose between running and baseball — both of which he played simultaneously during his freshman year.
Gilmore first became aware of his talent during his freshman season in cross country when he had the third-fastest time among freshmen in California. As Gilmore continued to find success, his love for distance running started to grow, which prompted him to set baseball aside.
Since then, he’s blossomed into one of the top runners in the state.
For Sage Creek, Gilmore has been a constant force at some of the biggest meets in the state. Gilmore’s top times include 1:59.32 (800), 4:10 (mile) and 8:53 (3,200).
During the pandemic, Gilmore didn’t let the downtime without an official season go to waste — training hard and reducing his times entering his junior season.
“While it was unfortunate I didn’t get to race that whole time, I think it played into my favor with the amount of training and improvement,” Gilmore said. “I cut off almost 50 seconds from my 3,200 and about 10 seconds in my mile.”
As Gilmore racked up faster times, college scouts took interest. According to Gilmore, several schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and along the East Coast actively recruited him.
In the end, Gilmore went with the track and field program at Wake Forest.
“Nothing can stop him from achieving his goals,” Kung said. “His freshman year he was quiet and now he’s found his voice. It’s that maturation.”
Maweu-Smalls makes moves
Maweu-Smalls also ran for the Waves before entering the Bobcats’ cross country and track programs with loads of potential. However, due to the pandemic shutdown, he only participated in one meet as a freshman.
During the shutdown, Maweu-Smalls, a two-sport athlete in basketball and track, said he stopped running and became out of shape. As a sophomore, Maweu-Smalls worked hard to get back in shape but his season was cut short due to injury.
However, this past summer Maweu-Smalls changed up his training, dropped basketball and went through physical therapy to get faster. And it worked. At the winter championship at the Arcadia Invitational, Maweu-Smalls finished in the top 10.
“(Maweu-Smalls) is very methodical in his thought process,” Kung said. “He looks at things through a realistic lens, but he’s a very motivated kid.”
So far, Maweu-Smalls’ personal best in the 400 is 51.90 seconds but he is looking to get under 50 seconds as the final weeks of the season unfold. Kung said breaking 50 seconds and 2 minutes in the 800 is also a big turning point for college recruiting — Penn State and Rutgers have expressed interest in the Carlsbad teen he speed up his times in both the 400 and 800.
Additionally, Maweu-Smalls said a number of smaller Division I schools have also expressed interest,
“I feel like this season has been going good,” he said. “During CIF, I feel like I’m going to do really good. My goal for CIF is to run a 1:56 or lower in the 800 and I’m going to focus on the 4×400 for our team … so we can do good as a team.”